Florida sheriff condemns state agencies

Local News

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — A Florida sheriff says two state agencies are failing the people of his county.

“I demand better service from our state partners. We are their customers. The people of this county are their customers,” Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith said.

Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith said residents are concerned over juvenile crime problems. Out of frustration, he decided to address the issues on Facebook Tuesday night.

Smith said he the Florida Department of Children and Families, and the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice aren’t doing their jobs.

“We’ve had a kid who’s been arrested several times. Children and Families won’t place him, DJJ won’t take him, his family can’t take him,” Smith said.

Smith said the 16-year-old boy has been caught for crimes like trespassing, motor vehicle theft, and burglary.

But DJJ officials allegedly refused to help him because he does not meet the requirements to be locked up.

“We’ve been on the phone with them and to me, it’s just a bunch of run-around,” Smith said. “Nobody wanting to do anything that are supposed to do the job. If I had deputies that were doing that, I’d fire them on the spot.”

Smith said the DCF is trying to place the 16-year-old juvenile with his grandmother but she allegedly can’t take care of him.

So on Tuesday night, the juvenile’s father picked him up from the Franklin County Jail. Smith said less than 24 hours later, the boy was nowhere to be found. Smith’s afraid he’s going to commit more serious crimes. And he’s not the only one at risk.

“They’re saying, ‘I need help. I want love,’ and when they’re not getting it anywhere they’re going to commit crimes,” Smith said. “And I know the people of Franklin County do not want to be victimized by these kids and we don’t want that to happen and so we need help from our state partners.”

We contacted both DJJ and DCF for their responses.

DJJ officials did not talk about any specific case but said they work continuously with partners to improve system processes and services.

DCF said they’re aware of the situation and are working with law enforcement, community partners, and service providers on an ongoing basis.

Florida Department of Children and Families full statement:

“DCF is aware of the situation and the Department is working closely with law enforcement, community partners and service providers on an ongoing basis. At this time, additional information remains confidential per section 39.202, Florida Statutes.

Our Department has put a focus on working with community stakeholders throughout the state to implement a multidisciplinary teaming and referral model to connect struggling families with community-based behavioral health and stabilizing services. Our efforts with this initiative are to prevent entry into deep-end services and the juvenile justice and child welfare systems.  The Department is focusing efforts on supporting families access to needed services. Secretary Harris has implemented many changes to the Department including an emphasis on integrating our systems — breaking down silos to really wrap our arms around Children and families to address their needs holistically.

Florida Department of Juvenile Justice full statement:

“The Department of Juvenile Justice strives to provide youth with the services most appropriate to address their needs. The Department collaborates with partners and stakeholders in the juvenile justice system, including law enforcement, states attorneys, public defenders, and the courts, to provide these services and ensure public safety. The Department works continuously with partners to improve system processes and services for Florida’s youth and families.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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