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County has resources to keep wanderers safe

SEBRING — J.R. Tolkein penned the famous line “Not all those who wander are lost” in a poem. But for those who do tend to wander or get lost, there are resources to bring them back home. One high tech product is free for those who qualify through a grant awarded to the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office.

The recent disappearance and subsequent campaign to find a missing Sebring woman stirs up the question of safety and monitoring devices. Adults and seniors with different forms of dementia and even children with autism who could wander may benefit from SafetyNet Tracking Systems bracelets.

Sgt, Kimberly Gunn has taken the reigns of the HCSO SafetyNet program after Nell Hays retired last week.

“There are requirements to getting a bracelet,” Gunn said. “The person cannot drive and they have to have 24/7 care.”

Gunn explained the bracelets use a radio frequency. When a caregiver calls the Sheriff’s Office, they respond by putting up a hand-held antenna to search for the signal.

“The device is only good if the person wears the bracelet,” Gunn said.

There has to be a commitment between the caregiver and the HCSO, Gunn said. The bracelets cost about $500 each, but are free to those who meet the criteria to be in the program.

The Sebring Police Department and Lake Placid Police Department have also teamed up with the Sheriff’s Office and will send officers out to bring people bracelets in their city and town, respectively.

Gunn said some people want a GPS system to track their loved ones in real time. However, she pointed out the radio frequency is less invasive than the GPS. Both types have their pros and cons and should be carefully compared.

The GPS technologies may have a fee for a bracelet and still charge a monthly fee as well. The bracelets need to have their batteries changed every six months.

Another useful tool to locate those who have wandered and gotten lost is a scent kit. A scent kit is just what the name suggests and involves a cloth and a storage jar. A caregiver takes a cloth and wipes certain areas of those in their care. The cloth is stored in a jar with information about the person and a decal for the home’s window advising law enforcement of the presence of the scent jar.

A K-9 will take the scent and start tracking the person. Scentevidencek9.com said the scent is like a fingerprint to a K-9.

Gunn said when someone goes missing, K-9s are called out and drones that are flown by FAA-certified pilots usually find anyone missing quickly.

To obtain qualification information on SafetyNet bracelets call HCSO at 863-402-7200. For information at Sebring Police Department, call Det. Stephen Williams 863-471-5107 and for Lake Placid Police Department, call 863-699-3757.

The scent kit can be used in conjunction with the SafetyNet program for an extra layer of protection. The HCSO gives the kits to caregivers who need them for free.Sebring Police also give out the free scent kits but Lake Placid Police Department does not. The kits normally retail for about $20.

Trump trial closing arguments aim at voters, history

WASHINGTON (AP) — Closing arguments Monday in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial were aimed more toward history than to sway the outcome, one final chance to influence public opinion and set the record ahead of his expected acquittal in the Republican-led Senate.

The House Democratic prosecutors drew on the Founding Fathers and common sense to urge senators — and Americans — to see that Trump’s actions are not isolated but a pattern of behavior that, left unchecked, will allow him to “cheat”’ in the 2020 election.

Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff implored those few Republicans who have acknowledged Trump’s wrongdoing to prevent a “runaway presidency” and stand up to say “enough.”

“For a man like Donald J. Trump, they gave you a remedy and meant for you to use it. They gave you an oath, and they meant for you to observe it,” Schiff said. “We have proven Donald Trump guilty. Now do impartial justice and convict him.”

The president’s defense countered the Democrats have been out to impeach Trump since the start of his presidency, nothing short of an effort to undo the 2016 election and to try to shape the next one, as early primary voting begins Monday in Iowa.

“Leave it to the voters to choose,” said White House counsel Pat Cipollone.

He called for an end to the partisan “era of impeachment.”

All that’s left, as the Senate prepares to acquit Trump on charges that he abused power and obstructed Congress, is for Americans to decide now and in the November election, as the third presidential impeachment trial in the nation’s history comes to a close.

Most senators acknowledge the House Democratic managers have essentially proven their case. Trump was impeached in December on two charges: that he abused his power like no other president in history when he pushed Ukraine to investigate rival Democrats, and he then obstructed Congress by instructing aides to defy House subpoenas.

But key Republicans have decided the president’s actions toward Ukraine do not rise to the level of impeachable offense that warrants the dramatic political upheaval of conviction and removal from office. His acquittal in Wednesday’s vote is all but assured.

Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Marco Rubio of Florida and Rob Portman of Ohio are among those who acknowledged the inappropriateness of Trump’s actions, but said they would not vote to hear more testimony or to convict.

“What message does that send? “ asked Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., a House prosecutor. He warned senators that for Trump, the “past is prologue.” He urged the Senate to realize its failure to convict will “allow the president’s misconduct to stand.”

The Senate proceedings are set against a sweeping political backstop, as voters in Iowa on Monday are choosing presidential Democratic primary candidates and Trump is poised to deliver his State of the Union address Tuesday in his own victory lap before Congress.

The House Democrats unveiled a striking case centered on Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, running an alternative foreign policy that drew alarm at the highest levels. As part of the “scheme,” Trump held up $391 million in U.S. aid from Ukraine, a fragile ally battling Russia, for his personal political gain, they argued. The money was eventually released after Congress intervened.

As Chief Justice John Roberts presided, the House managers opened with a plea from Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., a freshman and former Army Ranger: “We cannot and should not leave our common sense at the door.”

One by one, the Democrats drew on their life experiences to remind senators, and Americans, of the simple difference between right and wrong in the case against Trump.

Rep. Val Demings, a former police chief, argued that the president is not behaving like someone who is innocent. She warned that if senators do not convict, Trump will try to “cheat” again ahead of 2020.

”You will send a terrible message to the nation that one can get away with abuse of power, cheating and spreading of false narratives,” she told them.

Before Trump’s celebrity defense mounted its closing argument, the president himself already registered his views on Twitter, where he decried the whole thing — as he often does — as a “hoax.”

Kenneth Starr, the former prosecutor whose investigation led to Bill Clinton’s impeachment, complained about the inadequacy of the House prosecutors’ “fast track” case.

Trump attorney Jay Sekulow showed political clips of Democrats calling for impeachment — highlighting primarily lawmakers of color, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a top Republican foil — to argue this was the “first totally partisan presidential impeachment in our nation’s history, and it should be our last.”

One key Trump lawyer, Alan Dershowitz, who was forced to walk back a sweeping defense of presidential power in last week’s arguments, did not appear.

Trump wanted acquittal secured before he arrives at the Capitol for the State of the Union address Tuesday, but that will not happen.

Senators carrying the power of their votes to the history books wanted additional time to make their own arguments, in public speeches from the floor of the Senate. Those began Monday afternoon and were expected to continue until Wednesday’s vote.

The trial unfolded over nearly two weeks and reached a decisive moment last Friday when senators voted against calling witnesses and documents. Key Republicans said they had heard enough. It becomes the first impeachment trial in the nation’s more than 200-year history without any witnesses.

Even new revelations from John Bolton, the former White House national security adviser, whose forthcoming book discloses his firsthand account of Trump ordering the investigations, did not impress upon senators the need for more testimony.

Bolton said he would appear if he received a subpoena, but GOP senators said the House should have issued the summons and the Senate did not want to prolong the proceedings.

Prosecutors relied on a 28,000-page report compiled over three months of proceedings in the Democratic-controlled House, including public and private testimony from 17 witnesses, among them current and former ambassadors and national security officials with close proximity to the Ukraine dealings.

Second Amendment or whole Constitution to be debated

SEBRING — Highlands County commissioners will, once again, debate Constitutional resolutions at tonight’s Board of County Commission meeting.

It’s the one thing on the agenda tonight that isn’t a consent item or report from administration, as commissioners anticipate a long debate over the issue. The Board of County Commission had scheduled tonight’s meeting as a night meeting for the sole purpose of giving more residents a chance to weigh in on any potential resolution.

Commissioners will consider a resolution to support the entire U.S. Constitution and its amendments, as well as reconsider a resolution presented in December by Commissioner Arlene Tuck to give full support to the Second Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms.

The decision came by consensus on Jan. 21 after Commission Chair Ron Handley said he didn’t see a need to consider any resolution since all members of the board had sworn an oath of office to uphold and defend the U.S. and Florida Constitutions.

Tuck defended her request for a specific resolution for the Second Amendment, stating that 23 of 67 Florida counties had adopted such resolutions. Only Sarasota and Highlands counties, in this region of Florida, had considered and rejected them.

Commissioner Don Elwell opposed dropping the resolution that supports the whole U.S. Constitution without letting people speak to that matter.

He said a Constitutional support measure would cover all articles and amendments, especially due process law, which he said is a much under attack by “red flag” laws as the Second Amendment.

The laws, passed after the Parkland shooting, allow law enforcement to seize weapons for a set time period from someone deemed or believed to be a danger to one’s self or others.

Gunn looks to expand crime prevention: Focus on human trafficking

SEBRING — Sgt. Kimberly Gunn has now moved into the role of crime prevention at the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office.

She gets calls to do seminars, just as Nell Hays did before retiring as crime prevention specialist last week. Gunn has talked about basic home security, being wary of scams and even active shooter scenarios.

Active shooter training and/or facility evaluations have filled her schedule almost completely, Gunn said: It’s one of the most highly requested seminars.

“Prior to SunTrust, we used to hear, ‘It will never happen here,’” Gunn said. “I used to say, ‘Not if, but when.’”

Now, anytime people hear of another shooting, anywhere, requests for seminars spike, she said.

Of course, when Gunn goes out into the community, she’ll continue seminars on locking doors and cars, being observant and keeping communities in close contact with law enforcement.

However, there’s an aspect of crime prevention Gunn wants to promote that isn’t involved with shooters and doesn’t run scams on seniors. It runs scams on young adults and teenagers, especially women.

Florida is third in the nation for human trafficking, which is the second biggest crime in the world after the drug trade, Gunn said. It includes everything from abduction and shipping someone overseas to a “boyfriend” coercing a young woman to perform sexual favors on others. Kidnapping, Gunn said, only accounts for 9% of human trafficking. The rest is coercion via a family member or “relationship.”

Sometimes those being abused are willing workers, perhaps immigrants, who have agreed to come to the United States to work in a business, not knowing they shouldn’t be asked to do certain things or that they shouldn’t have to work 16-18 hours per day. There’s a culture of fear, Gunn said: If the immigrants go to police, their family back home might get killed. If they are deported home, they then owe money to those who “imported” them.

Kids also face dangers through digital communications, Gunn said. Predators can use texts, email and social media to develop social and emotional connections with minors, enticing them to meet alone away from home.

This is all new for Gunn. For her law enforcement career, aside from Sheriff’s Road Patrol, she has worked behind the scenes, whether undercover in narcotics, investigating homicides and other major crimes or with the Tactical Anti-Crime Unit.

Starting in 2018, she had a visible role with the Sheriff’s Community-Oriented Policing Service (COPS) before Sheriff Paul Blackman asked her to succeed Hays as head of the Crime Prevention Unit and backup public information officer. Gunn said a lot of law enforcement agencies, after years of civilians in crime prevention, have brought back sworn officers.

In May 2019, Gunn said, Blackman approached her. It wasn’t a complete surprise, but it was a complete shift.

On her last day, Hays told the Highlands News-Sun most law enforcement officers don’t think about a public relations role.

Gunn agreed. For years, she lived on “doper time,” a schedule and a fake persona that helps infiltrate drug-dealer circles.

“You have to be tough, fluid [and] think on your feet,” Gunn said.

She was on permanent night shift for several years, and is proud of being the agency’s leading arrest officers for three years in a row.

What she’ll do now, she said — essentially — is “be a politician.”

Hays said a big transition came in the Sebring Christmas parade. Gunn was driving the Crime Prevention van with Hays riding shotgun.

“I told her, ‘Kim, you have to smile and wave,’” Hays said.

Twice, Gunn gave her a “Whatchutalkin boutWillis” look, Hays said. This was something foreign to her.

The third time, Gunn saw a little kid, Hays said, who yelled, “It’s a girl cop!”

“And she melted,” Hays said. Gunn smiled so much, “by the time we got around the Circle, she said, ‘My face hurts.’”

Gunn said she had walked in the Avon Park Christmas parade in front of the Sheriff’s Office Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle, but this was completely different.

Gunn got her Crime Prevention Practitioner certification — 120 hours — through the Florida Attorney General’s Office.

She’s studying Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design — manipulating the built environment to create safer neighborhoods and workplaces — as part of her master’s study in criminal justice.

Anyone wanting a crime prevention or active shooter seminar, or to have their building evaluated for crime prevention and/or safety, Gunn said she can be reached at the Sheriff’s Office at 863-402-7453.

Be patient, she said. Her schedule is pretty full, but she’ll fit people in.