You deserve to have all the news

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By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

Let's see, it was late July and I was still new on the job.

I asked a Sheriff's Office spokesperson about air conditioner burglaries in the county and I also noted my street alone had an AC stolen that was almost turned into a home burglary. And the same road also had a home invasion that resulted in the suspect's death and an armed robbery.

Like a mantra he said crime was down and pointed to 2007 figures showing crime went down in Levy County.

With all due respect the guy who had bugged me asking why I didn't write about all this crime on our street didn't much care about 2007. What he, and I was sure Levy County citizens cared about, was the crime happening this year-today.

Crime is down. The sheriff is doing a good job, he said.

The night Sheriff Johnny Smith won his come from behind, at the last minute, from the last ballot box to tally its votes victory he also mentioned crime was down in the county - in 2007.

And he said he had some ideas for streamlining the job his office did and changes he would make.

There was a reason the sheriff was parsing his mantra about the crime in Levy County.

That was Aug. 26.

Just 27 days later, on Sept. 22 he announced he had created a new Street Crime Unit to work with the Patrol and Criminal Investigation divisions.

The reason, he said in a press release was because burglaries and property crimes, are rising.

Does that sound odd to anyone but me?

What does creating a new unit have to do with streamlining?

And did we just have a 27-day burglary and property crime spree no one really knew about?

Did the sheriff not come out and say be on the lookout for what is happening in your neighborhood because the folks he was so grateful to for retaining him in office are being robbed.

No he did not.

And we still don't really know if there is a burglary and crime spree because the sheriff does not release that information as the crime occurs.

The information given to the public consists of arrest reports.

Sheriff Smith only wants you to know about the crimes he solves.

Yes, yes, we can go to www.crimereports.com on the Internet and see what is happening in the county.

But read the disclaimer carefully - they only have the reports the Sheriff's Office is willing to let go. And the sheriff's spokesman even said they had a glitch fixed that sent every report out. They wanted to keep back certain reports, like drug task force investigations. He says they are still tweaking the system to get information out there.

And I cannot grow a third foot fast enough to kick my own butt for not asking for a list of every category of report they would not be releasing.

After all, what the sheriff won't say is what the law says you are entitled to know.

You are entitled to have the information in the reports about whether your neighbor on 14th or 18th street in Chiefland or Northeast 75th in Raleigh or 40th Street in Williston are having their own little crime spree.

Again, it's the law. And Sheriff Smith is the one who is supposed to enforce the law.

Lou Elliott Jones is a staff writer for The Citizen. She can be contacted at 352-493-4796 or at news.chieflandcitizen.com. Comment online at www.chieflandcitizen.com.