In an apparent rebuke to Lee County Sheriff John McDougall, the Florida Sheriffs Association has released a statement Tuesday saying Florida is a safer place than it was a few years ago.
McDougall made national news last week when, on the Today show, he urged tourists to stay away from Florida because inmates are being released to comply with a recent court order.
"With the help of the Legislature and the positive steps they have taken, we have seen a downturn in crime in Florida for the first time in years," the sheriffs said.
The sheriffs have denounced the early release ordered after the courts said legislators could not strip inmates of "gain time" they were given before a bill was passed to force all inmates to serve 85 percent of their sentences.
_ LUCY MORGAN
Sheriff, lawmaker find common ground
Sheriff McDougall found a more sympathetic ear when he paid a visit to Sen. Charlie Crist, R-St. Petersburg.
"Florida is not bad, crime is bad. If we can eradicate crime in Florida, tourism will flourish," McDougall explained to Crist, known for tough-on-crime proposals like chain gangs.
"It sounds like you told the truth," Crist told McDougall.
The senator seemed to downplay McDougall's earlier comments.
"It's not as though you're walking around Miami with a flak jacket or a bulletproof vest," Crist said.
_ DIANE RADO