Theses and Dissertations

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Defense Date

1995

Document Type

Thesis - NSU Access Only

Department

Oceanographic Center

First Advisor

Richard E. Dodge

Second Advisor

Curtis Burney

Third Advisor

Joel Mintz

Abstract

Estimating the extent of environmental crime in Florida, or in the three counties of Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach, is difficult with the present system of record-keeping. Nevertheless, arrest, citation, and warning records from the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission document a rise in the number of environmental violations occurring throughout the state from 1988 through 1992. Arrest records from the state law enforcement agency, FDLE, indicate 1,936 environmental crimes arrests were made throughout Florida during 1993, including 618 in Dade, 103 in Broward, and 79 in Palm Beach. A four-year incident total combining the records ofFDLE and the Game Commission reveals 7,894 documented cases of environmental violations. These data indicate environmental crime is a serious problem.

The three above counties have designated professionals to respond to and investigate environmental crimes; however, none were able to estimate environmental crime within their respective jurisdictions, better than the available, and relatively poor, FGFWFC and FDLE data. Data provided by the State Attorney's Offices in the three local counties indicate varying levels of environmental criminal activity, although little historical information is available and records are just now beginning to be collected and saved for future trend analysis.

The philosophy and approach taken by an agency in handling environmental crime helps to explain the FDLE, FGFWFC, and three State Attorney's Offices' data. A county reporting fewer arrests does not necessarily have less crime or more poorly trained officers. In Palm Beach County, fewer arrests may be the result of a proactive approach toward educating the offender and preventing violation recurrences.

A lack of communication among the various counties was identified as one area to be improved on. Although attempts have been made to facilitate networking between and among the counties, and between the agencies involved in environmental issues, separate agendas still prevail and hamper the overall effectiveness of efforts to handle environmental crime.

The true extent of environmental crime across the state and within the three local counties remains unknown. The results of this study, although an underestimation, indicate levels of environmental criminal activity which should raise concerns. It must also be realized that the cumulative effects of such violations pose a great threat to the welfare of the environment. In the case of environmental crime, the whole may be a great deal more than the sum of its parts.

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