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Assaults, vehicle thefts push county crime rate

Citrus County experienced a slight increase in crime during the first six months of 2002, according to statistics released Thursday by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Crime was up 1.7 percent compared with the same period in 2001. However, there were fewer people killed, with no murders, down from two the year before. The largest increases were in aggravated assaults, 168 this year compared with 152 in 2001, and motor vehicle thefts, 70 in 2002, up from 61 in 2001.

Suspect in residential burglaries jumps bail

INVERNESS _ Citrus County Sheriff's deputies are searching for an 18-year-old in connection with a string of Floral City burglaries. Jeffery Scott Bush of Floral City was arrested and charged with one count of burglary on Nov. 14, but disappeared after he was bailed out of jail, according to the Sheriff's Office. He is now suspected in eight residential burglaries in the Derby Oaks area and near Floral Park. Anyone with information is asked to call the Sheriff's Office at 726-4488 or 1-888-ANYTIPS.

Merchants set up fund for police appreciation

INVERNESS _ Downtown merchants Winston and Andrea Perry have created a fund through the New Inverness Olde Towne Association to bring holiday cheer to the city's unionized police officers. The officers recently received a 1.5 percent pay raise, but they ended up in the hole once their soaring health insurance premiums were factored in. The Perrys have declared Dec. 1-7 "Police Appreciation Week," and participating stores will set aside part of their proceeds for the officers' fund. People can also donate to the "Police Appreciation Week fund" at the Bank of Inverness and Brannen Bank branches. The money will be divided between the dozen or so affected officers. Call 637-6333.

Planners: Revamped tree ordinance needs backing

LECANTO _ With a revamped tree ordinance coming to the County Commission early next year for consideration, the county's Planning and Development Review Board decided Thursday to make two things clear. One: The measure should apply to residential lots, where most development occurs. Two: The commission should make sure it has enough staff to enforce new regulations. Both points were made in a short letter from PDRB chairman Ray Hughes to commission Chairman Jim Fowler. "The PDRB members . . . feel that the tree protection ordinance is only as good as the county's ability to implement and enforce it," Hughes' letter reads.

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