Ride And Run With The Stars 

For 26 years, Ride & Run With The Stars has brought the community together in December to participate in athletic competition, a silent auction, and a special delivery of Mr. and Mrs. Claus via helicopter. We look forward to this holiday fundraiser every year, which is why the decision to cancel this year’s event was a difficult one. However, we must consider the health and safety of our community during these trying times.

Despite not having an in-person event, I hope you will consider supporting Ride & Run With The Stars’ charity—the Sheriff’s Christmas Sharing Project. Last year, we raised enough money to provide food, clothing, books, and toys to more than 384 underprivileged families and 862 deserving children whom sheriff’s office members identified through their daily interaction in the community as homeless, economically stressed, victimized, or abused.

Every year, dozens of deputies and other sheriff’s office members participate in a holiday shopping event at Target. Each deputy receives a wish list, created by a parent or legal guardian of the child, filled of items like diapers, dolls, or school supplies. Then the items are hand-selected at Target and delivered to the families along with holiday meals.

To keep blessing these struggling families with gifts and essential items they would not be able to afford otherwise, we encourage you to consider making a donation this year or adopting a family by purchasing all the items on a family’s wish list.

Here are a few ways you can support the Sheriff’s Christmas Sharing Project by December 1st:

  • Mail your check made payable to Ride & Run With The Stars to P.O. Box 2500, Largo, FL 33779 Attn: Sergeant Elizabeth Brady
  • Make an electronic payment at https://www.rideandrunwiththestars.com/
  • Adopt a family by contacting Sandra Garcia-Olivares, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Victim Advocate, at sgarcia-olivares@pcsonet.com or 727-582-6465

No matter the size, every contribution is valuable and a treasured holiday gift to the less fortunate families in our community, especially after this challenging year. Any support you can give will be greatly appreciated by our members and the families we serve.

Posted by Michelle Whiting Thursday, October 1, 2020 9:09:00 AM

Take Me Home 

Locating missing persons is a responsibility of the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, and a call we get often. In fact, in 2019, 430 adults and 701 juveniles were reported missing in Pinellas County. Locating a missing person can often prove to be a difficult task, and it is even more challenging when the missing person is elderly or disabled.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office utilizes two programs that help deputies quickly identify and locate missing people—Take Me Home and SafetyNET.

Take Me Home is a voluntary enrollment program for people with a medical condition or developmental issue which impedes effective communication, and who may need special assistance if they find themselves alone or in an emergency. If the person is unable to speak, properly identify themselves, becomes disoriented, or acts in a manner that could be misinterpreted by first responders, the responding deputy can query the Take Me Home system and search the person’s name or physical description. Once the person’s record is found, the deputy can take the necessary action to assist the person.

Families or caregivers can register their loved ones in the Take Me Home system by providing a recent digital photo, description of height and weight, demographic information, and emergency contact information.

In order to participate in the program, two new photographs every two years must be submitted and information must be kept up to date. Using the system is free, and all of the information is confidential, only to be used as a tool to ensure the safety of those enrolled.

SafetyNET uses a personalized wristband that emits a tracking signal to help locate persons with Alzheimer’s disease, autism, and other special needs. Due to the circumstances of their conditions, these individuals may have a tendency to wander away from home.

SafetyNET is a proactive approach to ensure families know where their loved ones are at all times. If a person with a SafetyNET wristband goes missing, the caregiver can call 911, and trained search teams will use the tracking signal in the wristband to locate them. Rescue times average about 30 minutes.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office uses SafetyNET and Take Me Home within their areas of jurisdiction, and SafetyNET tracking is also offered through the Clearwater and Largo Police Departments.

You can purchase or lease SafetyNET Tracking Systems online at www.safetynettracking.com or by calling (877) 434-6384. To enroll in the Take Me Home program, contact the Crime Prevention and Community Awareness Unit by calling (727) 582-2222.

Posted by Michelle Whiting Tuesday, September 1, 2020 9:08:00 AM

Driving Safety 

The current public health crisis has brought many changes to families throughout Pinellas County. While local restrictions may prevent individuals from participating in their favorite activities, visiting state parks and other landmarks to enjoy nature and culture throughout Florida may provide some enrichment for many. If you have plans to take a road trip this year, make sure you stay safe and are prepared while you travel.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) is urging Floridians to take extra precautions this summer and fall since not as many families are traveling out of state to help stop the spread of COVID-19, and roads may be busier. Follow the safety tips below; driving safely and considerately could save lives.

Slow down, stay cool – Follow the speed limit at all times. It doesn’t matter how excited you are to get to your destination, speeding is extremely dangerous. If other people’s reckless driving frustrates you, stay calm, and do not drive aggressively in response.

Never leave pets or children in a vehicle unattended – The Florida heat can intensify quickly and become dangerous. The temperature inside a vehicle can increase 20 degrees in just 10 minutes. Heatstroke deaths have occurred in Florida more than any other state except Texas. Leaving a child or a pet in a car for even a short period of time can be deadly. Cracking a window is not enough either. Make sure everyone stays with you when exiting the vehicle.

Drive sober and alert – Never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or if you are too tired. If you are impaired, wait until you are sober or have another person drive for you on your road trip.

Register emergency contact information – The FLHSMV allows all driver’s license and ID cardholders to register up to two designated emergency contacts. Visit flhsmv.gov/eci to make updates.

Prepare for driving in bad weather – Hurricane season extends from June to November in Florida, and tropical storms and wildfires increase throughout the summer months. Be aware of evacuation routes, check road closures, and report unsafe road conditions by calling *FHP (*347).

Ensure your vehicle is safe to drive – Check all of your tires, including the spare, to ensure they are in good working condition and have the correct pressure. Windshield wipers and all of your vehicle’s lights need to be working properly. To see if your vehicle has any recalls, visit safercar.gov.

Driving safely will not only make your road trip more enjoyable, but it will also help others on the road too. Remember, if you see something, say something.

Posted by Michelle Whiting Saturday, August 1, 2020 9:07:00 AM

Lock Your Doors 

Burglary is one of the most invasive forms of crime. Whether someone breaks into your vehicle or home, burglary often leaves the victim feeling violated and outraged. While law enforcement works to arrest the perpetrators of these crimes, Pinellas County citizens can take just a few moments out of their day to prevent becoming a victim.

In 2019, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office responded to more than 1,600 vehicle burglaries, most of which happened with no forced entry. Vehicles are easy targets because they often contain valuable items like laptops, recent store purchases, firearms, purses, and cell phones. Likewise, empty homes are often targeted. Out of the 712 residential burglaries the sheriff’s office responded to in 2019, 294 of the homes had an unlocked door, an ajar door, or no forced entry.

Sometimes the damage inflicted upon the victim isn’t just financial or emotional. A stolen firearm in the wrong hands can bring harm to the community. In 2013, 23-year-old Marco Antonio Parilla, Jr., shot and killed Tarpon Springs Police Officer Charles Kondek with a gun he had stolen from an unlocked vehicle.

Here are four key tips to prevent becoming a victim of theft.

  1. Lock Your Doors: Not only does this simple step not cost you any money, it also takes just a few seconds of your time. Regardless of whether you are in a rush or think you are in a safe area, there is never a good excuse to leave your vehicle or home unlocked.
  2. Conceal Valuables: In addition to locking your vehicle’s doors, conceal valuables by putting them in the trunk. In the home, always lock away or hide firearms. Keep the shades drawn when you aren’t there to prevent thieves from peering into your home and planning to commit a crime.
  3. Use an Alarm: Add an alarm system to your home or vehicle in order to scare away criminals before they can take anything. A home alarm system can also alert local law enforcement immediately so that officers can respond as quickly as possible. The Sheriff’s Alarm Registration Program (SHARP) was created following a Pinellas County ordinance in 2009 that requires home and business owners to register their alarm systems with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. Subscribers of SHARP receive warnings for the first two false alarms. Go to our website for details and instructions on how to register: https://www.pcsoweb.com/program-services/alarm-registration.
  4. Assess Your Environment: There is a reason most criminals work under the cover of night. The easier it is to hide their presence, the faster they can get away with the crime unnoticed. Park your vehicle in a well-lit or public area if possible. Do an inspection of your home and take note of any areas where a burglar could hide. You can also install floodlights around the perimeter of your house so that you or neighbors can see any suspicious individuals on your property.

Following these tips will help protect yourself, your belongings, and your community. Safety starts with you. Lock your doors and take precautions so that you don’t become a victim of a crime.

Posted by Michelle Whiting Wednesday, July 1, 2020 9:06:00 AM

Hurricane Preparedness 

June is a significant month for Floridians since it marks the beginning of hurricane season. There are a number of things you can do now to prepare, so you aren’t scrambling when the threat of a hurricane is just miles away. Here are a few tips to get your emergency planning started.

First and foremost, it’s important to know your evacuation zone in the case of a mandatory evacuation order. This is different than your flood zone. Visit http://kyz.pinellascounty.org/, or download the free Ready Pinellas app on your mobile device to find out which zone you are in.

Mandatory evacuations are issued when the probability of storm surge is high, and loss of life could occur if residents don’t leave. These evacuations will be ordered up to a certain letter zone and will always include mobile homes. If your evacuation level is ordered to go, it is imperative that you move quickly but safely outside of the evacuation area. The Pinellas County Interactive Hurricane Evacuation Level Inquiry resource is also available to answer any emergency-related questions: 727-453-3150.

Make a plan in case you must evacuate. Stay with trusted family members or friends, if possible. As a last resort, you can go to an emergency shelter. A few of them are specifically designated for citizens with special needs and some are pet friendly. If you need transportation assistance to any Pinellas County shelter, register in advance online at www.pinellascounty.org/specialneeds.

If you live in a barrier island community, make sure you are registered for an emergency access permit. When a mandatory evacuation order is lifted, law enforcement officials will scan emergency access permits at designated re-entry points. Barrier island residents may register directly with their city government during its general office hours year round, so don’t wait until an evacuation order has been issued to secure yours. If you registered for and still possess your emergency access permit from a prior year, you DO NOT need to register again. To determine if your city is included in the barrier islands, visit www.pcsoweb.com/emergency-access-permit, or call the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office non-emergency line at 727-582-6200.

Lastly, create a shelter-in-place hurricane survival kit by purchasing essential items now. The list below can serve as a guide as you prepare. Follow the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office on Facebook @PinellasSheriff and Twitter @SheriffPinellas for timely information regarding preparedness tips and important safety alerts. You can also follow the #getreadypinellas hashtag to instantly view posts related to emergency preparedness. We are all in this together.

Hurricane Survival Kit Items:

  1. Battery-operated radio
  2. Extra batteries
  3. Flashlights/lanterns
  4. Candles
  5. Matches/lighter
  6. One gallon of water per person per day
  7. First-aid kit: bandages, antibiotic ointment, hand sanitizer, soap, sunscreen, pain reliever
  8. Non-perishable food: peanut butter, bread, dry cereal, rice, pasta, granola bars, canned goods
  9. Rain gear
  10. Mosquito repellant
  11. At least one fully-charged cell phone
  12. Sanitation products: toilet paper, wipes, plastic garbage bags, paper towels

 

Posted by Michelle Whiting Monday, June 1, 2020 9:05:00 AM

Fallen Officer Memorial 

On December 21, 2014, Officer Charles Kondek Jr. responded to a noise complaint at an apartment complex in Tarpon Springs. Residents of the complex called the police because a man was fervently knocking on apartment doors at 2 a.m. When Officer Kondek arrived on the scene, the subject shot and killed him with a stolen gun. This 17-year veteran of the Tarpon Springs Police Department was a father of six children and was described by friends and family as a hero, coach, and best friend.

Though Officer Kondek’s name is the most recent one to be added to the Fallen Officer Memorial at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, 24 names precede his with similar stories of heroism and dedication. It is their legacy and sacrifice that causes many members of law enforcement, close friends, and family to take time to remember them.

Every May, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office brings special attention to the first responders throughout our county who have died in the line of duty. National Police Week, May 10-16, and Peace Officers Memorial Day, May 15th, are times to show gratitude for the hard work law enforcement officers put into protecting citizens, and to remember the lives that have been lost in service.

Our Fallen Officer Memorial at the Sheriff’s Administration Building gives the families, friends, and colleagues of those who have died a place to remember their legacy and honor their sacrifice.

Thousands of men and women put on their uniforms every day to serve and protect civilians knowing it could be their last day. Whether they are responding to a dangerous shooting, conducting a routine house check for a suspicious neighbor, or like our current public health crisis, interacting with people potentially infected with a deadly virus, law enforcement officers risk their lives for the safety of our citizens. It is their courage and bravery in the face of extreme risk that defines our great nation and gives us the freedom to pursue our dreams.

It is incumbent on us to keep their memory alive. We will always keep them close to our hearts and use their stories to inspire others to serve for the greater good and help make our communities safe.

This May, consider praying for our deputies, taking a moment of silence for those who have died in the line of duty, or showing appreciation for a law enforcement officer you know in the community.

The following names are the fallen officers of Pinellas County who sacrificed their lives for the safety and protection of our citizens.

James Mitchell – 1905

Edward George – 1908

Rueben Jones – 1921

Everett Blewfield – 1926

Wayne Barry – 1929

Eugene Minor – 1929

Frank Pike – 1933

James Thornton – 1937

William Newberry – 1937

James Goodson – 1947

Gene Bessette – 1961

James Krupp – 1964

Harry Conyers, Jr. – 1967

Charles Eustes – 1967

Peter Price – 1969

Lanny Langford – 1969

John Passer – 1970

Ronald Mahony – 1977

Herbert Sullivan – 1980

Margaret Park – 1984

Jeffery Tackett – 1993

Jeffrey Yaslowitz – 2011

Thomas Baitinger – 2011

David Crawford – 2011

Charles Kondek, Jr. – 2014

Posted by Michelle Whiting Friday, May 1, 2020 9:02:00 AM

Child Abuse Prevention Month 

Child abuse is an unfortunate reality here in Pinellas County. In 2019, our Child Protection Investigation Division handled approximately 11,000 cases involving physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and child neglect. Child abuse and the general maltreatment of children have consequences that reach far beyond those directly affected and into our community.

As an agency, we are committed to protecting our children and building strong families within our community, but we cannot do it without your support. April is “National Child Abuse Prevention” month and everyone can contribute by educating themselves on how to identify and prevent child abuse.

How to identify child abuse and neglect:

  • Emotional abuse can result in a child who is withdrawn, fearful, or anxious. The child can also show extreme behavior such as being aggressive, demanding, or even extremely compliant.
  • Not all physical abuse can be recognized by a mark, bruise, or injury. A child may show signs of physical abuse by shying away from touch, flinching at sudden movements, and being afraid to go home.
  • A child who is sexually abused may have trouble walking or sitting, may not want to change clothes in front of others, may display knowledge of sexual acts, or exhibit seductive behavior.
  • Child neglect may manifest in a child wearing clothes that are too small, big, or are dirty; missing or arriving late to school; sustaining illnesses or injuries that are left untreated; and enduring poor hygiene.

How to respond to child abuse and neglect:

If you witness any of these signs and feel that something is wrong, it is better to put the child’s safety as a priority and report the suspected abuse as opposed to ignoring it and allowing it to continue or get worse. Use the resources below to learn more or report child abuse and neglect:

Florida Department of Children and Families Abuse Hotline: 1-800-962-2873

Report online: https://reportabuse.dcf.state.fl.us/

Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Non-emergency: 727-582-6200

Posted by Michelle Whiting Wednesday, April 1, 2020 9:00:00 AM

How to Identify the IRS Scam 

Tax season can be a stressful time for many people, especially if you owe money to the IRS. However, make sure you use the proper channels to make your payments. The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office sees an increase in these scams during tax season.

The IRS scam is when a caller pretends to be the IRS and demands payment over the phone. The scammer tells their potential victim that they owe taxes to the IRS and that there is an active warrant out for their arrest. They instruct citizens to purchase pre-paid cards and provide the numbers on them.

Here are some common ways to decipher if you are being scammed:

  • The IRS always contacts taxpayers by mail initially, not via phone or email. If you get an email asking for personal information, do not reply to it, open any attachments, or click on any links. The IRS’s official website is IRS.gov, so beware of other versions of it, like IRS.org or IRS.net.
  • The IRS does not leave pre-recorded voicemails that are threatening or urgent. If they say you will be arrested, deported, or that your driver’s license will be revoked unless you pay them money immediately, this is a good sign it is a scam.
  • The IRS will never contact you through text messages or social media.
  • If they ask you for a credit card, gift card, pre-paid debit card, iTunes card, or wire transfer, do not give it to them. The IRS does not use these payment methods; they mail paper bills to you.

A good rule of thumb is to never give out personal information over the phone unless you know exactly who they are, like a family member, spouse, or close friend. If you think you owe money to the IRS, you can visit: http://www.irs.gov/payments/view-your-tax-account.

If you determine the communication is a scam, you can report them to the sheriff’s office by calling us at 727-582-6200.  

 

Posted by Michelle Whiting Monday, March 2, 2020 3:33:00 PM

How to Identify the Romance Scam 

The month of February is commonly associated with love and romance. On Valentine’s Day, couples spend quality time together, family and friends exchange valentines, and lastly, many singles continue their search for the right partner.

According to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, couples are more likely to meet a romantic partner online than through personal contacts or connections. Furthermore, the publication noted that a 2017 survey revealed that meeting online has become the most popular way couples meet, eclipsing meeting through friends for the first time in 2013. The dating app, Tinder, reported as of September 2019 that it had approximately 7.86 million active users in the United States.

However, online dating has its dangers. Predators can create fake identities to lure in victims to gain access to their finances or instigate sexually or physically abusive relationships. The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Economic Crimes Unit works to prevent fraudulent scams, like the common “Romance Scam.” Once a relationship has been established online, the out-of-town suspect convinces the victim to wire money so the person can travel to visit them or help them with a dire personal emergency.

Fraud is a preventable crime if you know what to look for. Here’s how you can keep yourself from becoming a victim:

  • Never send money.
  • Carefully examine their profiles.
  • Use reverse image search on their pictures.
  • End the relationship if they refuse to meet you face to face.
  • If you do meet the person, pick a public place and let a friend or family member know where you are.

If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. A loving relationship would never ask you to step beyond your personal boundaries financially or otherwise. If you are the victim of the Romance Scam, or any type of fraudulent scam, contact the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office at (727) 582-6200.

 

Posted by Michelle Whiting Saturday, February 1, 2020 3:40:00 PM

New Program: Sheriff`s Community Connection 

One of the best ways to increase the safety of our county is to engage with and actively listen to the communities we protect. As our community policing deputies work hard to establish relationships with families in need, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is always seeking new ways to garner connections with individuals who are genuinely interested in learning more about law enforcement.

In 2020, there are many ways you can connect with us. Our newest opportunity is a program called Sheriff’s Community Connection (SCC), which occurs on the second Thursday of every month between January and November at the Sheriff’s Administration Building, located at 10750 Ulmerton Road in Largo.

SCC provides Pinellas County residents and business leaders an opportunity to meet for lunch with Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office personnel. Attendees receive area-specific crime updates, crime prevention information, an agency update, and are given the chance to ask questions and participate in discussions afterwards.

Annual memberships for individuals cost $25 and allow members to bring one guest with them. Annual memberships for businesses are $100.00 per year and allow two individuals to attend luncheons each month and each one bring a guest.

All of the proceeds from the membership dues benefit the SCC’s programs, including the Community Grant Program and the Bright Star Award Program for sheriff’s office members.

Beyond this monthly event, the sheriff’s office has many other opportunities for adults and children to participate in. They include: Sheriff’s Citizens Academy, Sheriff’s Teen Citizens Academy, Discovery Day, Explorer Post #900 Program, and Sheriff’s Volunteer Patrol. There is something for everyone. Visit our website, pcsoweb.com, for more details and to register for any of these opportunities.

 

 

Posted by Michelle Whiting Wednesday, January 1, 2020 10:33:00 AM
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