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, so beware of other versions of it, like or

  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:

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

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 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 Michelle Whiting 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
  • Adopt a family by contacting Sandra Garcia-Olivares, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Victim Advocate, at 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 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 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

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
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