Pinellas sheriff calls for halfway house to close - WFLA News Channel 8

Pinellas sheriff calls for halfway house to close

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LARGO, FL (WFLA) -

After receiving complaints from people living near a Goodwill halfway house on US 19 in Largo, Pinellas County's sheriff decided to conduct surveillance of inmates.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said, "The inmates would leave the facility, they would go up and down US 19, and behind businesses, and they had stuff buried under bushes, and stuff under mulch and stuff behind a variety of businesses."

The undercover detectives even observed inmates conducting hand-to-hand transactions with outsiders.

Sheriff Gualtieri went on to say, "They have got to change their ways or this place has to get shutdown."

In the past year, one inmate from the Goodwill facility has been charged with killing two people.  Another is accused of raping a teenager.

Danny Czapiewski, a nearby mobile home park resident, echoed the sentiments saying, "It should be shut down.  It's a nuisance, it's a menace, and it just doesn't belong in this heavily populated area."

Another neighbor, Gerald Grimes, has had two bikes stolen, and longs for the day when the inmates are gone.

Grimes added:  "Not only are they wandering thru here at all times of the day and night, you have elderly people who have no idea what's going on, you have people knocking on the door asking for money, it's really out of control."

While the Sheriff says he doesn't have the authority to close down the Goodwill-run Largo facility, he says he plans to recommend the Florida Department of Corrections take action to shut it down.

Changes have been made at the facility, including improving the fencing and lighting.

But the Sheriff says there needs to better supervision of the inmates, who're allowed to leave during the day to go to work.

Sheriff Gualtieri added, "if it was me making that decision I would shut it down, because I think they have already had their chance to fix it and it seems like to me that they gave lip service."

He says in the meantime his deputies will keep a close eye on the Largo facility.

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