The event was started by his father more than 20 years ago, and Thursday night, Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells led his first Supper with the Sheriff.
“I thought it went really good. This is the good part of what we do,” Wells said of the event, which is held twice a year to discuss concerns with citizens and share information.
At Thursday’s supper at the Police Athletic League, Lt. Kevin Pease explained the sheriff’s office’s use of license plate readers to the more than 200 people in attendance.
The systems take a photo and run the license plate number through federal and state databases that contain information on warrants, missing vehicles and missing and endangered persons. If the license plate is a match to anything in those databases, the deputy operating the reader gets an alert.
It all happens within seconds, Pease said.
The sheriff’s office has been using the system since September. In that time, they’ve recovered 22 stolen vehicles, 15 stolen license plates and found five wanted suspects.
The plate readers are installed in five patrol vehicles and two message board trailers.
In a 10-day period, the use of license plate readers led to three arrests related to homicide investigations, Pease said. Those arrests were in connection with the death of former college professor Hollant Maxford Adrien in January, according to Wells.
Pease said he would like to have more license plate readers, but they cost about $15,000 per unit.
After the presentation, Wells discussed his first few months in office and praised his staff members for their hard work.
“We started off the first of the year with a bang. In January, we had six homicides. I got initiated very quickly. Not that I’m not used to that, but it was just a lot of action in a short period of time,” Wells said. “The good thing about it is, all of those bad guys were arrested. Those six homicides were solved thanks to my detectives.”
After an audience question about what politicians can do to help with the opioid problem, Wells urged those in attendance to contact their legislators and urge them to list fentanyl, carfentanyl and other synthetic drugs as Schedule I controlled substances.