Amazing Women of the Suncoast: Karen Jarrett

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SARASOTA - Every Monday here on ABC 7, we feature an amazing woman on the Suncoast; someone who has overcome great odds, accomplished great things, and made the world around her a better place. This week's amazing woman is Karen Jarrett.

Karen went from a high school drop-out, to a roughneck driving a truck loaded with explosives, to a single mother of 3, to manager of the Crime Analysis Unit for the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office.

She also teaches analytical investigative techniques to law enforcement agencies across the country -- including the FBI and the Secret Service.

She was nominated as an amazing woman by her husband Philip. "I am so thankful every day for my wife Karen and the family she has provided."


And he's also very proud of her career at the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office. Her unit takes in all the information that comes into the sheriff's office. "We put that info together, put that out to patrol, and give them a person or a suspect to look for," says Karen.

She also heads the Prolific Offender Program. She says 60% of all crimes are committed by 6% of the population. "So that's what my project does is gives each thing they've done throughout their life a numeric score, and if they reach a certain threshold, then we follow that person through the court system and make sure they get the maximum amount of incarceration."

She also teaches analytical investigative techniques and intelligence-led policing nationally. Not bad for a kid born in North Dakota who dropped out of school in 9th grade and went to work for her dad as a roughneck. “It was my job to keep water in the water truck, take care of the explosives, I had to keep the log books for the explosives, assemble them, put the blasting caps in, and load them into the hole."

One day, with the weather 40 below zero, she made a life-changing decision. "I told my dad that day, I'm going to go to college and get an office job…it’s too cold. And so he made me stand in front of the drilling rig and took my picture."

And so began her journey. As a divorced mother raising 3 kids alone, she put herself through college and grad school. While finishing at Cal State, she heard about a job at the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office.

And here she met Phil. They put together a great family and volunteer a lot in the community. Her advice to other women? "Be bold, have confidence…you can do it. And women have so many issues with that."

Karen and Phil have also taken in several troubled teens. And after her brother was killed, they have taken in his 14 year old son to raise. And she brags that he's on the honor roll.