Here's how Flagler deputies keep tabs on known criminals

Undercover group 'disrupts' criminals

FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – Only 6% of the people in Flagler County commit a majority of the area's crime, according to Sheriff Rick Staly.

He said that fact is key to better policing.

 "If you focus on those individuals, you can drive crime down," Staly said. 

That's why in 2018, Staly began focusing on known criminals who are released from jail or prison. To do so, the sheriff created PACE, which stands for Problem Area Crime Enforcement.

Staly said the clandestine undercover group, driving anything but typical patrol cars, focuses not on problem areas in Flagler County but rather problem areas of crime. Think car break-ins, home break-ins and business break-ins.

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Flagler County Sheriff's Office Homeland Security Director Kris Peterson leads PACE.

 "If we're quickly solving a crime and arresting a person, we've taken that person out of circulation, so that becomes a prevention measure," Peterson said. "If they're going to do it anyway, maybe we catch them in the act because we're paying attention to who they are."

Peterson and his PACE team meet weekly with all units within the Sheriff's Office so they can identify trends and problem people. Likewise, they can share their list of problem people with the rest of the squads, specifically with the patrol deputies.

 "Them [patrol deputies] knowing that information ahead of time is part of the magic of why this works," Peterson said. "This dramatic reduction in car break-ins is because we recycle the information every week. We know who to focus on."

Staly, who is running for reelection, said car burglaries are down 56% over the past year, and he largely credits PACE for the drop.

 "It is absolutely getting results," Staly said. 

Peterson said it's a simple strategy: If a known criminal and likely suspect is in jail, he or she cannot commit another crime.

"Even if that prevention is a short one -- that person is in jail even for a day -- they're not doing another burglary that day," Peterson said. "Hopefully, we would get longer incarceration periods, but they're not burglarizing while they're incarcerated."

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Staly said juvenile offender probation compliance is at a record-high 96% entirely because of PACE.

PACE deputies check on juvenile offenders who are out on probation at all hours of the day and night to make sure they're adhering to their curfews.

Before PACE, no one checked, according to Staly.

"We want them [juvenile offenders on probation] to know we're watching them," Staly said. "And they better comply with the judge's orders. And of course, if they're locked up at home, they're not preying on the community. Certainly, that is prevention when they know there is enforcement behind the judge's orders."

About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for News 6 and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting.