Thursday, February 22, 2018
Public safety

Surprises leap into view with new body scanner at Pasco jail

LAND O'LAKES — On Saturday morning, authorities say, Peter Waechter tried to bring a sharp metal tool into the Pasco County jail. In the past, deputies might not have found it. But now, because of the body scan machine at the jail, an X-ray image revealed the window punch tool, hidden under the padded insert of the car burglary suspect's shoe.

Inmates have smuggled some legendary things into the Pasco County jail over the years: a revolver, keys, cellphones, even an uncapped syringe. And lots of drugs. "They hide things everywhere," said Pasco sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll.

So last October, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office installed the RadPRO SecurPASS body scanner, which it purchased for $195,000 in federal forfeiture funds. It became the first detention facility in the Tampa Bay area to have one, and the third in the state, behind the Federal Correctional Complex in Coleman and the Collier County jail.

Since then, deputies have found 15 people with drugs and paraphernalia squirreled away about their body, a knife and a set of keys, a shotgun shell and a tongue piercing.

The scanner, which looks like a white door frame, emits a low-dose X-ray and shows any contraband hidden on or inside a person. Suspects pass through the scanner prior to being booked into the jail, before a deputy has to do a hands-on search. Lt. Barbara Taylor said deputies previously had been pricked by drug needles and injured by other items found during pat downs. Now, those items are found before a deputy has to physically touch a suspect, so there aren't any surprises. "Why take that chance if you don't have to?" Taylor said.

Without expensive body scanners, other Tampa Bay jails rely on wand sweeps and pat downs of inmates entering the facilities.

"People hide things in the groin area under the assumption that detention deputies won't search that area as thoroughly," said Col. Jim Previtera, the commander for Hillsborough County's jails.

But they do, he said, and deputies have discovered drugs, cellphones, bullets, knives and — on rare occasions — guns. And while some items have slipped through the initial screening, Previtera said, detention deputies continue to search after inmates are booked, with the help of Bensha, a contraband-sniffing dog.

In Pinellas County, deputies conduct strip searches of inmates arrested on felony charges and misdemeanor drugs or weapons charges, sheriff's spokeswoman Marianne Pasha said. Any property an inmate is carrying is put into a bin and X-rayed. Pasha said Pinellas hasn't looked into body scanners. Previtera said the jail budget is too tight now for Hills­borough to consider one.

"If at some point we could locate the funding, anything that increases the safety and security of the facility would be welcomed," he said.

Gulfport resident Tiffany Harbison discovered this week how effective the scanners are.

The 22-year-old was arrested about 3 a.m. Sunday in the parking lot of Insomniacs Bar and Lounge on U.S. 19 in New Port Richey, after she nearly crashed into a deputy's cruiser, authorities said. As Harbison was entering the Land O'Lakes jail, the body scan image showed an object lodged in her abdomen.

A body cavity search yielded a rainbow-colored metal pill bottle with 21/2 bars of Xanax inside, the Pasco Sheriff's Office said.

"I totally forgot about it," Harbison told the Times on Wednesday, three days after being released from jail on charges of DUI, possession of controlled substances and possession of drug paraphernalia. She said the bottle wasn't hers. "I was holding it for a friend," she said, declining to explain further.

Harbison said she wasn't trying to sneak the bottle into the jail. Immediately after the scan, she said, she told the deputies about the bottle, apologized and handed it over.

"The scanner works," Harbison said. "Obviously."

Times staff writers Robbyn Mitchell and Alex Orlando contributed to this report.

Comments
Polk deputies seek Pinellas man accused of pushing woman from speeding car

Polk deputies seek Pinellas man accused of pushing woman from speeding car

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office said an arrest warrant was issued for a Pinellas County man accused of beating and pushing a woman from a speeding car.The incident took place on Feb. 17, the Sheriff’s Office said. Remond Brown II, 26, was traveling ...
Updated: 23 minutes ago
Dunedin man seriously injured in motorcycle crash

Dunedin man seriously injured in motorcycle crash

OLDSMAR — A 37-year-old Dunedin man was seriously injured in a high-speed motorcycle crash early Thursday morning, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies said Justin Kaune was riding southbound on Bayside Boulevard around 2:30 a.m...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Police seek machete-wielding suspect in Plant City robbery

Police seek machete-wielding suspect in Plant City robbery

PLANT CITY — Police are searching for a man armed with a machete accused of robbing a convenience store on Tuesday.The man arrived at the Circle K convenience store station at 1514 Alexander St. S at about 2:50 a.m. and demanded money from store empl...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Clearwater police chief forms special unit for repeat offenders

Clearwater police chief forms special unit for repeat offenders

CLEARWATER — Police Chief Dan Slaughter started this month a new unit to target repeat offenders and nuisance properties.The Special Enforcement Unit consists of six police officers and a sergeant from within the department to focus on the small grou...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tip leads police to find body inside van in Walmart parking lot

Tip leads police to find body inside van in Walmart parking lot

TARPON SPRINGS — Police are conducting a death investigation after a body was found Thursday in a van at a Walmart parking lot.Officers were dispatched to the store at about 1:30 p.m. when an employee reported that an older-model, white Ford E-150 va...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Man rescued after boat swept away, capsizes in Little Manatee River

Man rescued after boat swept away, capsizes in Little Manatee River

RUSKIN — A man was rescued early Thursday morning after his boat was swept away by a strong tide and capsized in the Little Manatee River, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.The incident started at about 2 a.m., deputies said, when...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Tampa police release name of man killed in hit-and-run on Adamo Drive

TAMPA — Police have released the name of a man struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver on Adamo Drive early Wednesday.Christopher Magdic, 41, of Tampa was walking west in the eastbound lanes of Adamo Drive about 4:15 a.m. when was struck by an unkn...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Hillsborough County inmate dies after becoming unresponsive at Falkenburg Road jail

Hillsborough County inmate dies after becoming unresponsive at Falkenburg Road jail

TAMPA — A 54-year-old inmate died Saturday after she became unresponsive at the Falkenburg Road Jail, authorities said.Tammie Castro was alert in the jail infirmary when jail officials called for paramedics at 3:34 a.m. but became unresponsive within...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Amy Poehler, ‘Parks and Rec’ team in Twitter tussle with NRA and its ‘pro-slaughter agenda’

Amy Poehler, ‘Parks and Rec’ team in Twitter tussle with NRA and its ‘pro-slaughter agenda’

The NBC sitcom "Parks and Recreation" was a show about the power of community and civic engagement that was created and run by outspoken gun lobby critic Michael Schur.It’s arguably not the best show for the National Rifle Association to reference on...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Two male students arrested for threatening their schools; no weapons found

Two male students arrested for threatening their schools; no weapons found

Two male students were arrested Wednesday on charges that they made threats against their respective schools, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.The threats were not credible and neither took steps to carry out those threats, deput...
Published: 02/21/18