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Sheriff Grady Judd Boasts of 51-Year-Low Crime Rate at Chamber Luncheon

by James Coulter

Sheriff Grady Judd shared a story about someone who stole a $2.19 soft drink from a local gas station. The man goes to the cashier to pay for his stuff but not his drink. The cashier reminds him he needs to pay for it. Instead, the man marches to his car and drives away, despite the cashier’s protests.

Shortly after, the man is pulled over by a sheriff’s deputy. The officer asks him for his license. The man complies and asks why he was pulled over. The deputy replied that he received a call about someone who stole a soft drink from a local gas station.

“You stopped me over a soda that costs $2.19?” the man asked.

“No,” the officer replied. “I stopped you because you are a thief, the amount makes no difference.”

The cop then ordered the man to step out of the car. The man asked why. The officer said it was easier to put handcuffs on him if he stepped out of the car.

“I’m going to jail over a soda that cost $2.19?” the man asked.

“No,” the officer replied. “You’re going to jail for stealing. The value makes no difference.”

The deputy then said that the man would have to pay $500 in bail. He would also have to pay to get his car returned to him from impound, which would certainly cost more than $2.19 for a soft drink.

“The man had not appeared before the judge and he already had a tow bill and jail bond,” Sheriff Judd said. “Would it not have been easier for him to pay for a soda?”

Sheriff Judd told this witty anecdote during a chamber luncheon hosted by the Northeast Polk Chamber of Commerce on Thursday. The Honorable Sheriff served as the guest speaker that day. During his speech, he boasted about the low crime rates Polk County was experiencing due to the hard work and effort by him and his deputies.

Currently, Polk County is experiencing a record 51-year-low crime rate. Crime was not always that low, Sheriff Judd stated. He remembers when crime was high during the 70s and 80s. That all changed when both the state and country enacted “tough on crime” policies.

Following a gruesome incident where 17 tourists were murdered, Europe issued a warning that the state of Florida was unsafe for tourists to visit. This incident inspired the state to become more “tough on crime” and the crime rate took a sharp nose dive over the following decades to its all-time low point now, Judd explained.

The reason why crime went down, and why it continues to stay down, is because the state took law enforcement seriously. Back when crime was high, he remembered how many criminals would be sent off with a slap on a wrist.

Sheriff Judd recalls one incident involving a convict who was jailed with a 25-year life sentence. Shortly after being let out on parole for “good behavior,” the man robbed a liquor store, killed the person working there, went to a furniture store, and killed a teenager and the owner.

Sheriff Judd averred that such “light on crime”, “hug a thug” policies are why crime remains rampant in states like California and cities like New York City and Chicago. He argued that doing the exact opposite of those places is why crime in Polk County and Florida are at an all-time low.

“That is why crime is low in Florida and not in California. That is why the murder rate is low here and not in [other cities],” he said. “It is what you accept as a society that makes a difference, and we choose to make you safe.”

With Polk County set to become the fastest growing county in Florida, more and more people are moving from cities and states with high crime rates. While he openly welcomes new people moving here, he also urges them to leave behind the failed policies and attitudes that led to higher crime.

He recalled one instance where deputies responded to a domestic dispute. The offender in question shoved a deputy aside and ran to punch the person who called in the face. The deputies responded, as Judd said, “by introducing his face to the pavement.”

The man was then led to the patrol car and told he was going to jail. He told the officers that this was not how things were done in New York City. There, people were only “encouraged” to show up at court if they wanted to.

The officer replied: “Before we leave, look around. Do you see Empire State Building. This is not New York City. This is Polk County, Florida.”

“Don’t go poking the deputies and smacking people around,” Sheriff Judd said. “That will get you arrested.”

The Good Sheriff ended his speech by encouraging citizens to lock their car doors and park their vehicles in their garage. He insisted that taking such precautions could help reduce the overall crime rate even lower by 40 percent.

“If you don’t lock your cars, leave your wallet and purse there,” he said. “Go out on a limb and leave your car fob so they can drive away, too…It is the downside of crime so low and people feeling so safe that they do not lock their cars up.”

Prior to his speech, several Chamber members praised Sheriff Judd for the outstanding track record of his sheriff office. Donna Fellows, publisher at Four Corner Sun, which runs a regular column by the Sheriff, called him the “Best sheriff in the nation.”

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