Make the Safety of Young Pedestrians a Priority 

School is back in session and the roads – and sidewalks – are busier. Make sure you allow extra time on your morning commute as you drive through school zones and watch out for pedestrians. We must do everything we can to keep children safe and you can do your part by brushing up on traffic laws related school busses, school zones, and pedestrians.

Be aware of designated school zones – they will be clearly marked with signage and flashing lights alerting drivers. The speed limit in most local school zones is 15 miles per hour. The slow-speed zone is enforced half an hour before students are expected to arrive at school. Remember, this doesn’t just mean the official start of classes, but may be earlier for breakfast service. The school zone may be active for up to half an hour after class begins. In the afternoon, the school zone is active until 30 minutes after students are released. With elementary, middle, and high schools all starting and ending at different times, you may encounter several different school zones in your daily travels. The fine for speeding in a school zone is double that of speeding in most other areas.

Also remember that you can’t have your cell phone in your hand at all in a school zone – not only is it unsafe, but it is also illegal. This applies to calls, texts, and any other hands-on use of your phone, including navigation. If you must use a device in a school zone, it needs to be completely hands-free. Your full attention needs to be on the road and on pedestrians.

Crossing guards are stationed near schools as well as at intersections on the routes where children walk or bike to school. Crossing guards enter the crosswalk when it is safe to do so and ensure that children only cross the road when all traffic has stopped. Be alert for the crossing guard’s sign and whistle, and follow their directions. They are considered a traffic control device, the same as a stop sign, and their instructions should be followed for the safety of young pedestrians.

If you would like a rewarding part-time job helping to keep children safe, consider becoming a school crossing guard. You will receive uniforms, equipment, and training, and make $22 an hour. Contact Human Resources at 727-582-6208 for more information.

Along with pedestrians, there are many more school busses on the roads. The rules about when to stop for a school bus may seem confusing but they are actually simple. When you are driving behind a bus you must always stop when the bus activates its flashing red lights and displays its STOP signal, no matter how many lanes there are. However, if you are driving in the opposite, oncoming lanes, whether or not you stop depends on the median. If there is a raised median, physical barrier, or unpaved space at least five feet wide between lane directions you do not have to stop. Painted lines and pavement markings are not considered barriers. If that barrier is not there, oncoming traffic must stop. Failure to stop for a school bus carries a hefty fine and repeat offenses can result in a driver’s license suspension.


Posted by Verliz Williams Monday, September 11, 2023 7:33:00 AM

Permitless Carry Clarified 

There’s a lot of misinformation about the new permitless carry law here in Florida. The governor signed House Bill 543 on April 3, 2023, which allows Floridians to carry concealed weapons without a government-issued concealed weapon license. The law went into effect July 1, 2023.

When you get right down to it, not much has changed. The new law does not give blanket permission for everyone to carry a concealed firearm. People still must meet all the same criteria as if they were getting a concealed weapon license: they must be at least 21 years old and without any felony convictions or any other disqualifying conditions. Nor does it change where a person may legally carry a concealed firearm. They were not, and are still not allowed in schools, colleges, courthouses, government buildings, or bars. Concealed firearms also may not be carried in any business or private property where the owner has prohibited them. The law doesn’t change who is allowed to buy a firearm, nor does it change the laws regarding background checks or the mandatory three-day waiting period required to purchase a firearm.

The law is not open carry. Open carry – wearing or carrying a firearm in such a manner as to be clearly visible – is still not legal in Florida except in very particular circumstances. You may openly carry a firearm only if you are engaged in hunting, fishing, camping, or test or target shooting, or while on the way to or from these activities.

Concealed weapon licenses are still available, and even after the law takes effect some people may wish to get one. People with a concealed weapon license avoid the three-day waiting period when purchasing a firearm. The license also enables people to carry concealed weapons in other states that have a reciprocity agreement with Florida.

While people may not need to have a license when they carry a concealed firearm, they do need to carry identification – and they’re required to provide it to law enforcement upon request.

The training requirements to obtain a concealed weapon license were minimal. In theory, someone could get their license after a classroom portion and then only firing a weapon one time. The new bill provides funds to law enforcement agencies to offer meaningful firearms training to citizens. When you carry a weapon, you are responsible for that weapon and all actions you take with it. Robust, comprehensive, ongoing training is the responsibility of every citizen who owns or carries a firearm to make sure that they keep us more, and not less safe. Do your part by taking education seriously. Learn the law, seek out training to become proficient – because your life, and that of your family, may depend upon it.

You can learn more about the new law at

Posted by Verliz Williams Wednesday, August 2, 2023 10:00:00 AM

Swimming Safety 

Pinellas County beaches consistently rank among the best beaches in the world, luring swimmers and boaters to our waters. The Florida Gulf Coast is known for its gently sloping shore and calm waters, but weather conditions, currents, or unsafe choices can turn a beautiful day at the beach into a tragedy. The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) Marine and Environmental Lands Unit gets frequent calls for boaters or swimmers in distress. Planning and preparation are the keys to reducing your risk for drowning at the beach.

It may sound self-evident, but don’t go into the water if you can’t swim. Some people think that if they just wade in the shallow water they’ll be safe as long as they can stand up, but you could be in trouble if a wave catches you off guard or if you step a little bit off a sand bar. Before you know it you’re in over your head. If you can’t swim, you can’t depend on inflatables or pool noodles to keep you safe.

Make sure your child learns how to swim at an early age. This is vital not just for a day at the beach, but in general. Even very young children should be taught how to float and swim in case they tumble into a swimming pool. Never take your eyes off a child in the water. Even if they know how to swim, a child can easily become exhausted or panic, and drown.

Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs) save lives. If you are in or on the water and are not a strong swimmer, always wear a Coast Guard-approved PFD. Even if you are a strong swimmer, it is still a good idea to wear one when on a boat, kayak, or paddleboard. Be aware that there are different levels of PFDs. Some are designed to keep you afloat if you are conscious, while others are designed to keep your head out of the water even if you are unconscious. Choose the PFD that suits the conditions you’ll be in.

Rip currents are the most significant danger to swimmers. They can be found in passes, near bridges or jetties, and on beaches where the offshore topography creates a channel through which water moves swiftly out to sea. Contrary to popular belief rip currents don’t suck people underwater, but they are powerful, pulling people away from shore at up to eight feet per second. Even a strong swimmer who fights this current can become exhausted and drown trying to swim back to shore. If you are caught in a rip current, don’t fight it. Instead swim perpendicular to the current – parallel to the shore – until you escape. If you can’t do this, then calmly float until the current lessens, wave your arms to attract attention, and wait for rescue. Staying calm in a rip current can save your life.

Whether in a pool or at the beach, know what drowning looks like. It’s not like in the movies – usually there’s no splashing and shouting. The signs are more subtle: the person in distress will often have their head tilted back, mouth open near the water level, wide glassy eyes, and a vertical position. If you see these signs, throw the person a floatation device and take other rescue actions.

There are many other safety factors to consider during a visit to the beach, from sunscreen to hydration to securing your valuables – but the most important thing for you to protect is your life and the lives of those you love. Practice good water safety as you enjoy our beautiful beaches.


Posted by Verliz Williams Monday, July 3, 2023 3:20:00 PM

Pinellas Should Take a Lesson from Hurricane Ian 

Hurricane Ian was a wake-up call for Pinellas County. Here at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office we watched the storm’s path and prepared for what we thought would be a disastrous landfall. For the general public, though, attitudes were mixed. Some people took the threat very seriously and prepared their homes or evacuated out of the storm’s anticipated path – which originally showed it making a direct hit on Pinellas County. Others, however, minimized the dangers and stayed put or did little in the way of preparation. Floridians can have a dangerously lackadaisical attitude about hurricanes, planning “hurricane parties” instead of evacuating. Here in Pinellas there is even a myth that we are supernaturally protected from major tropical storms by the Tocobaga Indian burial mounds located in Safety Harbor and elsewhere in the county. Pinellas has been lucky, but we must always remember that our luck could run out at any time. Ian’s devastation that happened just a little to the south of us is a demonstration of what could happen here and should be a warning for everyone this hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through November 30.

Hurricane Ian approached southwest Florida as a massive Category 5 hurricane and hit Lee County on September 28th as a Category 4, with sustained winds of at least 155 miles per hour and gusts of 216 miles per hour. Despite mandatory evacuations, thousands were stranded by floodwaters, and 149 people died across Florida as a result of Hurricane Ian. More than 2.4 million people lost power, and financial losses are in the tens of billions of dollars. What if that had been us? It easily could have been.

The lesson from Ian is to always take hurricanes seriously. Pinellas County Emergency Management ( is your best local resource for hurricane preparedness. They publish an annual Hurricane Preparedness Guide that has updated evacuation zones as well as tips for what to do before, during, and after a hurricane strikes.

If you live on a barrier island, plan ahead and get your Emergency Access Permit now. During and immediately after the storm, the bridges to the barrier islands are closed until the area is safe. When the storm has passed and the evacuation order is lifted, only residents and business owners who have been issued a re-entry pass will be allowed to return to the islands. Deputies stationed at the nine re-entry points will scan the barcode and let the resident pass. Anyone without an access pass will be refused entry. Find out more at

You can also sign up for Alert Pinellas, a free emergency notification system that delivers vital information to you by phone call, text, or email. It will send you alerts about severe weather such as hurricanes, tornadoes, or flooding, evacuation orders, boil water notices, and more. Visit to sign up.

It is important to remember that if you ignore an evacuation order, you may not have access to any emergency services during the storm because when conditions intensify it is too dangerous for emergency vehicles to be on the roads. County 911 operators have heartbreaking stories of people calling for heart attacks, injuries, or house fires during hurricanes, and having to tell them that no one can respond until the worst of the storm has passed. Don’t put yourselves or your loved ones in danger. Heed evacuation warnings and leave the area or go to a shelter before a hurricane strikes. With preparation, cooperation, and common sense we can be as safe as possible during and after a hurricane strikes.


Posted by Verliz Williams Friday, June 9, 2023 9:08:00 AM

Celebrate National Bike Month with Safety 

Pinellas County has miles of beautiful multi-purpose paved trails for bike riders. In addition, many roads have designated bicycle lanes to make your recreational ride or commute safer. With the warm weather here, more bikes are on our roads. As a bicyclist you must take measures to have a safer ride. And as a driver you need to be aware of a bicyclist’s vulnerability. May is National Bike Month, and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) wants you to enjoy your ride safely.

As a bike rider:

Bike riders and passengers under 16 are required to wear a helmet – but it is a good idea for ALL bike riders. Of all bike fatalities in Florida, 40 percent are from traumatic brain injuries. The helmet must be worn properly to be effective: low on the forehead and strapped snugly under the chin.

When you are riding in the road you must obey all traffic control devices, just like cars. Stay in marked lanes, obey lights and stop signs, and signal any turns. Always go in the same direction as traffic.

Florida law states that if you ride your bike at night, you need a headlight that is visible from 500 feet, and a taillight and reflector on the back that are visible from 600 feet.

Be alert – don’t wear headphones that prevent you from hearing traffic and other things around you. Florida statute prohibits operation of a vehicle while wearing headphones – remember, a bicycle counts as a vehicle when on the road. The exception is a headset used with a cell phone that only has sound in one ear.

Be visible and predictable. Don’t dart between vehicles or make maneuvers that a motorist can’t anticipate. Wear bright colors for visibility.

You can get a DUI on a bicycle. Aside from legal considerations, riding a bike while impaired puts you at greater risk for an accident. If you are too impaired to drive, you are too impaired to ride a bicycle. Call a friend, taxi, or utilize a ride share service. You may even be able to get a ride share that can transport your bike too. If not, lock it up and get it when you’re sober.

It is legal to ride a bike on the sidewalk, even if there is a bike lane available. When riding on the sidewalk, Pinellas Trail, or other path for pedestrians, wheels yield to feet. Let walkers and runners have the right of way. When passing someone who is on foot, give an audible signal, such as a bell, horn, or say, “Passing on your left.”

As a motorist:

Always be alert for bicyclists and other pedestrians. Slow down in high-pedestrian areas.

Drivers must give bicyclists at least three feet of clearance when passing or driving alongside of them.

Yield to bicyclists and other pedestrians entering crosswalks. Remember that all sides of an intersection are considered crosswalks, whether marked or not. Don’t pass a stopped vehicle at a crosswalk – the stopped car might obscure a pedestrian.

If you come to a turn when there is a bicycle in the bike lane, let them make their turn first.

Posted by Verliz Williams Thursday, May 4, 2023 8:36:00 AM

Tips for Calling 911 

National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week is April 9-15, 2023. It recognizes the dispatchers and operators who have helped save thousands of lives since 911 began in 1968. Pinellas County 911, which is under the jurisdiction of the county, and our own PCSO dispatchers who communicate directly with our deputies work side-by-side in the Regional 911 Center in Largo. It can be hard to stay calm and think clearly when calling 911, but knowing some facts about placing a 911 call will help public safety telecommunicators get you the assistance you need.

When to call 911: Call 911 when you need immediate assistance from law enforcement, the fire department, or an ambulance. You must make the decision about what constitutes an emergency. If you see or experience a crime you should call 911 most of the time, but there are a few minor situations where you could call a law enforcement agency’s non-emergency number. In general, if the event is occurring right now you should call 911. If someone is on your property committing vandalism you would call 911. However if you wake up to discover that your house has been egged or tagged with graffiti, you should call the non-emergency number. In the latter case a deputy will still come take a report and use the same investigative skills to find the perpetrator, but they won’t have to drive to your residence immediately or at a high rate of speed as they might if the perpetrator was still on your property. They can prioritize crimes that are in-progress.

Likewise, if you are in a major car accident that involves injuries or road blockage, or a hit and run, call 911. If you get in a minor fender-bender though, move the vehicles off the road and depending on the parties’ preference either exchange information without a report or call the non-emergency number.

Don’t call 911 for general information. If you have questions about laws, policy, our agency, or anything that is not an emergency you can reach the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) at our non-emergency number, 727-582-6200.

For medical emergencies, something like chest pains or severe bleeding would definitely need a 911 call. You should call 911 for any fire, even if you’ve managed to put it out yourself. Fire department personnel can make sure that the fire is completely extinguished.

If you think your situation may be an emergency, don’t hesitate to call even if you aren’t completely sure. Some people are afraid to call, or embarrassed, or think they might be wasting a deputy’s time with their problem. When in doubt, call 911. Operators can help determine the level of the emergency and the appropriate response.

What to tell them: The 911 operator has a list of questions to determine the nature of your emergency. While you may want to blurt out a story, it is best to let the operator ask questions to ensure that information is relayed where it needs to go in the most efficient fashion. Let them know succinctly whether it is a medical emergency, a fire, or a crime, and then answer their questions about your location and call-back number. After that you will be able to provide more details about the emergency. The 911 operator will prompt you to help find out what they need.

911 operators are also trained to provide detailed instructions to callers in some situations. For example, if you call about someone having a heart attack they can talk you through CPR or the use of an AED.

If you live in an area serviced by the PCSO and call to report a crime, you may be transferred to a PCSO dispatcher who will communicate both with you and responding deputies to give them the most complete and updated information. Stay calm and answer all the questions they ask you. Deputies now have access to a live 911 feed on their in-car laptops so they can hear what a caller is reporting in real time. A responding deputy can hear vital information such as a suspect’s description or direction of travel as soon as the caller reports it. If they are away from their vehicle, a dispatcher relays the information as quickly as possible.

If you call 911 by accident: Kids play with phones, fingers slip, and people make mistakes. If you accidentally call 911, don’t hang up. Many people panic or get embarrassed and think if they hang up quickly it will be ignored, but no 911 calls are ever ignored. Deputies are dispatched every day to 911 hang-ups that aren’t emergencies at all, just accidental dials, and this is a waste of resources that could be better used for saving lives. Instead of hanging up, calmly explain that everything is okay and you called inadvertently. If you hang up, a law enforcement officer will be dispatched to check on you.

Calling 911 in an emergency can be stressful but public safety telecommunicators are trained to help keep you calm and talk you through the process. Understanding when to call 911 and what to do once you reach them will help make the process easier.

Posted by Verliz Williams Tuesday, April 4, 2023 4:01:00 PM

Avoid Tax Season Scammers 

The IRS is never going to call, email, text, or contact you on social media out of the blue. If you receive an unexpected call or message claiming to be from the IRS, it is a scammer. Almost all of the time, contact from the IRS will be in the form of a letter… but even a letter can be a scam. Here are some tips for this tax season to make sure criminals don’t get their hands on your hard-earned money.

One ploy scammers use is to promise you something too good to be true. You may get a notification that the IRS has recalculated your refund and you are entitled to a lot more money. All you have to do is send them a form with all of your personal information on it, including your social security number, bank account number, and maybe even passwords. You’ll never see a penny, but scammers will use the information to access your bank account, open lines of credit in your name, or even pretend to be you and file for your refund.

Scammers will also try to create a sense of urgency to make you act without thinking. They want to scare you. Here are some of the things they might say:

You owe taxes… and you need to pay it in gift cards or crypto. The IRS will never ask you to pay by those methods. Neither will any other legitimate company or utility. If anyone asks you to pay this way, it is a scam.

You’ll be arrested if you don’t pay now. Yes, people can be arrested for tax fraud, but an investigation is a lengthy process and you’ll get plenty of notification to clear up any errors first. Scammers hope you’ll be scared enough to do whatever they say without stopping to think.

Pay us or your social security number will be cancelled. No, your SSN can’t ever be cancelled, blocked, frozen, or suspended. This is just another trick to scare you.

Click this link to (fill in the blank). They’ll say they want you to verify information, take a survey, or see details about your refund. Sounds harmless enough, right? Do not click the link! Doing so may allow scammers to access your personal information, or even lock your system until you pay a ransom. Never click any links that you aren’t expecting.

If you receive any communication from the IRS, the best thing to do is call their main help line at 800-829-1040 or visit Be aware that if you contact them they will need personal information to verify your identity before they give you any information. Remember, if someone contacts you, don’t share personal information… but if you call the IRS yourself you’ll need to prove it’s you, and not an identity thief pretending to be you.

If you are contacted by a suspected scammer, call the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office at 727-582-6200.

Posted by Verliz Williams Wednesday, March 1, 2023 4:05:00 PM

This Valentine`s Day, Practice Dating App Safety 

Dating apps can be a good way to meet your next true love but there are risks in the modern quest for a relationship. When you meet someone online you never know if they are who they say they are, or what their motivations might be. We know that dating can lead to heartache, but online dating can open you up to both financial scams and physical danger. Here are some tips to keep you safe this Valentine’s Day as you search for your perfect partner.

Limit the information you share. On your profile, just use your first name or a nickname, not your full name. Don’t include details about where you live or work, turn off location settings, and avoid linking your social media to your dating app. Use unique photos on the dating app – don’t use photos that you also have posted on social media. Someone can easily run a reverse image search to find other places where you’ve posted that photo and discover your full name and other details about you. And make sure photos don’t accidentally reveal personal details like your house number.

Find out all you can. Examine the person’s photos, profile, and social media to determine if they seem legitimate. Note any inconsistencies or “red flags.” Be wary of profiles that have only one photo, no bio, or seem too good to be true. Scammers and fake profiles are more likely to say that they are new to the app, just moved to the area, or include a sad story such as that they are a widower with children. Consider a video call before you meet face to face to make sure the person matches their photos.

Enlist your friends. Let a friend or family member know who you are meeting, as well as when and where. Take screenshots of the person’s profile and provide your friends as much information as possible. Arrange to check in after the date and consider having a friend call or text midway through the date in case you need an excuse to leave.

Control the meeting. Arrange to meet in public for a first date, not at your house or theirs – and then stay in public for the entire date. Lunch or coffee dates are ideal. Stay sharp – be careful how much you drink, never leave your drink unattended, and don’t let yourself get too tired. Don’t rely on your date to drive you but arrange for your own transportation. Make sure your phone is fully charged.

Above all, trust your intuition. If someone feels suspicious, dangerous, or just “off” don’t be afraid to block them, report them to the dating app, or leave the date. Don’t fall for sad stories and don’t accept excuses or lies. If someone asks for money, threatens, or harasses you, contact law enforcement.


Posted by Verliz Williams Wednesday, February 1, 2023 3:56:00 PM

Resolutions for a Safer New Year 

The New Year is a perfect time for a fresh start. While plenty of people make – and sometimes even keep – resolutions about their health, most people don’t think about making resolutions to improve their safety. Here are a few things you can do in the coming year to keep you and your family safe. Much like drinking more water or exercising daily, once you make these things a habit they will become second nature.

Vehicle Burglary and Theft: It sounds so simple but locking your car door every time you exit your vehicle prevents Pinellas County’s most common crime. A majority of vehicle burglaries and thefts occur to unlocked vehicles. Don’t make your vehicle a target by leaving valuables in plain sight. Take them out of the car when you can or keep them out of sight in the trunk. Never leave a firearm in your vehicle.

Online security: Criminals are always finding new methods to part you from your hard-earned money and one of the most common ways they attack your finances is online. Create strong passwords and don’t use the same password for all accounts. Don’t respond to any text or email that asks you for personal information and never click on a link included in a text or email from someone you don’t know.

Scammers: The best advice I can give you to avoid a scam is to take your time and think before you act. Scammers create a sense of urgency. They may call, email, or text pretending to be from companies like Amazon, eBay, or a utility company and say you owe money or are about to have your power turned off if you don’t send money right away. Scammers often demand payments in cryptocurrency or gift cards – no legitimate company will ever do this. Don’t send money or give personal information. Instead, look up the company’s main website and contact them to find out if you really owe money.

Driving safety: The rules of the road are there for a reason: to keep you and other drivers safe. Don’t think that you’re the exception to the rules. Keep to the speed limit and obey traffic control devices. Always wear your seatbelt and resist the temptation to use your phone. Texting and driving is against the law and distracted driving is a leading cause of accidents.

Personal Safety: It’s easy to be complacent, but in this day and age you should never let your guard down completely. Being alert to potential danger will give you a chance to avoid it. Don’t be a target – walk with confidence, keep your hands free, watch for anyone entering your personal space, and don’t be afraid to get loud if you feel threatened. Criminals don’t want to be noticed so if you shout stop! get back! they might decide you’re not worth the trouble. Pay attention to exits wherever you go and always have an escape plan. Above all, trust your intuition. If a person or situation makes you feel uncomfortable, get away fast.

Keeping these simple things in mind can help you have a safer year. I wish you and your family a happy and safe 2023!

Posted by Verliz Williams Wednesday, January 4, 2023 10:36:00 AM

2022 Year In Review 

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) entered 2022 in a spirit of optimism. After two challenging years and with the pandemic behind us, we looked forward to being able to safely re-engage the community through our presence at events and resume our full suite of public education programming. While our efforts at community events are significant and our public education opportunities are robust, providing the public with timely and interesting information about the agency and public safety is critical to our success. Our public relations staff do their best to keep the PCSO front and center on social media and through our publications like this one and our biweekly e-newsletter, Inside the Star. Let’s look back at some of the big PCSO stories of 2022.

We started 2022 by debuting our new and improved Chevrolet Tahoe patrol vehicles. The updated Police Pursuit Vehicles or “PPVs” are packed with new features that better support our law enforcement mission and keep our deputies safer. Each Tahoe requires an average of 60 hours of work from our dedicated Fleet technicians.

Three new four-legged deputies hit the streets after completing K-9 School. Following a grueling tryout process, Deputies Zenandrie, Hunter, and Huckabee were selected to join the unit. They paired with their new K-9 partners and embarked on an intense 16-week school – four weeks longer than what’s required by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for certification. K-9s Drogo (Zenandrie), Magz (Hunter), and Khan (Huckabee) showcased their skills at their public graduation and are now on the streets tracking suspects and missing persons.

The PCSO Flight Unit celebrated 50 years in the skies above Pinellas County. Coincidentally, replacing a 31-year-old helicopter with a brand new Airbus H125 became a part of the celebration. The new addition to the fleet arrived over the summer and is more powerful, has more safety equipment, digital avionics, and an autopilot.

Over the summer, the PCSO hosted a multi-jurisdictional active shooter mass casualty exercise. The training was held at Highpoint Elementary School and involved several law enforcement agencies as well as the Pinellas County School Board, local fire departments, Sunstar, 911, and Emergency Management. The intent of the exercise was to comprehensively test the training, policies, and practices of all involved components to make improvements in the event of an actual active shooter situation.

Robert Holzaepfel, the man responsible for the death of Deputy Michael J. Magli, pled guilty and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Holzaepfel, who was under the influence while fleeing from deputies before striking Deputy Magli, was charged with third-degree murder, DUI manslaughter, and felony driving with his license suspended or revoked.

On September 22nd, we lost our second deputy in the line of duty in 19-months: Deputy Michael Hartwick. He was senselessly killed when he was struck by a front loader while working a construction detail on I-275 in St. Petersburg. The man who struck him fled the scene and was caught after a nine-hour manhunt. Deputy Hartwick is remembered as a funny, kind, and dedicated deputy.

Even as we were dealing with the aftermath of Deputy Hartwick’s death we faced the looming threat of Hurricane Ian. When forecasts predicted a direct Pinellas County landfall we ramped up our preparations: coordinating evacuations, manning shelters, closing the barrier islands, and getting ready for rescues. When the storm veered south at the last minute we were able to mobilize boats and deputies to aid the areas that were hardest hit.

Like any year, 2022 had its ups and downs, but we value our opportunities to bring these stories to you. If you’re working on a New Year’s resolution, consider engaging with us on social media and subscribing to Inside the Star by visiting

Wishing you and yours a safe and happy holiday season.


Posted by Verliz Williams Thursday, December 1, 2022 1:52:00 PM
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