MANATEE -- The Manatee County Sheriff's Office made 153 arrests as part of month-long initiative by the Florida Sheriffs Task Force targeting domestic violence.
Operation Safe Family was a joint effort by 33 counties statewide from Oct. 13 through Nov. 9 in an effort to protect families and children while decreasing the prevalence of domestic violence. Statewide, the operation resulted in 5,544 arrests.
"It is something that will bring attention to domestic violence and let people know that it will not be tolerated," Manatee County Sheriff's Office spokesman Dave Bristow said.
In 2012 the Manatee County Sheriff's Office had 2,170 domestic violence offenses reported in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Uniform Crime Report. Five deaths were reported as a result of domestic violence, representing more than 18 percent of all homicides in 2012.
There were 108,046 domestic violence offenses reported statewide in 2012 to Florida law enforcement, with 202 death attributed to domestic violence.
The Manatee Sheriff's Office, unlike many other departments, has a domestic violence unit with three detectives assigned to it.
"They worked really closely with deputies, but they always work close with detectives," Bristow said. "If there is evidence of any domestic violence then you make an arrest."
Often when domestic violence is reported, by the time deputies arrive the suspect has left. With the domestic violence unit, those cases are immediately assigned to one of the three detectives, Bristow said. Detectives then work on locating the individual immediately and are usually successful in doing so within 24 hours.
"That is useful to domestic violence cases, because you never know when it is going to happen again," Bristow said. "We have quite a few domestic situations that turn deadly."
Most homicides in Manatee County are related to gang violence, narcotics or domestic violence. To date, four of the 10 homicides in Manatee County this year have been related to domestic violence.
Karen Mudgett, 31, died May 15 after police say her husband, Sean Mudgett, stabbed her to death.
Jazmin Catano, 30, was found dead in her apartment June 22. A warrant has been issued for her ex-boyfriend, Andres Collazos, who has a history of domestic violence and flew to his native country Colombia the following day before her body had even been discovered.
Maria Moralez, 42, was found shot to death inside a tractor in the orange groove where she worked on Aug. 28. Her ex-boyfriend, Joel Ramirez, with whom she had a volatile history, remains the only "person of interest" and cannot be located for an interview.
Linda Michelle Brown, 47, died Nov. 3 after police say her live-in boyfirend shot her in the stomach.
Sarasota County also participated in Operation Safe Families, making 43 arrests for domestic violence, two arrests for violating a domestic violence injunction, taking two children into protective custody, and serving 11 Writs of Bodily Attachment for nonpayment of child support.
"There is always a better choice than violence," said Sheriff Tom Knight. "We are committed to helping citizens feel safe and provide access to the protective resources they need -- whether the violence is between spouses, a parent and child or siblings -- and reporting these crimes is the first step toward ending this cycle of violence."
Jessica De Leon, law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.