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News Cast for January 4th:

The Taylor Creek S-193 Boat Lock on Lake Okeechobee’s North Shore will temporarily close to navigation starting Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023 for maintenance. The boat lock is expected to re-open by Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. Other boat locks maintained by the South Florida Water Management District will remain open during this time period.

Anglers and boaters may access local waterways from several access points through public boat ramps. Visit FWC’s Boat Ramp Finder to find one near you.

Crime rates fall by 14 percent

Okeechobee County had 989 crimes in 2021 in the latest crime stats revealed recently by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

The county did see an over 10 percent increase in arrests in 2021.

The report showed 180 arrests for DUI, 366 related to drug offenses, and 218 arrests for assaults.

Sheriff Noel Stephen said he intends to keep being the counties top cop for a while longer.

“I will work on the succession of office in the next six years, get the agency in a little better spot and hopefully our economy will be more stable.  Then it will be the right time for me to move along and pass it on to other folks.”

Stephen asked the public to be diligent in locking doors to their homes, vehicles and sheds to discourage thieves in our community.

The state crime rate fell by 8.3% in the 2021 report released in December.

An Okeechobee teenager Hannah Ellsworth was charged with taking a 13 year old girl out of a foster home in Broward County and using her as a prostitute.

Ellsworth, 18 used the funds for food and shelter in 2021.

Broward County sheriff deputies worked the case and arrested Ellsworth in December of this year.

Its alleged that she recorded some of the sexual rendezvous on cell phone video and posted them on snapchat.

She was held without bond on charges that include sexual performance of a child and sexual trafficking of a minor.

A Pahokee man was charged with robbing an Indiantown man at gunpoint in Okeechobee.

Jackie Smith Junior apparently had agreed to sell the man an I- phone for $750 and the two agreed to meet at the Walmart Super Center.

City police said Smith pulled a gun and stole $730 dollars in cash from the victim, then fled to a waiting car.

They had video surveillance evidence and also used Facebook to find the suspect.

A Highlands County man was charged with illegal possession of a short barrel or sawed off shotgun.

The Okeechobee Narcotics Task Force searched a home on NW 160th Street last week and said they found the shotgun, other guns, and a small amount of narcotics.

Ryan Keels, a convicted felon, faces multiple charges and was held on $62,500 bond.

Florida’s teacher of the year Melissa Matz visited South Elementary in Okeechobee as part of her duties to visit every district in the state this school year.

Matz said she came away very impressed with Okeechobee educators and schools

“It is truly a wonderful place.  It has great schools.  I want to keep encouraging the community to support their schools, teachers and students, because it is an important part of our lives.”

Matz said the academic parent teacher teams were also a great innovative way to improve learning.

“The teachers and staff bring in the parents and they teach them about what they can do at home to help their kids.  They also keep them aware of what’s going on a school, how to read data, and how to help the students read at home.  I thought that was an amazing way to bring parents into the school and welcome them.”