Undersheriff looking for more recruits, better relations with Hispanic community

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The man who is second in command at the Lee County Sheriff's Office is answering concerns there aren't enough women in leadership positions.

Eric Smith is 47 years old and has been with the sheriff's department for 25 years. He's lived in Southwest Florida all of his life and now works underneath Sheriff Carmine Marceno.

“My role is going to be the day-to-day operations,” Smith said.

There's been some criticism on social media that there aren't enough women on the command staff.

“There are more males in law enforcement and corrections than there are females...under 25 percent of the 100 percent. I don't look at the male-female. If you get the job done, you're going to get promoted,” Smith said.

He introduced what he said is a majority of women on the civilian side of the force.

“Major Tracy Estep is in charge of professional standards. We have Ann Marie Marino who is in charge of our entire budget,” Smith said.

It's not just women they're focusing on. Marceno wants to reach out to the Hispanic community.

“We want to be more approachable to them. We want them to feel more comfortable. If they're a victim of a crime, please call us. We'll help them. Everybody is equal to us, period,” Smith said.

When asked about his biggest priority going forward, Smith said he wanted to focus on drugs and other abuse and addiction saying that when those things are focused on certain crimes rates get lower.

He pointed out that the opioid crisis is now an epidemic in the county.

“If we can tackle more drug issues with the opioid epidemic we can make our crime rate lower,” Smith said.

The undersheriff said he also wants to work with the sheriff to hire more deputies.

The force is currently down 70 officers.

They've already raised the starting salary from $36,000 to $42,000 a year, in hopes of attracting more people.

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