Captain Rick Meli - Section Commander
The General Assignment Section continues to be one of the busiest operational units within the Sheriff's Office. Investigators working the General Assignment beat work everything from auto thefts to white collar crimes. They are seasoned investigators and committed to their respective tasks at hand.
The Auto Theft Squad consists of one sergeant, one corporal, five detectives, and two investigative analysts. The squad investigates all stolen vehicles, chop shops, organized theft rings, unclaimed vehicles, vehicle identifications, title fraud and conducts inspections of salvage yards, tow yards and repair shops. In 2012, auto theft detectives investigated over 2,100 cases of stolen vehicles, a reduction of 18 percent since 2009. In the past two years, the county experienced a high number of Dodge and Chrysler thefts on the west side of the county and a high number of Honda thefts on the east side. Innovative approaches and intelligence led policing techniques were used to identify and arrest multiple suspects; primarily juvenile offenders. Since these arrests, the number of auto thefts has reduced even further.
Investigative Support Squad
Unit focused on locating, surveiling, and tactically apprehending suspects throughout the county. This expertise is used by many investigative components of the agency in all types of cases. The unit continues to set the bar for locating and apprehending a wide variety of felony suspects while still in their vehicles. The unit is regularly called upon to assist the FBI, ATF, United States Marshal's Service, and a number of Central Florida Police Departments to reel in suspects wanted for bank robbery, carjacking, robbery, and attempted murder.
Organized Crime Squad
This small but highly specialized squad currently consists of a sergeant, corporal, one investigative analyst, and two detectives. While their primary mission is to investigate organized criminal groups determined to be engaged in racketeering activity in multiple jurisdictions, the unit regularly provides assistance to other criminal investigative units by providing investigative support such as surveillance and gathering intelligence on ongoing criminal activity.
In 2012, the Organized Crime Squad conducted a long term investigation involving the theft of semi-trucks, trailers and high end pickup trucks. The investigation revealed the suspect would steal the semi-trucks and trailers and use them to support his trucking business. In order to conceal the stolen vehicles, the suspect committed fraud by falsifying Florida registration documents in order to obtain Florida tags for the stolen vehicles. In some cases, the suspect was able to conceal several stolen vehicles for up to three years. At the conclusion of the investigation, the Organized Crime Squad in coordination with the Louisiana State Police were able to recover over 20 stolen vehicles. This recovery included semi-trucks, trailers, front end loaders and high end pickup trucks from several Florida jurisdictions totaling over $1 million.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office Property Unit is composed of four Property Squads working out of four of the county’s six sectors. Investigators assigned to these geographical areas are tasked with investigating residential, commercial and vehicle burglaries, as well as thefts, criminal mischiefs, and dealing in stolen property cases that occur in the county. As you would expect, since these types of crimes are responsible for the victimization of citizens and visitors to the county, they are a very busy.
During 2012 property detectives received over 22,000 case reports involving property crimes. During the past year, the squads averaged a 128 percent clearance rate on assigned cases that had some type of an investigative lead (including carry over cases from the previous year) and cleared 16 percent of the total cases which were assigned for investigation.
Property detectives work meticulously with the agency’s Crime Analysts to identify crime trends and problem areas. Property detectives coordinate efforts with the agency’s School Resource Officers, Problem Oriented Police Squads, Tactical Anti-Crimes Squads, Truancy Squad and Juvenile Arrest and Monitor Unit to identify offenders and target areas with enforcement activities tailored to solve specific problems.
The Property Squads have also responded to the increased criminal activity involving the thefts of copper, brass, and other valuable “scrap” metals by working a number of undercover details in which detectives focused on businesses suspected of dealing in stolen metals.
The Economic Crimes Squad is responsible for investigating the crimes of identity theft, credit card fraud, check fraud, embezzlement, theft of trade secrets, real estate fraud, and various other “white collar” type crimes. Detectives assigned to the squad usually work lengthy, in depth, and meticulous investigations that often take a great deal of time to complete. One sergeant, a corporal, nine detectives, an investigative analyst, and two investigative service officers are currently assigned to the squad. They are supported by a certified public accountant and a United States Postal Inspector.
During the past year, the Economics Crime Squad investigations ranged from multimillion dollars timeshare scams, large scale internet fraud cases to counterfeiting check fraud rings involving every banking institution in Central Florida.
Consistently one of the busiest investigative arms of the Sheriff’s Office, the Robbery Unit is staffed by eight detectives, a corporal, and a sergeant and one investigative analyst. During 2012, the unit investigated 1,262 robbery related crimes which was a twelve percent decrease from the previous year. The unit investigated 7 robberies to banks in 2012, a 42 percent decrease from the number investigated during 2011 with all seven cleared by arrests. The unit works closely with ATF and the FBI due to the violent nature of the suspects the unit investigates.
Night Time Investigations Squad
This unit was formally known as the Night Robbery Squad. Initially the unit handled only Robbery’s; due to their overwhelming success, in 2012 the decision was made to increase their investigative responsibility to include all Persons related crimes occurring at night. The squad has provided a cost savings to the agency as well as providing the citizens of Orange County a much quicker response of a detective to assist with solving of their crime. The squad consists of one sergeant, one corporal and seven detectives.
The squad is tasked with transcribing all the interviews and interrogations conducted by the detectives within the Criminal Investigations Division. The five person unit was responsible for the 2013 interviews and interrogations that were conducted in 2012.
Crime Analysis and Pawn
The Crime Analysis Unit collects, organizes, analyzes, and interprets crime and incident data for all Part I crimes for evaluation of past performance and identifies criminal activity patterns and trends for operational deployment, tactical intervention, strategic planning, and management analysis. The crime analysis function is indispensable toward the Sheriff's Office efficient productivity and effectiveness.
The Pawn Unit is responsible for all pawn activity and field contacts throughout the county. The unit provides public records on crime activity in specific parts of the county to the public and news media, prepares and distributes criminal bulletins for use inside and outside of the agency, prepares the intelligence briefings for the agency’s bi-weekly crime control meetings, and takes on a myriad of special projects for the command and executive staff.