PALM BAY ― Sheriff Wayne Ivey highlighted the Brevard County Sheriff's Office (BCSO) at the January luncheon for the Greater Palm Bay Chamber of Commerce.

The event was held at Promise in Brevard on Jan. 13.

Sheriff Ivey, along with his bloodhound and BCSO mascot, Junny, met with a crowd of business leaders and elected officials and spoke about some of the departments accomplishments with K-9 programs.

"Child comfort dog is a program we started right here. I always tell our team that the next great idea for law enforcement is not going to come out of my head. It's going to come out of one of the 1,600 men and women that work for me, and my job is to give them a chance to blossom," he said.

Sheriff Ivey explained that a deputy in 2013 approached with the idea of having dogs available for children impacted by a crime or witnesses to it.

"We've found that only 34% of the children are disclosing to us what happened," he said. "So what we would like to do is to see if we can use a dog to build a rapport, to be able to break down those barriers and have the child disclose to use what happened."

After discovering no other program in the country existed, BSCO began the program with a puggle named Primus.

"In one year we went from 34% disclosure, to 81," he said.

Paws and Stripes College was formed from that idea. The programs takes rescue dogs from the BCSO adoption center and trains them to be comfort dogs. Ivey noted that without any program like it in the country, the temptation to make it a part of the BCSO was strong.

"We take rescue dogs out of our animal care center. We put them into a training program where we give them to other law enforcement agencies throughout the country so that they can take those dogs and help protect children throughout the United States of America," he said.

BCSO inmates also participate in training the animals which assists in gaining a skill set for when they are released.

Sheriff Ivey stated that they had just finished a class a week prior with 20 graduates.

BCSO also pays for the program, alleviating the county tax payers. The program is also partnered with Eastern Florida State College (EFSC), who helps pay half of the trainers salary in exchange for veterinarian technicians that work alongside the sheriff's veterinarians.

Sheriff Ivey later touched on the decreased crime rate in the county over recent years.

"I'm very blessed to tell you that in the last eight years we have watched our crime rate just plummet and I say that with a big smile on my face," he said. "Our crime rate has dropped 42% here in Brevard County."

He attributes this to his media-heavy form of community policing and the citizens involvement in crime prevention.

"You're helping us prevent crime," he said "You don't lower a crime rate by solving crimes, there's already a number in the box even though you solve it. You lower your crime rate by preventing crimes."

The BCSO utilizes Facebook, primarily, to post videos relating to crime tips, notifying residents of recent crimes and fugitive apprehension.

"Social media is the tool. Social media is how we outreach. We try to be innovative, we try and be a little humorous when it's appropriate," he said. "It's worked. We have a tremendous following from our citizens. It's amazing how it works."

In regards to the county's preparation and subsequent handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, he put Brevard in a leadership category.

"We responded. We did react, we responded. I think we served. We all ought to be proud of this and we should all thank God we live here. What we did in Brevard County is we served as a model for other communities to follow," he said. "We worked together, shoulder to shoulder, and put our differences aside and said "This is Brevard County" the best place in the county to live."

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