The Special Investigations Division is composed of four specialized units; Vice & Narcotics, Economic Crimes, Cyber Investigations and Warrants.
Vice & Narcotics
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 include undercover operations, 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 violent prolific offenders, high crime areas and drug trafficking organizations. 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, undercover 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. For example, narcotics detectives participate in the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force (aka HIDTA) and multiple DEA Task Forces and engage in 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 entitites 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.
Specifically, 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. In the past, our 3 examiners/investigators held split roles performing digital extractions and conducting child exploitation investigations. With the added manpower, three detectives are primarily dedicated to Forensic/Digital investigations and the two new detectives are focused on Child Exploitation investigations. This change has already proven to increase our overall investigative efficiency and capabilities.
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.