Deputies statewide arrest nearly 12,000 wanted felons in Operation Felon Sweep

Most wanted for robbery, assault, or murder

POLK COUNTY, Fla. - Nearly 12,000 wanted felons are now off the streets and neighborhoods in Florida.

The Florida Sheriff's Association announced the results of Operation Felon Sweep, a statewide effort to find and arrest dangerous felons.

Most of the men and women arrested were wanted for violent crimes like robbery, assault, or even murder.

In Polk County, deputies arrested 806 felons.

"We put bad guys in jail and you know what? We like it," said Grady Judd, Polk County Sheriff.

Judd was joined by five other sheriffs in the area who took part in the statewide operation. Besides the thousands of felons now in jail, deputies also made a sizable dent in the two things criminals rely on most: money and weapons.

Statewide, detectives seized more than $400,000 and more than 400 guns.

"Hopefully we've made an impact, not only in taking them off the streets, but impacting some of their resources," said Sheriff Al Nienhuis of Hernando County.

During a news conference Thursday, Sheriff Judd displayed some of the poster children of the operation.

Out of nearly 12,000 felons statewide, four in Polk County stood out like a sore thumb.

Michael Leonard was most recently wanted for robbing a store in Davenport.

"He's previously been in prison five times.  He's been arrested 11 times," Judd said. "He is on federal assistance. So he is being paid to rob stores by the federal government.  We think that is crazy."

Judd called on Congress to do something to stop felons from received federal assistance.

For those felons that deputies missed this time around, Sheriff Judd has this message.

"We're coming after you.  We're going to keep Florida a safe state," he said.

Law enforcement in Florida is making progress -- statewide, crime is at a 40-year low. The local sheriff's are convinced operations like this one play a major role.

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