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:
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.
Avoid using public Wi-Fi when completing your tax return.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.”
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
Non Emergency Line: (727) 582-6200 | In an Emergency call 911ADA info