Senior Care 

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in every nine people aged 65 and older has Alzheimer’s disease, and one in every three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Alzheimer’s and dementia are not only crippling conditions, but they also increase the chances of an elderly person going missing or getting into an accident. Caring for a loved one who suffers from memory loss or confusion can be a challenging task, but the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office has several tips to help ensure seniors stay safe.

  1. Stay Informed

Keeping up-to-date information about seniors in your care is important and can help protect them when a crisis occurs. Whether your aging parent or friend has dementia, hearing loss, or other ailments, it’s crucial to identify the risks involved with their physical or psychological illnesses. Take them to routine doctor visits to ensure accurate diagnoses so that they can receive the care they need.

  1. Actively Prevent Accidents

It is terrifying to realize a loved one has gone missing. If you are concerned the senior in your care could potentially leave home without your knowledge, sign them up for SafetyNET. The program provides a personalized wristband that emits a tracking signal to help locate them. Recovery times for program participants average 30 minutes.

The Take Me Home program is another option if they are unable to effectively communicate with others. By providing the sheriff’s office with a recent photo, description of their physical characteristics, and emergency contact information, law enforcement can identify them and bring them back home safely. The Take Me Home program is free, and all of the recorded information about your loved one is confidential.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office uses these programs within their service area. SafetyNET tracking is also offered by 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.

  1. Ask for Help

Taking on the responsibility of being a full-time caregiver can be a daunting task. Don’t hesitate to ask for help from friends or family members or enroll your senior in an adult day program. Do everything you can to ensure your loved one is in capable hands.  

 

 

Posted by Michelle Whiting Friday, October 1, 2021 1:18:00 PM

Drowsy Driving  

On September 5, 2008, 8 year old Ronshay Dugans was on the way to an afterschool program when the driver of a cement truck fell asleep behind the wheel and crashed into the back of her school bus. Ronshay was killed in the crash. Two years later, the Florida Legislature passed the Ronshay Dugans Act that designated the first week of September as “Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.”

A survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, found that at least 50% of adults have admittedly driven while drowsy, and 20% have fallen asleep at the wheel. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration there are about 100,000 reported crashes involving drowsy driving; however, the number is likely significantly higher since it is difficult to determine whether a driver was drowsy at the time of a crash.

Like drunk driving, drowsy driving kills. Prescription medications, lack of sleep, work, undiagnosed disorders like sleep apnea, and jet-lag can cause drowsiness. Drowsiness impacts your reaction time, decreases awareness of your surroundings, and impairs your judgement.

Before hitting the road, make sure you get enough sleep (seven to nine hours for adults, eight to ten for teenagers) and confirm that any medications you take don’t cause drowsiness. For longer trips, schedule stops every 100 miles or every two hours and ask a friend to tag along to help you stay awake and focused.

Once you’re behind the wheel, monitoring yourself for warning signs of drowsiness is crucial. Some common warning signs are frequent blinking, difficulty focusing on the road, having trouble remembering the last few miles driven, drifting from your lane, and the feeling of restlessness or disconnected thoughts. If you notice yourself experiencing any of these pull over to a safe place to get some rest, stretch, or get a caffeinated beverage. Once you feel alert and refreshed it’s safe to continue driving.

Crashes caused by drowsiness are 100% preventable. The rush to get to where you’re going is not worth risking your safety and the safety of others. Taking the time to check your alertness could save you from a potentially life changing accident.

Posted by Verliz Williams Wednesday, September 1, 2021 8:35:00 AM

Pedestrian Safety 

So far this year, we’ve responded to 33 pedestrian related crashes. Pedestrians and drivers are equally responsible in preventing accidents. With school resuming and traffic expected to increase again, practicing these tips in your community will help keep you and others safe.

For pedestrians:

  • Be predictable: Following the rules of the road and obeying signs and signals will help drivers identify when you’re going to move and where you’ll be going.
  • Be alert: Limit your use of electronic devices to help minimize the amount of distractions that could take your eyes off your surroundings.
  • Be visible: Whether you’re walking during the day or night make sure you are visible to drivers. Be sure to make eye contact as you cross and wear clothing that would increase your visibility.
  • Cross with caution: Be sure to utilize crosswalks and cross at intersections where drivers would expect pedestrians. If there’s no crosswalk available, locate an area that’s well-lit and cross only when there is enough time to cross safely. Look for cars in all directions, including turn lanes.

For drivers:

  • Be aware: Watch for pedestrians everywhere, especially when you’re driving while visibility is limited.
  • Look for Crosswalks: When driving, be prepared to yield to pedestrians entering a crosswalk. Never pass vehicles who are stopped at crosswalks. There could be pedestrians crossing that aren’t in your field of vision until it’s too late.
  • Be a safe driver: Adhering to the basic rules of the road, observing the speed limit, and never driving under the influence will dramatically decrease your chance of being involved in a pedestrian accident.

Whether you’re behind a wheel or on foot, ensuring you maintain a courteous and attentive attitude while you’re on your way will help minimize your chance of being in a 100% avoidable accident.

If you think your community is in need of additional pedestrian infrastructure, contact your local Public Works Department. 

Posted by Verliz Williams Tuesday, August 3, 2021 9:22:00 AM

Hurricane Preparedness 

A team is only as strong as its playbook. The more thorough the playbook, the more successful the team will be. It’s no different for you and your family this hurricane season, as you put together a hurricane preparedness playbook of your own.

In order to keep you and your family safe, your hurricane preparedness playbook should focus on how to prepare before, during, and after the storm.

Before the storm is your time to sign up for local alerts, prepare evacuation plans and emergency kits, protect your property, and safeguard all important documents and records.

  • Local alerts: Sign up to receive emergency notifications to your phone through Alert Pinellas (http://www.pinellascounty.org/alertpinellas/), download Ready Pinellas, and follow the Pinellas County Government and Sheriff’s Office on major social media platforms for real time updates.
  • Know your zone: If you’re unsure if your home is in an evacuation zone visit http://kyz.pinellascounty.org/ to locate shelters near you. For those residents who live on barrier islands, the quickest way to reenter is by having an emergency access permit. To register for a permit visit: https://pcsoweb.com/barrierislandpassapplication.
  • Emergency Kits: Having enough supplies to make it through the hurricane isn’t enough. Your supplies should be able to sustain you and your family during the recovery period as well. Your kits should have enough food and water for each person for at least three days, batteries, radios, phone chargers, and cash. To see additional must-have supplies for your kit, visit page 10 of the 2021-2022 Pinellas County All- Hazard Guide (http://www.pinellascounty.org/emergency/pdf/all_hazard_guide.pdf).
  • Protect your property and important documents: Whether you are evacuating or sheltering in your home, one of the most important steps is to make sure your windows, roofs, and garage doors are protected and secured. Other precautions that should be taken are clear your yard of debris and check the seals around your doors and windows.

The time you spent preparing pays off during the storm. If you are evacuating, take your necessities and follow posted evacuation routes to get to your destination safely. If you are sheltering in your home, remember to stay indoors, stay away from windows and glass doors, and keep generators or other gasoline-powered equipment at least 20 feet away from doors, windows, or vents. Lastly, whether you decide to evacuate or shelter at home, be sure to keep your emergency kits and equipment in an accessible area for use during and after the storm.

After the storm, damage is inevitable and the dangers don’t go away. Keep these tips in mind after the storm:

  • Clean out and clean up: Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces will help keep your family safe and healthy since floodwater can contain sewage, bacteria, and chemicals. Also, be sure to throw away any food items that weren’t maintained at the proper temperature and avoid drinking tap water until it’s safe to do so.
  • Avoid floodwater and electrical equipment: When cleaning up or commuting back to your home, be sure to avoid floodwaters since they can contain underground or downed electrical lines. Any wet electrical equipment should be avoided, and if it is safe to do so, turn off electricity at the main breaker or fuse box of your home to prevent electrocution.
  • Document any property damage: If you notice significant damage, be sure to properly document it with photos and a list of all damaged or lost items for your insurance company.

This hurricane season make sure your hurricane preparedness playbook is setting up your team for success as you keep your eyes on the eye of the storm.

Posted by Verliz Williams Thursday, July 1, 2021 10:04:00 AM

May is Mental Health Awareness Month 

Law enforcement officers today can better recognize that some acts that are being committed are not criminal, but rather a symptom of an individual’s mental illness. Many times, those individuals suffering from mental illness are also struggling with a behavioral disorder or an addiction.

A law enforcement officer’s ability to recognize someone’s behavior caused by a mental illness doesn’t make them an expert. In fact, the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission only requires law enforcement academy recruits to have 16 hours of training related to identifying symptoms of mental illness and how to safely apprehend those individuals. Beyond their academy training, an even smaller number of law enforcement officers receive additional mental health-related training.

Compared to a mental health professional, the limited training given to law enforcement officers makes them the least qualified to handle individuals in a mental health crisis.

From financial shortages to a lack of professional service providers, Florida is among the lowest ranking states in the nation when it comes to access to mental health resources. These shortcomings led the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office to establish the Mental Health Unit in 2016.

Initially, the unit utilized the co-response model that partnered one deputy and one social worker, both experts in their respective fields, who would jointly respond and address the individual and his or her needs. After a couple of years, it was clear that a change was needed due to a lack of case management and follow-ups. Part of the solution was a partnership with the Pinellas Integrated Care Alliance to establish the “PIC Team.” If an individual assessed by the mental health professional on the team needed more intensive services, the individual was referred to the PIC Team, which promised better results, but there was still room for improvement.

In September 2020, Sheriff Gualtieri announced a significant expansion of the Mental Health Unit that combined the co-response and case management model, strengthened the partnership with the Pinellas Integrated Care Alliance, and added more teams to the unit.

Regarding the unit’s expansion, Sheriff Gualtieri stated, “We can treat people better and produce better outcomes while keeping them out of the jail and out of the Baker Act system, which is what this initiative seeks to do.”

The goal is to decriminalize the stigmas associated with individuals who are struggling with a mental health issue and get them the help they need.

As the Mental Health Unit continues to work throughout the county and help those with a mental illness, changes will continue to be made, but with the current team and models in place, we are confident that we can help struggling individuals work toward improvement and success.

Posted by Michelle Whiting Saturday, May 1, 2021 2:49:00 PM

Honoring the Life of Deputy Michael J. Magli  

Though the sun was shining bright on February 23, 2021, it was the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office’s darkest day. Deputy Michael J. Magli was a true hero who saved countless lives and is an example of what it means to serve and protect with integrity and honor. Our PCSO family is heartbroken, but our lives will be forever changed and inspired by the legacy Deputy Magli left behind.

The support our community has shown the Magli family and our PCSO family has been overwhelming. Thank you for all the prayers, notes, and heartfelt acts of service over the last few weeks. No motion of compassion and sympathy has gone unnoticed.

We also give special thanks to our law enforcement partners and others for their contributions to the service.

This is the first line-of-duty death in the sheriff’s office’s 109-year history. We never wanted this day to come, but we will continue to remember and honor Deputy Magli’s life. His name will be inscribed on our memorial in front of the Sheriff’s Administration Building, but more importantly, his name will be inscribed in our hearts forever. 

The loss of Deputy Magli is a reminder of why our deputies wake up every morning. Their mission is to protect and serve the citizens of Pinellas County, and they put themselves in harm’s way to save lives. Their oath is not limited to working hours; they are committed to protecting the public 24-7 and have a duty to act when evil enters their path.

Deputy Magli’s example reminds us that a deputy’s responsibility often goes beyond what is required of the uniform and involves matters of the heart. He cared about people and went out of his way to show it, whether it was telling a fellow deputy a joke when they felt down, taking extra time on a domestic call to ensure the couple was okay, or simply giving a citizen a bright smile as he crossed their path. The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is leading the way in public safety, but just as important, we are making sure we show people we care.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is accepting donations on behalf of the Magli family. The Deputy Michael J. Magli Memorial Fund will serve as the official memorial fund for the Magli family. Those interested in donating can visit any SunTrust banking location or send checks to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Fiscal Affairs Bureau made payable to the memorial.

Posted by Michelle Whiting Thursday, April 1, 2021 1:26:00 PM

How to Avoid IRS Scams 

One thing we can all be sure of every year is filing our taxes. The sheriff’s office reminds you that fraud continues to be a threat in Pinellas County. The Economic Crimes Unit usually sees an increase in scammers who may contact you during tax season.

The typical scenario involves a caller who 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. Then, they instruct citizens to purchase pre-paid cards and provide the numbers to them.

Follow these five tips to avoid becoming a victim of an IRS scam:

  1. Check Your Computer’s Security

Thoroughly research any software or security settings to ensure that your computer or other devices are protected. Your personal information, like your cell phone number, could be sold to third parties without your knowledge.

  1. Beware of Public Wi-Fi

Avoid using public Wi-Fi when completing your tax return.

  1. Don’t Communicate With Unknown Contacts

The IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text message, telephone, or social media to request financial information. If an unknown person attempts to contact you, don’t respond.

  1. Pay Close Attention to the Source

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 that it is a scam. 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.

  1. Use the Right Payment Method

If the caller asks 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. If you think you owe money to the IRS, visit: http://www.irs.gov/payments/view-your-tax-account.

Filing your taxes should never result in fraud. Report suspicious activity to the sheriff’s office by calling us at 727-582-6200

 

Posted by Michelle Whiting Monday, March 1, 2021 10:15:00 AM

The Dangers of Cyber Romance 

Online dating has become one of the most popular ways for singles to find partners. According to Statista, as of 2020, more than 32 million Americans are using online dating services, and the online dating service eharmony reports that there has been a 6% increase between 2013 and 2016 in 55 to 64-year-olds who use online dating.

Online romance is common today due to the prevalence of smartphone usage, and individuals are not always honest about their identities on the internet. Eharmony reported that 53% of people who use dating websites lie on their profiles. Although some of those lies may seem small, like their height or how much money they make, talking to or meeting strangers online can be dangerous.

One of the most common scams we see at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, especially among the elderly, is the romance scam. Predators can create fake identities to lure in victims to gain access to their finances or instigate sexually or physically abusive relationships. 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:

  1. 1. Never send money.
  2. 2. Carefully examine people’s profiles.
  3. 3. Use reverse image search on their pictures.
  4. 4. End the relationship if they refuse to meet you face to face.
  5. 5. 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 probably 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 Monday, February 1, 2021 9:31:00 AM

Shopping Safety Tips for the New Year 

Giving gifts during the holidays is an expression of love and appreciation. However, returning, exchanging, and even selling presents is also a common practice in the months following the holiday season.

Whether you drive to the store to return an item or sell it online, here are some ways you can stay safe while getting rid of those unwanted gifts or making new purchases.

Shopping in Stores:

  • Park in a well-lit, public area when possible and become familiar with your surroundings before walking inside.
  • Always lock your car doors. Even if you won’t be in the store long, it only takes seconds for a criminal to open a door, take something inside, or steal your vehicle.
  • Vehicles are easy targets because they often contain valuable items like laptops, recent store purchases, firearms, purses, and cell phones. Place valuables in the trunk before you park in public so they are not visible to burglars.
  • If your vehicle doesn’t have an alarm, consider purchasing one. The noise alone is often enough to scare away inexperienced criminals.
  • Once you leave the store, have your car keys in hand, ready to use, so that you can put any valuables in the trunk and enter your vehicle quickly.

Online Transactions:

  • If you are buying or selling something online, meet the potential buyer or seller in a public location, like the parking lot of a police department or the sheriff’s office.
  • Meet the buyer or seller during the day or in a well-lit area at night. As an extra precaution, take a person with you so you are not alone.
  • Do not go through with the transaction if the communication with the buyer or seller seems suspicious or you do not feel safe completing it.
  • Ask for identification. If the individual is lying about their identity, they will most likely not continue communication or complete the meetup. In the event the transaction goes wrong, you will have their information to report to law enforcement.

Home Deliveries

  • “Porch pirates,” thieves who steal packages left on doorsteps, are all too common today. Use a surveillance camera to monitor the activity at your door, have packages delivered to a secure location, or schedule deliveries when you are home to ensure they make it inside your residence.

This year, make New Year’s resolutions that will protect you, your belongings, and your community. Lock your car doors regularly and take necessary precautions when making transactions or meeting with strangers.

Posted by Michelle Whiting Friday, January 1, 2021 3:22:00 PM

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 Michelle Whiting Tuesday, December 1, 2020 9:13:00 AM
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