The Special Investigations Division is composed of four specialized units; Vice & Narcotics, Economic Crimes, Cyber Investigations and Warrants.
The Pasco Sheriff’s Office Vice and Narcotics Unit consists of three detective squads with highly specialized training. Narcotics members are engaged in covert and overt investigations utilizing a variety of advanced investigative strategies to further the principles of Intelligence Led Policing. Narcotics members develop intelligence through a variety of sources to further investigative priorities, with a heightened focus on drug trafficking organizations, violent prolific offenders and high crime areas. Specifically, members are involved in investigating the illegal drug trade, morals violations, vice operations, and other criminal activity.
Because there is a clear nexus between illicit drugs and other serious criminal activity, detectives also utilize covert narcotics tactics to target prolific offenders who are responsible for committing a significant amount of crime in our county. In addition, the Narcotics squads facilitate regular prostitution and reverse prostitution stings, gambling operations, and participate in Human Trafficking screening. Our narcotics squads also partner with substance abuse providers to implement the CARE program, which coordinates efforts to engage addicts with substance abuse professionals at the earliest possible stage during encounters with law enforcement.
The Narcotics Unit handles a wide variety of illegal drug activity from the street level dealer to large scale drug trafficking organizations and works closely with surrounding local, state, and federal agencies. Narcotics Detectives participate in the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force (aka HIDTA), Homeland Security Task Force, and multiple DEA Task Forces focused on poly drug, money laundering and RICO investigations, with the intent of dismantling criminal groups by any legal means available.
The Vice and Narcotics Unit also works as a support group for other investigative entities, both within and outside the Sheriff’s Office. This includes assisting with mobile surveillance, stakeouts and other covert specialized operations. Over the years, the Vice and Narcotics Unit has seen the drug trends evolve from large scale outdoor marijuana grows, to powder and crack cocaine, to designer drugs, to indoor marijuana grows, to meth labs, to pill mills, to bath salts and now to the growing opioid epidemic. While these are the most prominent drug trends seen in this area, there are numerous and varied types of illegal drugs that are regularly investigated within Pasco County.
Every year the Vice and Narcotics Unit investigates hundreds of cases that lead to seizures of assets and contraband worth millions of dollars, to include various illegal drugs, cash, and other assets.
The Economic Crimes Unit is tasked with the investigation of fraud-related crimes such as forgery, counterfeiting, computer crimes, Internet crimes, exploitation of the elderly, identity theft, unlicensed contracting, and scheme to defraud. These offenses are rising in number and complexity, often causing the loss of thousands of dollars to victims. The sheer volume and extent of these investigations require the assistance and cooperation of other agencies such as the State Attorney General, Secret Service, U.S. Postal Inspector, FBI, ATF, and the State Fire Marshal. The detectives in this unit are often assigned special investigations on an “as-needed” basis. In addition, Economic Crimes Detectives assist Vice and Narcotics members in investigating financial crimes related to the illicit drug trade (i.e. money laundering, structuring, etc…).
The Pasco Sheriff’s Office significantly increased our capabilities as it relates to digital forensics and Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) investigations.
In 2017, the Pasco Sheriff’s Office initiated a reorganization which significantly increased the footprint of our Cyber Crimes Unit. The unit was moved from the Major Crimes Division and placed under the Special Investigations Division (SID), working alongside Vice & Narcotics.
The unit, now called Cyber Investigations, continues to perform Forensic/Digital investigations, as well as Child Exploitation investigations. As part of the reorganization, two detectives and a dedicated Cyber Investigations Sergeant position was created. In addition, all five Cyber detectives were provided with clearly defined roles; three detectives are dedicated to Forensic/Digital investigations and two detectives are focused on Child Exploitation investigations.
With the increase in personnel, it was necessary to increase the work space for the Cyber Investigations detectives. As such, a remodel was planned and executed in late 2017/early 2018 to accommodate the Unit’s growing needs. This expansion adequately accommodates the increase in manpower and improves the unit’s capabilities. In addition, we have made equipment and software upgrades, to include purchasing the tools necessary to make the unit a progressive and state of the art investigative facility. Since the re-organization, we have already begun to provide support to the United States Secret Service and several law enforcement agencies in the Tampa Bay area.
The Cyber Investigations Unit will continue to pursue the highest level of digital forensic and ICAC capabilities to protect our children and enhance our investigative efforts in a world that has fully embraced the digital age.
The Fugitive Warrants Unit consists of one Sergeant and four Detectives. These members implement the principles of ILP by identifying, locating and arresting high priority offenders who have an active warrant, or where probable cause has been established for an arrest. Prioritized focus includes, but is not limited to offenders related to BIG 4 crime and violent crimes. Unit members regularly utilize surveillance and intelligence gathering techniques to maximize their effectiveness. Fugitive Warrants members are also involved in the extradition of wanted persons from inside and outside the state of Florida.
School Resource Unit: School Resource Officers provide law enforcement education and law-related counseling services to elementary, middle, high and alternative schools in the county. They seek to educate students about the consequences of crime and the benefits of being a law-abiding, responsible citizen. They also seek to develop a rapport with students and parents to make them more supportive of law enforcement in general. The School Resource Unit includes several specialty programs as outlined below.
School Crossing Guards (SCGS) and Traffic Control Officers (TCOs): SCGs and TCOs are part-time, civilian members, of the Sheriff’s Office. The SCGs help ensure the safe movement of pedestrians to and from schools at designated locations; TCOs assist by controlling vehicular traffic around some of the more congested school campuses. SCGs and TCOs receive classroom and field training for school crossing procedures, traffic control, first aid, and human diversity.
Youth Diversion: The goal of the Pasco Sheriff’s Office Youth Diversion Program is to support and empower parents by providing positive alternatives to the formal court process and to prevent at-risk youth from entering the juvenile delinquency court system while ensuring that effective consequences deter further criminal behavior.
The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is one of six sheriffs’ offices in the State of Florida that investigates reports of child abuse, abandonment and/or neglect. All reports investigated by Child Protective Investigators are first reported to the Florida Abuse Hotline. The statewide hotline, located in Tallahassee, receives reports of alleged abuse, abandonment and/or neglect and routes the calls to the county where the child(ren) are located at the time the report is made. The State’s decision to contract protective investigations with the Pasco Sheriff’s Office allows for the utilization of expertise and experience of the sheriff’s office in an effort to produce the best outcomes for children and families in our communities.
More than 7000 reports are made by concerned community professionals, such as teachers, counselors, therapists, judges, law enforcement, daycare providers and medical professionals each year.
When a report is received, state law requires the Pasco Sheriff’s Office, Child Protective Investigations Division to investigate each report within the county. The purpose of the investigation is to make sure that any child in the home is not experiencing abuse or neglect. Investigations include children between birth and eighteen years of age.
The goal of Florida’s Child Protection System is to ensure all children are living in homes that are safe from abuse or neglect.
Some investigations will reveal that there is no indication of child abuse or neglect. In these cases, the investigators will close the case upon completion of the investigation. Some situations require a safety plan or referrals that aim to change the circumstances that endanger the safety and well-being of the child(ren) in the home. Referrals may include community resources such as in-home counseling or therapy, helping victims of domestic violence obtain a protective order against the alleged abuser, linking family to a shelter if the family’s housing is inadequate or in a case of domestic violence. Child Protective Investigators may also refer a family to child care services and governmental programs available in the area. If voluntary services do not alleviate the level of threatened harm to the child(ren) involved in the investigation and efforts are insufficient to safeguard the children, court ordered services may be considered. At times, the child(ren) may remain in their home while court ordered services are in place. If services do not alleviate the presence of imminent danger to the child(ren) then removal may be explored by the Child Protective Investigator, the investigator’s supervisor and the State Attorney. If a child is removed from the home, the CPI and State Attorney presents its case to a dependency judge within 24 hours of removal from the child(ren)’s parents/guardians.
There are times when people make false reports to the Florida Abuse Hotline. If the investigator suspects a false report was made, law enforcement will be notified to investigate whether or not the person knowingly and willfully made a false report of child abuse, abandonment or neglect.