ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Over the past year, 10 Investigates has produced dozens of investigations, including 11 "What’s Brewing" episodes on YouTube, uncovering problems and holding the powerful accountable.
These are the stories that have led to changes in local policies and state laws that help protect you, and our team never stops working for you. From the fentanyl epidemic to school safety to protecting our environment, we want to show you some of the biggest stories we’ve uncovered throughout the year.
Here are 10 of our 2022 investigations.
Saving the Springs
From the ocean to the springs, here in Florida, we are surrounded by water. Environmentalists like the executive director of the Florida Springs Institute say the state is not doing enough to clean up our water supply.
“We've contaminated our groundwater, to levels that are said to be safe to drink by our public health departments but are anywhere from 20 to 100 times higher than the natural levels of nitrogen in our natural groundwater, our unpolluted groundwater. And that comes from fertilizer, septic tanks, animal waste. All those things,” Bob Knight said.
Starting in June and throughout the summer, we tested the water at springs across the state. You can see the testing results in our story.
Whether it’s a canal, neighborhood pond or something larger, Florida is No. 1 in the nation for cars and trucks crashing into the water, but 10 Investigates found only Pinellas County trains its firefighters for water rescues.
"Our average response time is three to five minutes. They are getting into that gear while they get called. They can get to the victim in three to five minutes if they are in an area with a pocket of air," Tarpon Springs Fire Deputy Chief Richard Walsh said.
Now, more counties are looking at funding for Water Extrication Team training. Firefighters estimate it costs between $4,000-$5,000 to purchase the initial gear for one diver and another $1,000 for training. That training could save someone’s life when every moment counts.
It’s memories. It’s history. It’s a piece of time that’s been erased. For three years, archaeologists have been digging to shine a light on some of the Tampa Bay area's darkest secrets — hundreds of graves that have been covered up. We explored these sacred spaces that have been desecrated in our special “Erased.”
10 Investigates highlighted the concerns over whether Tampa’s Cemetery Task Force meetings should be open to the public and why those might not fall under the state’s sunshine law. After seeing our story about St. Mary’s Cemetery along North Florida Avenue in Tampa, an archaeologist at the University of South Florida added the site to the state’s historic file, so now it is flagged to prevent future development over the site.
Our "Erased" special is streaming on 10 Tampa Bay+.
In our most viewed "What’s Brewing" episode of the year, we showed you how hidden camera crimes are on the rise. We revealed a hidden camera was found in a Tampa VA bathroom, and a former Hillsborough County Public Schools fashion design teacher was convicted of recording students in a changing room.
“I was completely nude. Because it was a fashion design class. So, we literally sewed our own clothes and made clothing. And he had a ‘fitting room’ — it was, like, the storage closet in a teacher’s classroom – that everybody went in there to try on their pieces, make sure it was fitting,” former student Emily Ashman said.
We asked a security expert to show you how to spot half a dozen hidden cameras in a kitchen. Watch our full episode of "What's Brewing" to see what to look out for.
Teachers under investigation while behind the desk
10 Investigates explored how some teachers are still in the classroom, even after they were investigated in other school districts. After story our story aired, Polk County made changes to its hiring policies, including having the superintendent review each affidavit of separation from previous employers and looking at personnel files, including discipline and investigations.
Schools and mental health
“I feel like teachers have to be more aware of who they're teaching. You know, like it's our second home," Parkland Shooting Survivor Isabella Benjumea said. “There were signs from the shooter before this happened.”
Four years after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, 10 Investigates uncovered fewer than half of the employees in Tampa Bay-area school districts had the required training to identify troubled students. We found out there was no deadline for that mandatory training. but because of our story, leaders passed a law.
Now, every school district will be required to notify the Florida Department of Education that at least 80 percent of school employees have gotten mental health training by July 1, 2023, and every year after that.
Who’s driving the bus?
10 Investigates discovered some drivers behind the wheel of those big yellow school buses have multiple crashes on their records. 10 Investigates took a deeper dive into how districts use a points system to evaluate who can stay on the road and how that system varies by county.
Concerns about former mosque youth volunteer before arrest
While a former Tampa Bay-area mosque youth volunteer awaits trial, we uncovered there were concerns at the mosque even before Ehab Ghoneim’s 2021 arrest. He’s accused of drugging and molesting boys at his Pinellas Park home and on overnight trips.
But before that, we found that leadership at the Islamic Society of the Tampa Bay Area was told in 2017 and again in 2020 about accusations that Ghoneim had inappropriate contact with boys in another state. They let him keep volunteering with kids anyway. Ghoneim’s case is expected to go to trial in February.
Arthur Green settlement
The family of a 63-year-old community leader is moving forward after reaching a settlement with the city of Tampa in connection with his death.
"What happened to George Floyd that mobilized the entire world was the exact same thing that happened to Arthur Green. It's the exact same techniques in the exact same outcome,” Arthur Green’s son Kurt Young said.
We were the first to tell you how the Tampa Police Department has agreed to change its restraint policies as part of the agreement with Arthur Green’s family.
No hashtags. No viral videos. But there is dashcam video from a Tampa police cruiser off Central Avenue showing Green had a medical emergency. Officers put handcuffs and a leg restraint on him. The medical examiner says he died of a diabetic episode.
But an independent report says he died from restraint asphyxia as officers held him prone. Under the modified TPD policy, officers can't use their weight to interfere with someone's breathing, they have to stop applying weight if the person is restrained, and once handcuffed, they must turn them to the side or let them sit up as long as they're not a threat.
Chances are you might know someone struggling with opioid addiction.
According to Live Tampa Bay, the overdose rate in our area is 10 percent higher than the state and 50 percent higher than the nation. Nearly three people die every day in the Tampa Bay area from an overdose.
That’s why we put together our 10 Investigates Special “Overdosed” highlighting the impact of fentanyl on our communities.
“We don't quite understand the impact it's having because we haven't been able to do the research fast enough to keep up with the epidemic," USF Associate Professor Micah Johnson said.
We also took a look at possible solutions like drug testing strips, safe places to use and tougher prosecution for those who deal deadly drugs.
"He had no clue he did not take those pills intending to die. He had just washed his face. He had collapsed on the floor right outside the bathroom," Shelby Cooper said. Her brother Ryan died from an overdose.
"It turns into this phenomenon of craving, which is a craving beyond my physical control. I'll literally be walking to go get some and telling myself I'm going to lose everything. I'm going to lose my wife. I'm going to lose my kids. I'm going to lose my job. I'm going to be homeless. I might die," Brandon Spencer said.
Then, we took it a step further and showed you how drugs can be here in less than a day after crossing the U.S. Mexico Border, but Customs and Border Protection officers have a new tool to try to stop it, scanning cargo like what you might find at an airport.
The Assistant Port Director showed us the Multi-Energy Portal (MEP) system at the World Trade Bridge Port of Entry in Laredo, Texas.
“We have shipments of machinery, so for steel items, we need something that can penetrate steel and look inside,” Javier Vasquez said.
See how it works to stop drugs like fentanyl from coming across the border.
You've probably heard of Narcan by now. The overdose reversal medication has been seen as a silver bullet to save lives, but now a vet tranquilizer called xylazine is creeping into the drug supply. It's making Narcan less effective.
“Narcan has no effect on xylazine, so if someone is overdosing due to fentanyl and xylazine, the Narcan will only mitigate the effects of the fentanyl and not the xylazine," University of Florida Health Forensic Toxicologist Dr. Bruce Goldberger said. “It makes the treatment and the saving of lives more difficult.”
We uncovered Floridians have been dying with this drug in their systems for years and the problem is getting worse.
You can watch our special Overdosed, Faces of Fentanyl and a digital exclusive with the DEA in Tampa streaming now on our 10 Tampa Bay YouTube channel and 10 Tampa Bay+.
You can also check out all of our stories from throughout the year. If you think there is something we should look into, reach out to us. Email tips@10TampaBay.com or look for Jenna, Emerald and Jennifer on social media.