The correlation between safe and crime-free communities and economic growth is recognized worldwide. One of the chief advocates of that outcome is Sheriff Wayne Ivey. He has been described as colorful, engaged and certainly outspoken. His video encouraging citizens to arm themselves as the best way to defend their life and property against criminal activity, has been viewed by over five million people throughout the country. Ivey, however, points to the effectiveness his department has had in keeping Brevardians from being the victims of a crime as his most important accomplishment.
EW: Since taking office the Sheriff’s sphere has expanded significantly. Explain the expansion and how the County has benefitted?
WI: There are several factors that have facilitated our growth. First, we assumed the security and law enforcement duties for Port Canaveral – we contract those services. Secondly, we took over animal services, including shelters and control. Third, we took over school services, which initially was a small piece, but post-Parkland it has expanded considerably.
Add to that the growth in the county population and one of the most significant partnerships we have, which is with our municipal police departments. We support them, not only on calls, but with our aviation units, our marine units and K-9 units. All working K-9 units in Brevard are trained at our facilities, we even train K-9 units outside of Brevard.
EW: You have a reputation for solving crimes by preventing them from happening. What are the most significant initiates you have been able to take with regard to crime prevention?
WI: Every component of this agency is vital to me, but there were two sectors that I decided to personally oversee and be hands-on with when I became Sheriff. Those were crime prevention and community relations. The reason was, our number one priority was to prevent people from becoming the victim of a crime. What follows is that community relations and community outreach was one of the best ways of accomplishing that goal.
By educating and informing our community, through a host of programs we have started, from home security surveys, to seminars to prepare high school students to be security conscious when the go to college. Again, one of the most effective ways we have engaged is through social media. The outreach and community policing capabilities of social media are astounding. We post a missing person report that will immediately reach 20,000 people.
We add a lot of humor into what we do, but people know when we are being funny and when we are serious. On the serious side, I did an on-scene video where I told our citizens to arm themselves. The next day I got a call from Fox News and I didn’t have a clue what is was about. That video reached 2 million in less than 24 hours and today has reached over 5 million to date.
EW: You are an advocate for youth intervention, what can the community do to give “at risk” kids a better chance?
WI: We have a program called, “It is time to be a parent again.” Parents are the most important individuals in steering the direction of a young person. I shouldn’t be the chief law enforcement officer in a child’s life. Yet many parents have been scared into believing they are powerless and have no authority; we want to change that.
We have another program called BAM, Brevard Attitude Modification, for kids 10 to 17 years old. It starts at 6 a.m. at the courthouse before the Judge. The judge asks them why they are there and every time the first one gives a smart-alecky remark, and by the time that judge is through with that first one, the next one is saying, “I’m here because I’ve messed up my life.” The judge sentences them to a day at BAM, where they get a day of training in discipline and life skills, they even have the opportunity to hear from some of our inmates.
EW: Cybercrime is one of the most devastating wrongs facing businesses of all sizes. What is being done locally, statewide and nationally, and how do you partner with the business community?
WI: Florida ranks No. 1 in fraud nationwide, particularly against seniors. When I came into office, we launched an economic crimes unit that focuses on identity theft, credit card fraud, etc., which is joined with our cybercrime’s unit, which includes attacking Dark Web activity like child pornography and abduction.
We also started a legislative initiative to stop “revenge porn,” where someone would post images and statements about an ex-spouse, ex-friend or co-worker. With the way background searches are done for jobs, these can be devastating. We can’t stop the posting of an image, that is protected by the first amendment, but you now you can’t attach identifiers, like a name or address. What is surprising is the first two times this legislation failed, but on the third time we succeeded. Why it took three times I don’t know.
Often it is our business community that alerts us to all manner of criminal activity, they are our gate keepers. When there is a crime, they often provide video surveillance that helps to solve the crime. Also, we do lunch and learns for employees that businesses sponsor to alert and protect them from crime. The idea that “It takes a community to protect a community,” touches every business, every citizen and every organization.