News Cast 6/23

News Cast for June 23rd:

More crime in Okeechobee in 2020

Okeechobee residents had a 3% chance of being a victim of crime last year.

The annual crime stats showed a 6% increase in crime in Okeechobee.

There was a drop of just over 500 arrests mostly due to COVID.

Sheriff Noel Stephen admits the crime increase is a sign of the times.

“I think the COVID isolated folks and had bad guys stealing more and taking from people.   It is just the sad state of our society today.”

Stephen said a number of the crimes were committed by out of county residents.

The report listed 1,640 arrests.

Okeechobee had four murders, 297 drug arrests and 94 DUI arrests.

The report also listed 20 rapes, 23 robberies, 157 aggravated assaults, 187 burglary cases, 757 larceny cases, and 97 motor vehicle thefts.

Stephen said drugs continue to be about 85% of the crimes investigated by his department.

The city reported a 4.8% increase in criminal cases.

Highlands County looks at trash and pandemic issues

Highlands County looking at a garbage assessment hike this year.

They set the tentative amount at 2 hundred and 40 dollars. That could be lowered in August.

County officials said this was a legal advertisement requirement and no guarantee of a rate hike.

Commissioner Arlene Tuck urged the commission to use federal stimulus dollars to assist local restaurants who are struggling to hire employees.

She suggested the funds could be used to provide bonuses for people who sign on to work at local restaurants.

Recent crime reports

A 21 year old Okeechobee man was reportedly clocked driving 131 miles per hour headed west on State Road 70 west of Okeechobee.

Oscar Yates and another driver appeared to be racing out of town, deputies said.

The two vehicles even created a cloud of smoke that impacted the visibility of other drivers.

Deputies said Yates lost control of the pickup truck about six miles west of town and caused a semi truck to take evasive actions.

Yates was booked into the Okeechobee County Jail on fleeing and attempting to elude charges.  Bond was set at $10,000.

An Okeechobee man was charged in Ft. Pierce with assault, resisting arrest and various drug charges in June.

James Flagel, 33 allegedly came onto private property uninvited and threatened a female with violence.

St. Lucie County Deputies pulled over Flagel and found a machete in the front seat within hands reach.

He was pepper sprayed and booked into the St. Lucie County Jail after a brief struggle.

An Okeechobee judge ruled the Sheriff’s Office can have $153,000 in suspected drug cash.

The money was seized in a drug operation in the Douglas Park area on May 7th.

Jimmy Lee Carter, was located inside a store on NE 13th Avenue allegedly in possession of the cash, over nine grams of crack cocaine and a loaded handgun.

Authorities note Carter was on federal probation at the time they served a search warrant and seized the evidence and cash.