By: Dale King Contributing Writer
When President Donald Trump stays at his Mar-A-Lago residence in Palm Beach, County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw must mobilize an armada of personnel and equipment to patrol the land, air and ocean to protect the nation’s chief executive from harm while he’s in South Florida.
The price tag? About $75,000 a day, Bradshaw told the Rotary Club of Boca Raton during a recent address to members.
“The night before he arrives, his limo is flown in on a C 130. We start doing sweeps of Mar-A-Lago” which takes about 12 hours, and involves things like opening and checking every drawer.
At 4 a.m. on the day the president lands, “We bring in the cement barriers. We create a protective tunnel. Any vehicle traffic going to Mar-A-Lago has to go through this tunnel.” It takes time and precision to check every vehicle “which is why backups happen so early.”
Only about 20 Secret Service agents accompany the president, Bradshaw said, putting a major burden on his shoulders. “We monitor everything that is going on. We are the only county with coastal radar.”
Vital to making the protective network function is “a line of communication.” Palm Beach County is connected to the world when Trump is in town. The sheriff praised New York City Police for having “the best real time information gathering ability anywhere.” And PBC is tied in to it.
“We don’t have to wait to get information from anyone else.”
During his address, Sheriff Bradshaw touched on other items. “Violent crime is our Number 1 initiative,” he said, and that involves dealing with gangs – mainly MS 13.
“This is not a bunch of kids, it’s organized crime.” Robberies and shootings are their calling cards, and people die “for no reason. Gang members are getting younger and younger.” He said they are not satisfied just to rob. “People give up their money, and the gang members shoot them anyway.”
The gangs, he said, even show up at schools and clubs for young people, “trying to recruit 8 to 10-year-olds to join.”
Another major problem in the county is opioid abuse. “We have made a lot of progress through State Attorney Dave Aronberg.”
He pointed out that 85 percent of people in the county jail “are there because of an addiction problem. I have to do something.”
Bradshaw also told how Palm Beach County authorities were called on by Gov. Rick Scott and the sheriff of Monroe County to help Key West which was “decimated by Hurricane Irma. We sent deputies down there and set up a tent city. We sent our drone unit there, the big ones that go up for miles. You need an FAA certificate for them, and we are one of the few outfits who have it.”
PBC deputies managed a herculean task. They helped evacuate 650 prisons from jails that were about to flood “and brought them here until the storm passed.”
“We didn’t lose one.”