Humanitarian Trip Also a Learning Trip; Beaches Officers Pick Up Storm Tips
Aguilar, Christopher F., The Florida Times Union
Byline: Christopher F. Aguilar, Shorelines staff writer
Eleven police officers from Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach traveled last week to provide law enforcement and humanitarian assistance for areas damaged by Hurricane Charley.
The police officers, five from Atlantic Beach and six from Neptune Beach, went to Hardee County to assist the town of Wauchula. Atlantic Beach officers were there from Aug. 18 to Aug. 21, and Neptune Beach officers were there from Aug. 19 until Monday.
Atlantic Beach Police Chief David Thompson, who went to Hardee County, said his department contacted sources in some of the storm-damaged counties to see if they needed assistance. He received a call from Hardee County officials at noon on Aug. 18. Three hours later, he and four other officers were driving to Central Florida.
The first thing Thompson noticed was the complete devastation caused by Hurricane Charley.
"The physical devastation was just overwhelming," he said. "There is no power, no water, no gas, no businesses open, no lights, no nothing. When you get there and you go without those things, you have a greater appreciation for having them at home."
Hurricane Charley ripped through parts of central and southwest Florida on Aug. 13 destroying thousands of homes and businesses and leaving millions of dollars in damage. When the Beaches-area officers arrived in Wauchula and Hardee County, many communities were still without electricity and water.
Neptune Beach Sgt. Tony Carrillo, who lead the contingent to Hardee County, said they saw people holding up signs thanking them for their assistance as they drove through the county.
"People were jumping up and down and clapping, wanting us to be there and help," Carrillo said.
The officers performed traffic details, assisted in taking down trees from homes, checked on residents, prevented looting, passed out food, water and supplies, provided escorts to volunteers, transportation for senior citizens, administered first aid and helped deliver Red Cross aid to residents.
Thompson said they were assigned to a low-income, predominantly African-American and Haitian neighborhood, which wasn't registered in the county's computer mapping system and wasn't receiving any humanitarian services. …