Florida Targets Environmental Offenders

Article excerpt

Governor Jeb Bush, together with -Department of Environmental Protection Secretary David B. Struhs and DEP Division of Law Enforcement Director Thomas S. Tramel III, announced the successful completion of the first operationGreen Lightning- conducted by the Environmental Crimes Strike Force. The Strike Force, headed by Tramel, works in cooperation with other state, federal and local enforcement agencies in an effort to combat major crimes against the environment and public health. Together they shepherd a case from the investigation process through the arrest and prosecution.

When announcing the formation of the Strike Force four months ago, graphic examples were provided of the kinds of criminals who would be targeted: not the average lunch bag litterbug, but the industrial waste felon; not an inadvertent citizen offender, but someone who buried medical waste inside the graves of real people. The Environmental Crimes Strike Force has pledged to go after those who willfully and wantonly pollute the environment and jeopardize public health for profit.

"This coalition of law enforcement officers, from sheriffs and local police to federal investigators, is the largest statewide, multiagency environmental enforcement operation in the country," said Governor Bush. "The Strike Force is committed to pursuing those who knowingly violate Florida's environmental laws."

The four month, statewide operation culminated in a seven day intensified enforcement effort. The combined efforts of the six district teams resulted in 149 arrests with a total of 340 charges, and an additional 22 arrest warrants have been issued- an added 70 charges. A total of 82 local, state and federal law enforcement and regulatory agencies, working side by side, executed operations in each of DEP's six regulatory districts.

"Our focus was not on those who unintentionally or inadvertently commit technical violations, but on those who willfully and wantonly violate Florida's environmental laws," said Tramel. "The Environmental Crimes Strike Force pursues those violators whose acts are so egregious that they constitute major crimes, not only against the environment, but against the citizens of our state- especially those who intentionally destroy our environment for personal gain."

In September of 2000, Secretary Struhs announced the formation of the Strike Force. What began as an idea has resulted in a monumental accomplishment that will move the state of Florida to the forefront in the fight against major environmental crime.

Director Tom Tramel comments on the Environmental Crimes Strike Force during an Operation Green Lightning meeting:

"Today, as we stand on the steps of the old capitol history is being made in the state of Florida. Gov. Bush, Sec. Struhs and the heads of local, state and federal law enforcement and regulatory agencies announced) the successful results of "Operation Green Lightning"- the largest statewide, multiagency environmental enforcement operation in the nation. …