June 28, 2007 Ruth Sasser, PAS
For Immediate Release 747-4700, ext. 2117
Statement from Sheriff Frank McKeithen
Sheriff of Bay County Frank McKeithen issued the following statement today in response to inquiries concerning the Bay County Sheriff’s Office Illegal Alien Task Force:
It is correct that the Bay County Sheriff’s Office has been targeting construction sites in Bay County. We have changed tactics since beginning as we have gained experience and progressed in our efforts.
Since November, 2006, we have been tracking the number of illegal aliens arrested in our county. This number is now over 500. These arrests have been anything from mere traffic offenses to major felonies including vehicular homicide.
We were getting complaints from citizens and construction workers that were unable to find jobs in Bay County.
We were using Florida State Statute 448.09 concerning contractors knowingly hiring illegal aliens. And yes, we have charged some individuals with loitering and trespassing after they ran from job sites and we received calls from citizens concerned about people who were hiding under their porches and in their yards.
We are not taking marked patrol cars as alluded to by AP reporter Melissa Nelson’s recent article. We are taking unmarked cars with one marked transport van in case we need to transport arrested individuals. I have assigned three to five officers to this detail. One of these deputies speaks fluent Spanish.
Right now, our focus is mainly on the illegal aliens who possess and are using the stolen social security numbers of American citizens. As we have said in previous news conferences and press releases, we are not doing illegal alien round ups. If we were, there would be no illegal aliens left in Bay County.
We have found that the majority of the illegal aliens we have arrested at construction sites in recent months are in possession of or using stolen social security numbers they have purchased for two to three hundred dollars. We have developed a system enabling us to contact most of the legitimate owners of these social security numbers, none of which have been aware their numbers had been purchased and were being used.
We are using Florida State Statute 817.568 concerning the criminal use of personal identification information as the basis for our arrest of individuals who possess stolen identification information and charging them with this 3rd degree felony.
As we progress in our efforts, we will continue to refine them to ensure we are following the law. We are not a bunch of gun-toting, over zealous law enforcement officers running on to construction sites intimidating illegal aliens as the Associated Press article alludes. However, if a guilty conscience provokes them to run, it’s obviously their choice.
This effort is new to us as well as everyone else, and anytime we develop more insight and information indicating a need to change tactics–we do.
As the Sheriff of Bay County, I have been tasked with upholding and enforcing the laws in the state of Florida and I am doing the best I can within the limits of Florida State Statutes dealing with illegal aliens. Although the Florida State Statutes are very limited in giving local law enforcement the authority to deal with illegal aliens we will continue to make use of every legal means available to protect the citizens of Bay County.
Prepared by R. SasserVisit Original Press Release
Information by Sheriff F. McKeithen