LEE COUNTY, Fla.- Experts say it's not new, but a number of extreme cases of hoarding in Lee County calls for some new strategy from first responders.
"Officers very routinely run into hoarding situations. Most often, we'll see them at the last dire stretch, where there's really a crisis for someone to intervene," said Adam Leath of Lee County's Hoarding Task Force.
So, 60 Southwest Florida law enforcement officers are undergoing two days of Crisis Intervention Training to better identify issues such as hoarding early on.
"Law enforcement is 90% mental and 10% physical. There's only so many times you have have to make an arrest. But that 90% that's mental, it's giving them the skill set to be able to access these situations," Sgt. Jennifer Matlock of Cape Coral Police Department said Monday.
Lee County's Hoarding Task Force estimates there are 12-30,000 cases of varying degrees of hoarding in Lee County alone.
"I don't necessarily think it's happening more often. I think it's being reported more often, as people become more aware of their surroundings and have a label to give to certain things," Leath said.
Through early intervention, officers hope they can help hoarders by connecting them with community resources, before it's too late.
"We do find that putting them in jail doesn't really resolve the problem. We've found that citing them and writing fines really doesn't resolve the behavior," Leath said on Monday.
The Crisis Intervention Training is being paid for through a grant to Fort Myers Police Department. Officers from FMPD, Lee County Sheriff's Office, and Cape Coral Police Department are all attending the training session.