Escambia Sheriff’s Office Reports Reduction In Violent Crimes During 2011

January 31, 2012

The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office released  2011 crime statistics Monday, which show an overall reduction in violent crimes from the 2010 crime statistics.

According to the Sheriff’s Office release:

The Sheriff’s Office saw a significant decrease in Homicides, reporting only 14 homicides in 2011. This is the lowest number of homicides in Escambia County since 2006, and a 46.2% decrease from the 26 homicides that occurred in 2010.

The Sheriff’s Office also saw a 16% reduction in robberies that involved the use of a firearm and a 13.6% decrease in those where a knife or other cutting instrument was used. There was a slight increase in the total number of robberies that occurred in 2011, with two more than the previous year.

Other reductions in violent crime include a 13.1% decrease in forcible sex offenses and an 8.4% decrease in aggravated assaults, resulting in an overall 7.6% decrease in crimes against persons.

Although there was a slight increase in property crimes over the last 12 months, the Sheriff’s Office did see 65 fewer burglaries occur in 2011 than in 2010, resulting in a 2.4% decrease in burglaries.

Overall, 2011 resulted in 284,308 calls for service, 37,717 reports written, 12,510 UCR reportable offenses, 12,455 adults arrested and the arrest of 1,232 juveniles. Since 2009, there has been a 21% reduction in violent crime.

These statistics are from the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office Uniform Crime Report (UCR) which is provided to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). The Uniform Crime Reporting Program was designed to give an indicator of the crime in specific areas by collecting offense and arrest information within that law enforcement jurisdiction.

House Approves Ban On Purchasing Snacks With Food Assistance

January 31, 2012

A proposal to prevent poor people from using federal assistance to buy certain snack foods was narrowly approved by a House committee Monday, but the sponsor said after heavy debate that he may change sections of the bill dictating what foods the aid can be used for.

Those restrictions weren’t removed Monday, but bill sponsor Rep. Scott Plakon acknowledged he may need to at least make some changes, following concerns from other House members about whether deciding what the poor can eat is fair game for the state to decide.

The bill (HB 1401) passed the House Health and Human Services Access Subcommittee 8-6. As it stands, the measure would prevent recipients of Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP, money from buying sodas, cupcakes, ice cream, muffins, potato chips, pretzels and a number of other “unhealthy, non-staple” foods.

Plakon, R-Longwood, disagreed with those who said the measure represents an overreach.

“This is money being taken from one taxpayer, and out of compassion being given to another,” he said. “So I think it’s entirely reasonable for the Legislature to put restrictions.”

With the ban on certain food purchases drawing much of the debate on Monday, the bill in the House eventually will likely focus more on preventing the use of the food aid program’s electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards in Internet cafes.

Among those who voted for the bill Monday were Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, and Rep. Felix Jose Diaz, R-Miami – with whom Plakon said he’d be working to fix their concerns with the section on prohibited foods.

“I understand what drove him to file this bill, and it’s getting Internet cafes under control,” Young said. “But I don’t want people telling me what to eat and I don’t think it’s right for us as a government – even if they happen to be poor. Even if they happen to be on food stamps.”

An amendment by Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, would have made an exception for cake or cupcakes on a child’s birthday. But it was voted down, partly on Young’s argument that the entire food stamp section needed a revamp.

Among the problems opponents cited was that HB 1401 would ban use of EBT cards in retail establishments “licensed to sell malt, vinous or spirituous liquors.”

“To me, that looks like every grocery store or CVS or Walgreen’s in the state,” Young said.

“The intent is [banning the use of EBTs in] liquor stores,” Plakon responded.

Young said the bill would place “a considerable burden on our retail establishments.”

That was evidenced by the state associations that showed up Monday to oppose the bill – including the Florida Retail Federation and the Florida Beverage Association.

“I suspect for the good parts to move forward, I’m going to have to make some substantive changes,” Plakon said after the meeting. “They clearly want the food stamp portion removed, and that may very well happen.”

The House bill has two more stops, the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee and the Health and Human Services Committee.

A similar bill (SB 1658) is moving on the Senate side of the Capitol, sponsored by Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico. Her focus, however, is what types of food can be bought with SNAP money, though last week she agreed to drop the term “unhealthy” from her bill, and it passed the Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs. It now goes to the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services Appropriations, its last stop.

By The News Service of Florida

Escambia Man Gets Life In Prison For Liquor Store Robbery

January 31, 2012

An Escambia County man was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole Monday for the robbery of a Publix Liquor State early last year.

In December, Clifford Faust, Jr. was convicted by an Escambia County Jury of one count of armed robbery with a firearm. Judge Terry Terrell found that Faust qualified as a prison releasee reoffender based on the fact that was released from prison on grand theft and larceny charges just three months before the robbery.

On February 26, 2011, Faust entered the Publix Liquor Store on Mobile Highway, produced a handgun, and demanded money. After taking the money from the clerk, Faust fled the store on foot. After seeing photos of the surveillance video in the media a family member called law enforcement and identified Faust as the perpetrator.

Faust was identified by eyewitness testimony as well as DNA from cigarette butts located outside of the store.

Rain Moving In

January 31, 2012

Here is your official North Escambia area forecast:

  • Tonight…Mostly cloudy. Chance of rain showers after midnight. Lows in the mid 50s. Southeast winds around 5 mph. Chance of showers 40 percent.
  • Wednesday…Rain showers likely in the morning. Isolated thunderstorms through the day. Rain showers in the afternoon. Highs in the upper 60s. Southeast winds 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation 90 percent.
  • Wednesday Night…Mostly cloudy. Chance of rain showers in the evening…then slight chance of rain showers after midnight. Lows in the mid 50s. Southeast winds around 5 mph in the evening becoming light. Chance of showers 50 percent.
  • Thursday…Mostly cloudy. Highs in the lower 70s. East winds around 5 mph.
  • Thursday Night…Partly cloudy. Slight chance of rain showers after midnight. Lows in the mid 50s. East winds 5 to 10 mph. Chance of showers 20 percent.
  • Friday…Mostly cloudy. Chance of rain showers. Highs in the lower 70s. Chance of showers 30 percent.
  • Friday Night…Mostly cloudy. Chance of rain showers. Lows in the upper 50s. Chance of showers 30 percent.
  • Saturday…Mostly cloudy. Chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the lower 70s. Chance of precipitation 40 percent.
  • Saturday Night…Mostly cloudy. Chance of rain showers. Lows in the mid 50s. Chance of showers 40 percent.
  • Sunday…Mostly cloudy. Chance of showers and thunderstorms. Highs in the upper 60s. Chance of precipitation 30 percent.
  • Sunday Night…Partly cloudy. Slight chance of rain showers. Lows in the upper 40s. Chance of showers 20 percent.
  • Monday…Mostly sunny. Slight chance of rain showers. Highs in the mid 60s. Chance of showers 20 percent.
  • Monday Night…Mostly cloudy. Lows in the lower 40s.
  • Tuesday…Mostly sunny. Highs in the lower 60s.

Escambia Sentenced To 33.5 Years For Attack On Sleeping Woman

January 31, 2012

An Escambia County man was sentenced to 33.5 years in prison Monday on a sexual battery conviction.

Alvin Alexander, 58, was found guilty by an Escambia County jury in September 2011 on three counts of sexual battery with great force, burglary of a dwelling with a battery, and aggravated battery with great bodily harm.

On October 21, 2010, Alexander entered the residence of the 22-year old female victim who was alone at home and asleep in her bed. The victim was awakened by Alexander beating her with a metal pipe. As she tried to escape, Alexander forced her to remain inside. While inside, he continued to beat her with the metal pipe and sexually battered her multiple times, according to State Attorney Bill Eddins.

High School Coach Charged With Sexual Battery Of Student

January 30, 2012

A part-time track coach at Pine Forest High School was arrested Monday afternoon for the alleged sexual battery of one of his students .

Paul Lavell Jones, 28, was arrested after being questioned by Escambia County Sheriff’s Office investigators about an incident that occurred over the weekend with a student.

According to the victim, he was picked up by Paul at his home around 10 p.m. Friday night and taken to several bars and nightclubs in the area and  where Jones bought and provided the victim with alcohol.

The victim told investigators that the next thing he remembered was waking up nude in a bed. Jones then took the victim back to the victim’s home. where the victim then told his mother what happened.

Investigators posed as the victim and engaged in a text message conversation with Jones using the victim’s phone.  Investigators then made contact with Jones and through the interview and text messaging were able to determine that a crime had occurred, an ECSO press release states.

Jones was charged with sexual batter and giving alcohol to a person under 21 years of age. He was booked into the Escambia County Jail with bond set at $30,000.

Rash Of Molino Vehicle Burglaries Under Investigation

January 30, 2012

A series of vehicle burglaries late last week in the Molino area are under investigation by the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office.

About a dozen vehicles were broken into at homes across the Molino area overnight Wednesday and Thursday with the owners reporting the burglaries on Thursday and Friday. No additional vehicle burglaries were reported during the weekend in the area.

At one home on Highway 95A, a resident reported that three vehicles — all unlocked — were burglarized at his home sometime Thursday night.  He reported that a .357 revolver, Oakley sunglasses, Nikon binoculars and wallet were missing. Other items — including knives and GPS units — were reported stolen from other vehicles around the area.

Deputies are encouraging residents to lock their vehicles.

So far, the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office has not reported any leads on the vehicle burglaries. Anyone with information on the crimes is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at (850) 436-9620 or CrimeStoppers at (850) 433-STOP.

The vehicle burglaries were reported on Highway 95A near Kemala Avenue and Brickton Road, Barrineau Park Road near Schifko Road, Barrineau Park Road near Blueberry Lane, Youngwood Lane near Red Fern Road and Schifko Road near Barrineau Park Road.

Pictured: Three of the vehicles that were burglarized late last week in Molino. Submitted photos for, click to enlarge.

EDATE: Vote Is Tuesday On Tax Waiver To Create Jobs

January 30, 2012

When voters head to the polls Tuesday for Florida’s Republican primary, they will also have the chance to vote on EDATE — the Escambia County Ad Valorem Tax Exemption.

EDATE — as much as it may sound like internet dating — is a property tax abatement program that’s designed to encourage businesses to relocate to Escambia County and encourage existing businesses to expand. The tax abatements are good for up to 10 years.

“Over 4,000 new jobs in Escambia County are credited to EDATE,” Escambia County Administrator Randy Oliver said.  Navy Federal has created 3,000 new jobs under the EDATE program, while International Paper has added 496. In all, 4,346 jobs have been created under the EDATE program, according to county records.

“It is a tool for economic development,” Oliver said. “The county gives up tax dollars in exchange for jobs.”

In order for a company to qualify to pass on property taxes under EDATE, there must be an increased assessed value on their property. “So in theory it does not impact current tax revenue,” Oliver added.

The tax waivers do not impact any other taxing district — tax revenue is not cut for schools, the Northwest Florida Water Management District or the city of Pensacola.

Companies do not automatically qualify for a full 100% abatement — different levels of discounts are given under the program. A full tax waiver would require an investment over $5 million and over 100 new jobs that pay an above average wage. Anything else and the percentage of forgiven taxes decreases.

The EDATE program has been in place since the early 1990’s and must be approved every10 years.  If approved Tuesday, the EDATE program will continue through 2022 in Escambia County.

While Tuesday’s election is the Republican Presidential Primary, Democrats and independent voters can also head to the polls to vote on the EDATE referendum.

Tate Softball Preseason Classic Begins Tuesday

January 30, 2012

The Tate Lady Aggies will host a Preseason Classic Tuesday and Thursday this week at the Tate Softball Field.

On Tuesday, West Florida will take on Pace at 4:30 and Tate will play Escambia at 6:30. The two losing teams will play again Thursday at 4:30, while Tuesday’s winners will meet Thursday at 6:30.

Deer Blamed For Highway 97 Wreck That Injured Two

January 30, 2012

A deer is being blamed for a traffic crash on Highway 97 in Davisville Sunday night.

The driver of a Ford Focus collided with the deer about 6:20 p.m. while southbound on Highway 97 south of Meadows Lane at Mike’s Ag Air Airport. The three people in the vehicle were not injured.

The driver of a motorcycle lost control while southbound on Highway 97 as he saw and attempted to avoid the deer that had just been hit by the Ford Focus. Both the driver and a female passenger on the motorcycle were ejected. They were transported by ambulance to Atmore Community Hospital in stable condition.

Both accidents are under investigation by the Florida Highway Patrol.

The Walnut Hill Station of Escambia Fire Rescue, Atmore Ambulance and the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office responded to the call.

The deer did not survive the collision with the Ford Focus. photos, click to enlarge.

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