Counting 'em Down: For better or for worse, this is the Headline Surfer countdown of the 2021's Top 100 biggest news stories of Central Florida along the tourism-driven stretch of Interstate 4 (Orlando Attractions and east to I-95 & the World's Most Famous Beach in Daytona). Each recap segment is posted with its own headline, culminating with the unveiling of No. 1 on New Year's Day or shortly thereafter. Then Headline Surfer will post a Top 10 forecast story of the good, the bad & the ugly on the horizon in "2022: The Year That Lies Ahead."
By HENRY FREDERICK / Headline Surfer
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Dubbed "America's Hometown - the City of Eustis in Lake County got a new top cop back in March and he's among the very best law enforcement has to offer in the Sunshine State.
This results-driven law enforcement leader is Craig Capri, who in three short years as chief of the Daytona Beach Police Department brought this tourism hub back to respectability with significant reductions in violent crime.
It didn't take long for Capri's brand of law enforcement leadership for the cops to buy into his management style - that of a foot patrol rookie cop 30 years earlier who interacted with citizens and merchants alike - when he took over as the interim chief in November 2016 and sworn in as permanent chief in January 2017.
Capri was forced to retire this past October because he was in the state's early retirement system and in recent weeks been working as an investigator with the State Attorney's Office. But he resigned from the SAO when informed by Eustis City Manager Ron Neibert that the job of police chief was his if he wanted it.
Capri, who was among 80 applicants in a nationwide search, accepted the top leadership position in Eustis, having started on April 5.
Capri replaced Gary Calhoun, who resigned earlier in the year. He was chosen from more than 75 applicants during a nationwide search.
Eustis City Manager Ron Neibert said Capri's experience in specialized patrol, investigations, drug operations, and special response situations easily made him the ideal hire, at a salary of $110,000 and overseeing the police force with 41 sworn officers. Capri made $171,000 in Daytona and commanded 248 cops.
“I am pleased to add a highly-qualified law enforcement professional to the city’s leadership team,” Neibert said. “Chief Capri has the necessary experience and attitude to make a positive impact upon the Eustis Police Department and the city as a whole.”
For his part, Capri, 53, and a father of three told Headline Surfer he was grateful for the opportunity to lead a municipal police force again.
“It’s a huge responsibility and I don’t take it lightly,” Capri said. “I have to make decisions that will impact the community and the officers I will be working with.”
For his part, Craig Capri, 53, and father of three, told Headline Surfer he was grateful for the opportunity to lead a municipal police force again. “It’s a huge responsibility and I don’t take it lightly,” Capri said. “I have to make decisions that will impact the community and the officers I will be working with.”
While growing up in Wallington, NJ, Capri said his dream was to be a cop. Having moved to Florida as a young adult, Capri attended the police academy at Daytona Community College, now Daytona State College, and started with the Daytona Beach Police Department in 1990.
Capri continued with his education and received a bachelor’s degree — and later a master's degree — in criminal justice from the University of Central Florida. He earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Criminal Justice from the University of Central Florida and he graduated from the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va. in March 2010.
Over the next three decades, Capri moved up the ranks from a police officer to detective, team member for the Special Response Team, sergeant, lieutenant, SWAT team commander, captain, and deputy chief of police. From 2017 to 2020, he was Daytona Beach's chief of police, replacing Mike Chitwood, who had been at the helm for a decade, before Chitwood resigned in 2016 to successfully campaign for elected sheriff of Volusia County.
Capri's retirement from the DBPD at the end of 2020, paved the way for 42-year-old Jakari Young to move up to police chief.
Young is now the 17th police chief to serve in Daytona Beach over the past century and he's the tourism-driven city's first Black chief of police.
About the Byline Writer: Henry Frederick is a member of the working press and publisher of Headline Surfer, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet launched in 2008, that serves greater Daytona Beach, Sanford & Orlando from Lake Mary, Florida via HeadlineSurfer.com. Frederick has amassed close to 150 award-winning bylines in print & online. He earned his Master of Arts in New Media Journalism from Full Sail University in 2019. He was a breaking news reporter (metro cops & courts beat) for the Daytona Beach News-Journal for nearly a decade. And Before that worked the same beat for The Journal-News/Gannett Suburban Newspapers in Rockland/Westchester counties, NY, dating back to 1989. Having witnessed the execution of serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Florida's death chamber and covering other high profile cases, Frederick has appeared on national crime documentary shows on Discovery ID, Reelz, and the Oxygen Network series "Snapped" for his analysis. • Award-Winning Journalism: Florida Press Club recognizes Headline Surfer for nine stories in 2020 statewide competition. • Award-Winning Journalism of Henry Frederick.