DUI Prevention 

As we count down the final days of 2020, we look forward to creating goals for the new year. However, plans for a bright future can vanish in an instant if you don’t make responsible choices.

In 2018, 10,511 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in the United States, which accounts for 29 percent of all traffic-related deaths in the whole country, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

One death due to impaired driving is too many, let alone one every 50 minutes. Yet, it is not always the impaired driver’s life that is lost. According to the NHTSA, 231 children died in impaired-driving accidents where the child was either a passenger, occupant of another vehicle, or pedestrian or bicyclist.

If the potential to destroy a life is not enough motivation to stay away from the driver’s seat after drinking alcohol or taking impairing drugs and medications, consider the tremendous financial burden that comes with driving while impaired (DWI) charge.

In Pinellas County, the costs associated with a DUI defense range from $12,000 to $20,000. If you cause a crash, injury, or death, the costs could become even higher – not to mention the incalculable value of a lost life.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office conducts several DUI Wolf Pack operations throughout the year to reduce deaths, injuries, and property damage associated with traffic crashes related to impaired driving, and the holiday season is no exception. 

Fortunately, impaired driving is easily preventable. Make your holiday season happier and safer by following these tips:

  1. Plan a designated driver ahead of time. 

Going out with friends or family members allows you to use a designated driver. When carpooling, have one person abstain for the evening so that everyone gets home safe.

  1. Resist the pressure to drink or serve alcohol at every holiday gathering.

Alcohol is not a necessary ingredient for fun. Don’t succumb to social pressure and feel like you must drink because of what other people are doing. Choose a non-alcoholic beverage instead.

  1. Use a taxi or rideshare app.

If you can’t safely drive home and don’t have a designated driver, use a rideshare app, like Uber or Lyft, to get home. Paying a small fee for a taxi or Uber is an excellent option when compared to a costly DWI.

Your holiday plans could end in tragedy if you don’t take the proper safety precautions. I urge you to be responsible, plan, and don’t drive while impaired – now, or at any time of year.


Posted by Tuesday, December 1, 2020 9:13:00 AM

Crime Prevention Tips 

It is starting to get cooler, which means the holidays are approaching quickly. Whether you are staying local or traveling out of town to visit family this holiday season, securing your residence should be a priority.

While you can’t control whether or not a criminal attempts to break into your house, there are actions you can take to help prevent becoming a victim of a residential burglary. Follow these tips to help prevent a crime from occurring on your property:

  1. Increase visibility: If your yard is full of bushes, trees, tall fences, or other obstructions, consider altering some of these focal points to increase the visibility of your property. The more difficult it is to see into your home, the easier it is for criminals to prowl near your property. A burglar can hide behind natural and created structures. Trimming bushes and trees, installing a chain-link fence, and keeping your windows clear of obstructions will help keep sightlines clear.
  2. Deter criminals from attempting to break in: A simple sign or decal of an alarm system may make a criminal think twice about attempting to break into your house. If you have an alarm system, make sure to register for the Sheriff’s Alarm Registration Program by calling (727) 582-2870 or emailing sharp@pcsonet.com. Completing the registration can prevent you from receiving multiple fines for false alarms.
  3. Check your home’s locks: Install deadbolt locks on all doors and ensure they work properly. Deadbolt at least one inch into the door frame and install the strike plate with at least three-inch screws. Keep your garage door closed and securely locked while you are away, and leave a spare key with a trusted friend instead of hiding it on your property.
  4. Keep your home illuminated at night: Use high-efficiency lights with motion sensors or timers to expose criminals who encroach upon your home. Choose a white light source that offers good color rendering. Lights should be installed out of arm’s reach to prevent a criminal from breaking them. Key areas for light installations include the front door, porch, driveway, and walkways.
  5. Ensure your house numbers are easy to read: Ensure the address number on your mailbox, roadway, and door is easy to read and can be seen from a distance so that law enforcement can easily find your home and quickly respond to emergencies.
  6. Schedule a house check: The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office conducts house checks for Pinellas County residents in our service area who go away for extended periods of time. A deputy will go to your residence at varying times to check for any alarming or suspicious activity. Call (727) 582-6177 to schedule a house check.

For more crime prevention tips, follow the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office on social media, including Facebook, Nextdoor, Twitter, and Instagram. Together we can continue “Leading the Way for a Safer Pinellas.”

Posted by Sunday, November 1, 2020 9:12:00 AM

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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 Monday, March 2, 2020 3:33:00 PM
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