December 2005


in this issue
  • A Note from Sheriff Judd
  • Shop Safely this Holiday Season
  • Deputy Returns Home Safely from Iraq
  • Grant-Funded Identity Theft Task Force Up and Running

    Shop Safely this Holiday Season

    The Christmas holiday season has begun. In addition to spending time with friends and family, many of us shop more during this time of year. Be advised, however, that with holiday shoppers out in full force, criminals see increased crimes of opportunity. Please take heed and follow these shopping safety tips, so that you and yours can have a very happy holiday season this year:


    • Park in well-lit, well-trafficked areas. Keep valuables out of sight and locked in the trunk if possible, and lock all vehicle doors
    • Stay alert to your surroundings - minimize shopping after dark, and try not to shop alone.
    • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash. Pay with a check or credit card, if possible.
    • Be extra careful if you carry a wallet or purse - carry your purse close to your body and NEVER place it in a shopping cart.
    • Avoid overloading yourself with packages. It is important to have clear visibility and freedom of motion.
    • When you return to your vehicle, have your keys in hand and get in quickly. Immediately lock all doors.
    • Do not approach your car alone if there are suspicious people standing by.
    • If you feel you are being followed, go to the nearest well-lit, public location, and contact authorities.
    • When returning home, have your keys in hand to quickly unlock the door.



    Deputy Returns Home Safely from Iraq

    Deputy Sheriff Paul Buoniconti, a member of PCSO since 2000, was called into active duty for the U.S. Marines on Christmas day 2004. His unit, the 4th Amphibious Assault Battalion from Tampa, Florida, joined up with two others from Gulfport, Mississippi, and Norfolk, Virginia, to provide armored transport and fire support to infantry units serving in the Al Anbar (nicknamed Triangle of Death by the media) Province of Iraq.

    On July 5, 2005, Paul and several of his fellow Marines, including Pasco County Sheriff’s Deputy Josh Cooley and Winter Haven P.D. Officer Jose Sanchez, were injured in an insurgent car bomb attack. Paul suffered temporary hearing loss but recovered fully, while his counterparts had to return to the states to be treated.

    Paul returned home from his tour of duty in November, and was recently administered the oath of office by Sheriff Judd before he returns back to patrol. (Paul was out of the country when Sheriff Judd was elected, and all sworn and certified members have to take a new oath of office when a new Sheriff takes over.) During the ceremony, Paul presented the Sheriff with an American flag that flew over his battalion position in Iraq, dedicated to the Polk County Sheriff's Office.

    With over 30 deputy sheriffs, detention deputies, and civilians here at the agency who belong to the FL National Guard and U.S. Military Reserves, 10 of them are still away serving their country. We pray that they will all have a safe and speedy return back to Polk County, their families, and the Sheriff's Office.


    Grant-Funded Identity Theft Task Force Up and Running

    The Sheriff's Office was recently awarded a $72,000 grant to hire personnel and cover training and operating expenses for an Identity Theft Task Force, from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). The goal of the task force is to increase the number of arrests and convictions of individuals responsible for identity theft/fraud, and to increase awareness by the public of the scope of identity theft and provide ways to avoid becoming a victim of this type of crime through public information and public programs. Since it is not unusual for identity criminals to cross jurisdictional lines, the task force will also coordinate with other law enforcement agencies to investigate and secure arrests.

    The Identity Theft Task Force will consist of the two grant-funded data analysts posted in each of the two Sheriff’s Office regions (East and West). A Sergeant and 8 detectives from PCSO will also be assigned to the task force. The analysts will analyze pertinent financial data, such as cancelled checks, monthly statements, money transfers, etc., received as evidence in fraud, white collar, and drug-related crimes. By incorporating techniques the Sheriff’s Office already employs within the PROCAP (Proactive Community Attack on Problems) philosophy, the financial record analysis will be matched with geographically based data—where are the victims located; is there any relationship between victim location and the crime; are there any relationships between the victims themselves, etc. This analysis may help detectives track criminals, and will enable the task force to identify groups such as elderly persons and tourists who have been targeted as victims, so that the task force can focus on providing prevention education to these victims.

    “Identity theft is becoming more widespread not only in Polk County, but nationwide. We hope to gain a better understanding of identity theft and fraud, and to educate our members in how to better investigate and help prevent these types of crimes,” says Sheriff Grady Judd. “This newly created task force will seek to penetrate the barriers presented by identity thieves– we will work proactively with other detectives to identify trends, develop profiles, secure evidence, cooperate with other jurisdictions, and aggressively pursue prosecution.”


    A Note from Sheriff Judd
    When you elected me Sheriff last August, I pledged to you that I would provide professional law enforcement and detention services while saving money. As anyone who knows will tell you, saving money is second nature to me.

    As a result of professional fiscal management practices by the members of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, I was able to return a little over 9 Million dollars for fiscal year 2004-2005 back to the county. This savings represents a WIN for the taxpayers, a WIN for the Board of County Commissioners, and a WIN for the Sheriff’s Office.

    Now we have the opportunity to offset future costs by reserving a portion of these dollars to fund future needs. I have several ideas on how to use future funds to save taxpayers' dollars, which I recently shared with the Board of County Commissioners, and they agreed.

    We need to improve courthouse security. With over 48,000 people entering and leaving that facility every week, we need to ensure that they can conduct their daily business in the safest manner possible. We need to integrate our computers systems here at the Sheriff's Office with other criminal justice agencies, in order to reduce labor costs and improve customer service. And last, due to enormous growth in the north ridge part of our county, we need to build an additional district station in that area.

    Thank you for allowing us to serve you and for allowing me to be your Sheriff. On behalf of the men and women who put their lives on the line every day, may God bless you and your families, and may you all have a safe and happy holiday season.

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    Animal Control Invites You to Pet Fest! Polk County Sheriff’s Office Animal Control proudly presents the second annual “Pet Fest” which will take place on Saturday, December 10th, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The festival will be held at Animal Control, which is located at 7115 DeCastro Road (off Winter Lake Rd), in Winter Haven. There will be an array of services and activities happening throughout the day including: low cost vaccines for $5.00; $10.00 Microchips; on-the-spot adoptions for a reduced fee of $40.00; county required tags ($10.00 for altered and $25.00 for unaltered); and photos with Santa. The Pet Fest will feature the pot belly pig rescue, 98.3 FM “The Rose”, balloons for the kids, restaurants, vendors, door prizes and much more! So come on out on Saturday, December 10th, and bring the whole family. For further information on the Pet Festival, contact Sheriff’s Office Animal Control at (863) 499- 2600.