APRIL 2019

Our agency recently lost one of our members who took her own life. While the reasons why she did this may only be known to her, this act affected everyone from her family, to her friends, and coworkers. Probably everyone has been touched in some way by the tragedy of suicide. No profession is immune and high-stress jobs are especially vulnerable, including law enforcement, doctors, lawyers, and other prominent career fields. But no profession, no culture, and no socio-economic group is exempt from suicide.

I hope everyone knows that there are resources for anyone contemplating taking their life. We all know that the stresses from life, our work, and our family can be overwhelming at times. But these stresses can be dealt with, with the assistance of professionals and support from people who care.

We can help our friends or loved ones who may be contemplating suicide. Many individuals who are thinking about it may give signs to those close to them, even verbalizing suicidal thoughts. Always take such comments seriously and try to get the person to open up about what they mean.

Unfortunately, some people believe that showing signs of pressure or the difficulty of dealing with the stresses of their lives is a weakness. Nothing could be farther from the truth. People naturally seek out medical care if they are seriously injured. It should be the same with mental or emotional health issues. It takes a lot of courage to seek help for pain or trauma that is not visible on the outside but can be just as damaging.

Some signs of people who may be thinking of harming themselves include the following:

* Depression

* Anxiety

* Alcohol abuse

* Drug abuse

* Aggression

* Isolation or withdrawal from family and friends

* Talk of hopelessness

* Talk of suicide

People who think that they may be suffering from depression or other mental health issues can call the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which has a Helpline at 1-800-950-6264, or text NAMI to 741-741. The local Pasco County chapter can be reached at 727-992-9653.

Anyone who is having thoughts of harming themselves should immediately call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Lifeline Center calls are free and confidential and are manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week by trained crisis workers. This person will listen to you, understand how your problem is affecting you, provide support, and get you the help you need. These counselors are trained to help youth, disaster survivors, veterans, loss survivors, LGBTQ+, and basically any individual in crisis.

I urge anyone, or the loved ones and friends of anyone, who may be showing signs of harming themselves to reach out and find support. It may not be easy, but there are many who have been in the same situation as you who have learned to find a way to survive their trauma, often with the support of friends and family. You are worth it, and I know that others in your life will tell you the same. Help is available.


March 2019

Automobile burglaries continue to be one of the easiest preventable crimes, not only in our county but across the nation. Most auto burglaries involve unlocked doors, with items of value left inside. Crooks know the habits of people, and they look for the path of least resistance that can gain them money or valuables to steal.

While most people wouldn’t consider leaving their homes or apartments unlocked, we see that all too often cars are left unlocked with purses, wallets, computers, cellphones, even guns inside, that are easy pickings for thieves.

With the advent of home security cameras, we often see videos of groups of individuals who will drive through neighborhoods, get dropped off by a vehicle, and then roam through the neighborhoods, testing the doors of cars and trucks parked in the driveway. These roaming bands of thieves will move from house to house, street to street, grabbing whatever they can from unlocked vehicles. No neighborhood is safe, not even gated communities, as sometimes the thieves know someone who will give them the code to enter.

It is important to realize that becoming the victim of an auto burglary may only be the first of your problems. If you did leave credit or debit cards inside the vehicle, thieves will quickly use those to make fraudulent purchases as quickly as possible, before you realize that they are gone and can cancel them with your banking institution. I don’t have to inform you what the danger of leaving a gun inside an unlocked vehicle can lead to in the hands of a criminal.

The Pasco Sheriff’s Office continues to urge citizens to change their habits, always locking your vehicle doors no matter where you are. This includes at work, when you are running errands like at the store or gym, at school, and of course, at home. Do not leave anything of value in plain sight in your vehicle, as even a locked door will not prevent a thief from breaking your window to get inside to steal it. If possible, it is always best to park your vehicle inside a locked garage. If that isn’t possible, a lighted driveway may deter some thieves. A security camera system may also help, but it is no guarantee, as we have seen many examples of thieves stealing from cars and trucks on security video.

We started a social media campaign a few years ago where we remind people every night to remember to lock their doors. Called the “9 PM Routine,” if you follow us on Twitter or Facebook, you will receive that reminder as well. The campaign has been so successful, it has been copied by law enforcement agencies across the country and Canada.

I urge all Pasco citizens to try and change their habit of leaving their vehicle unlocked with valuable items in plain sight. I shouldn’t have to remind you not to leave the keys in the vehicle as well, but unfortunately, many citizens still do, and are surprised when their cars are stolen. If you work consciously enough to change a habit, it can eventually become a subconscious one, hopefully like that when you get into a vehicle you automatically buckle up for safety. If you start to work on forming a habit of when you get out of a vehicle, you take your keys and make sure all the doors are locked, it too can become a subconscious routine as well.

January 2019

January is Human Trafficking Awareness month. The Pasco Sheriff’s Office is partnering with the David Maus Foundation to raise awareness about this silent scourge in our community.

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery that involves the exploitation of vulnerable persons for commercial sex, forced labor or involuntary servitude, plus the inability to extricate oneself from that situation. The trafficker uses force, fraud, or coercion to control the victim.

Light Up the Night is what we call our community event to raise awareness on human trafficking. We have a number of fundraisers scheduled to help us fund our efforts. The first event is the 5K Run/1M walk, which begins at 8 a.m., at the Pasco-Hernando State College Porter Campus at Wiregrass Ranch, 2727 Mansfield Blvd., Wesley Chapel. The 5k Run is chip-timed, and participants in both the 5K Run and the 1M Walk receive a t-shirt and medal for participating.

The Light Up the Night concert and vigil begins at 6 p.m. at the Trinity College of Florida, 2430 Welbilt Blvd., Trinity. The event will include music by Jonny Diaz, educational information about human trafficking, and a kids’ zone.

Human trafficking is the second largest criminal enterprise in the world, just behind the illegal drug trade, netting billions of dollars worldwide annually. There are over 20 million persons held in slavery in the world today, more than any other time in history. It is estimated between 500,000 and 2 million are trafficked annually worldwide with an estimated 15,000 to 18,000 being trafficked into the United States every year.

On a local scale, according to national human trafficking hotline tips and complaints, Florida ranks as third in the number of calls to the human trafficking hotline, with the Tampa Bay area being in the top three in the state.

Possible indications of human trafficking include:
• Constantly accompanied by a controlling person or boss; not speaking on their own behalf.
• Lack of control over personal schedule, money, identification or travel documents.
• Transported to and from work; lives and works in the same place.
• Debt owed to employer/crew leader makes them unable to leave their job.