The Walton County Sheriff’s Office strives to develop partnerships between the deputies and the community in efforts to keep Walton County a safe county with a strong local economy and livable neighborhoods. How this is carried out varies greatly from area to area based on the circumstances and needs of each neighborhood. Each deputy assigned to patrol a particular area is tasked with familiarizing themselves with their area and the issues that are important to the residents and visitors of the area. Additionally, the deputies are tasked with developing solutions for the various problems they may identify. In turn, it is necessary for each citizen to be active in their neighborhood by participating in Neighborhood Watch programs, neighborhood associations, and just being good neighbors. In addition to the deputy assigned to your neighborhood and community, the Walton County Sheriff’s Office has a Crime Prevention Specialist who can assist your neighborhood, civic organization or school with your Crime Prevention needs. For more information on how you can participate in Crime Prevention call 892-8186.
Crime Prevention Guide
No mechanical device has a will of its own, and guns never “just go off” unless somebody causes them to do so. Guns are safe. It is people who are dangerous. The wound caused by a bullet can easily be fatal. This means that you should not expect the luxury of learning from experience. Your first mistake may well be your last. But you need not make it. If you memorize the four principles of firearms safety, treat them with absolute seriousness, burn them into your consciousness, and follow them in practice, you will never have a mishap with a gun.
- ALL FIREARMS ARE ALWAYS LOADED: No exceptions. Don’t accept anyone else’s word. We should never again hear, “But I didn’t know it was loaded.”
- NEVER LET THE MUZZLE COVER ANYTHING YOU ARE NOT READY AND WILLING TO DESTROY: This rule is conspicuously and continuously violated, especially with pistols.
- KEEP YOUR FINGER OFF THE TRIGGER UNTIL YOUR SIGHTS ARE ON TARGET: The finger goes to the trigger upon recognizing circumstances that place you in fear of death or great bodily harm to yourself or another and you are beginning to cover your target.
- BE SURE OF YOUR TARGET AND WHAT’S BEHIND IT: We shoot only when we are sure of our target and that there is nothing around or behind it that may be in harms way from our shot.
Parents, guardians, and adults who care for children face constant challenges when trying to help keep children safer in today’s fast-paced world. The safety of our children is a very important issue at the Walton County Sheriff’s Office. The Sheriff’s Office is committed to educating others about child safety on a variety of topics.
- Seat belt laws apply to all cars, pickup trucks, and vans operated on Florida roads.
- All passengers in the front seat must wear a seat belt.
- All passengers under 18 must wear a seat belt
- Children 3 and younger must be secured in a federally approved child-restraint seat.
- Children 4 through 5 must be secured by either a federally approved child restraint seat or safety belt.
- The Driver is responsible for buckling up the child.
Even at an early age, you can help your child remain safe by having them commit to and understand these simple rules that help them avoid danger, especially from strangers:
- Before going anywhere, I will get permission from my parents by telling them where I am going, who I am going with, how I am getting there, who is going with me and how I will be getting back.
- I will get permission from my parents before getting into a car or leaving with anyone, including people I know.
- I will not change my plans or accept money or gifts without telling my parents. If someone offers me drugs, I will tell a grown-up immediately.
- I will use the “buddy” system whenever possible and will avoid playing or going places by myself.
- I will not keep it a secret if a grown-up touches me in a way that makes me feel confused, but will tell a grown-up I trust. Also, I won’t feel guilt if it happens because it is not my fault.
- I will trust my feelings and will share them with grown-ups I trust. They care about me and I am not alone.
- If I feel unsafe, I will never give up and will continue asking for help until I get it.
- I will keep myself safe because I am a special person who deserves it.
Harassment and Bullying
Bullying among children is aggressive behavior that is intentional and involves an imbalance of power or strength. A child who is being bullied has a hard time defending him or herself. Usually bullying is repeated over time. Bullying can take many forms such as physical, verbal, emotional and cyber bullying. Signs that your child might be bullied:
- torn clothes
- loss of appetite
- mood changes
- reluctance to go to school
- bruises or injuries that can’t be explained
Signs that your child might be engaging in bullying behavior:
- no empathy for others
- a desire to be in control
- may be an arrogant and boastful winner and poor loser in competitive games
What to do if you suspect your child is being bullied:
- Talk with your child.
- Be supportive and gather information about the bullying.
- Report suspected bullying to your child’s school.
Traffic Law Highlights
- A bicyclist must obey the same traffic laws as a motor vehicle.
- A bicyclist must use a fixed, regular seat for riding.
- No bicycle may be used to carry more persons at one time than the number for which it is designed or equipped.
- At least one hand must be kept on the handlebars while riding.
- Parents and guardians must not knowingly allow a child or minor ward to violate any provisions of this section.
- Every bicycle must be equipped with a brake or brakes which allow the rider to stop within 25 feet from a speed of 10 miles per hour on dry, level, clean pavement.
- In 2007 there were 4,847 crashes involving bicyclist. 4,303 of them included injury with 121 fatalities. *
- The trend of Florida having one of the worst bicycle crash rates has continued especially regarding fatalities.
- The largest class of crashes was wrong way riding (facing traffic) resulting in 17% of all car/bike crashes. About 50% of bicycle/car crashes were the fault of the cyclist. Nearly 50 percent of children age 14 and under hospitalized for bicycles related injuries are diagnosed with a brain injury.
- No more than 41 percent of child and adolescent bicyclists use bicycle helmets, although statistics show the helmet can drastically reduce the risk of death and injury and the severity of injury.
- Bicycle helmets can reduce the risk of a head injury by 85 percent and brain injury by 88 percent.
The Internet is an increasingly important place for children to learn, work and play. But it also presents challenges for parents, teens and younger children, especially considering the anonymity that masks users. You can help your child avoid online pornography and encounters with predators, hackers and others who would exploit children and their personal information by establishing rules for Internet use, and making sure the rules are enforced. I would like these posted to the side. There may be more that we need to post.
- Choose search engines carefully. Some are specifically designed for kids, and others offer kid-safe options.
- Tell kids when they come across any material making them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused to immediately tell you or another trusted adult.
- Help kids find information online. By searching the Internet together you help them find reliable sources of information and distinguish fact from fiction.
- Talk with your kids about their e-mail accounts, and discuss the potential risks involved. Remind them to never share passwords with anyone but you, not even their closest friends.
- Before you sign up with a service provider, research the effectiveness of its spam filters. You may also purchase spam-filter software separately.
- Teach kids not to open spam or e-mails from people they don’t know in person. Remind them not to respond to any online communication in a sexually provocative way. Ask them to show you suspicious communications.
- If your kids receive e-mail containing threats or material making them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused, report it to your service provider. Your provider’s address is usually found on their home page.
- AFAIK – As far as I know
- AFK – Away from keyboard
- ASL – Age? Sex? Location?
- BB – Bathroom break
- BF – Boyfriend
- BRB – Be right back
- CUL8R or CULR – See you later
- HW – Homework
- IDC – I don’t care
- KOTC – Kiss on the cheek
- LOL – Laugh out loud
- LYL – Love you lots
- LYLAS or LYLAB – Love you like a sister (or brother)
- OMG – Oh, my God
- POS – Parent over shoulder
- SN – Screen name
- TMI – Too much information
- Remind kids to IM only people they know in real life and who have been approved by you.
- Use privacy settings to limit contact to only those on your child’s buddy list. Make sure other users cannot search for your child by his or her e-mail address and username.
- Make sure both your kids and you are familiar with the blocking features available on most IM services. Tell your kids to block any sender they don’t know who IMs them.
- Take the time to learn the online lingo used by kids so you understand what they are talking about with each other.
- What’s a P911? It’s shorthand for “parent alert” ‘ a code some kids use to let others know a parent or guardian is watching. If you have trouble translating your kids’ online “lingo,” visit www.NetSmartz.org. There you’ll find a list of popular terms and abbreviations used in IM and chat rooms.
- Ask your kids about the people they are communicating with online.
- Insist your kids never give out personal information or arrange to meet in person with someone they’ve met online without first checking with you.
- Video and Photo Posting
- Talk to your kids about the possible implications of sending sexually explicit or provocative images of themselves or others.
- Kids should use webcams or post photographs online only with your knowledge and supervision.
- Remind your kids to ask themselves if they would be embarrassed if their friends or family saw the pictures or videos they post online. If the answer is yes, then they need to stop.
- Remind kids to be aware of what is in the camera’s field of vision and remember to turn the camera off when it is not in use.
- Caution kids about posting identity-revealing or sexually provocative photographs. Don’t allow them to post photographs of others ‘ even their friends ‘ without permission from their friends’ parents or guardians. Remind them once such images are posted they lose control of them and can never get them back.
Safety begins at home. Taking steps to improve the security of our home does not make our home burglary proof; however, it does help to deter the criminal. Most residential burglars are low to medium-skilled and often use crude methods to gain entry into your home. Their targets are generally selected at random, based on their perceived opportunity to successfully complete the crime without detection. Due to the inadequate security of many premises, these relatively unskilled individuals can gain entry into a home in less than one minute.Here are some tips that can help.
- Does exterior lighting illuminate all entrances to your home?
- Is shrubbery kept trimmed back so a burglar can’t hide near windows and doors?
- Are garage doors kept closed and locked at all times?
- Are exterior doors made of solid core construction (including door leading from garage to house)?
- Is there a peephole viewer (180 degree) on the front door?
- Are sliding glass doors secured with auxiliary locks or pinned, and are screws in the track to prevent removal of doors?
- Are exterior doors secured with a deadbolt lock (single or double cylinder) with a minimum 1″throw?
- Are windows secured with auxiliary keyed locks or pinned with a nail?
- Do you report suspicious persons or activity in the neighborhood to the police immediately?
- Are doors locked at all times?
- Are your valuables marked with your Florida driver license number and do you have a record of them with complete serial number, make and model?
If you were able to answer yes to all of the above precautionary measures, you have greatly decreased the likelihood of your home being burglarized.
Vacation is a time to relax; however, keep your common sense working. Below are some tips to help you in preparing to leave on your vacation and to help you stay safe while you visit.
Around the House
When going on vacation or out-of-town for any reason:
- Don’t publicize vacations ahead of time. Burglars watch for newspaper accounts.
- Stop deliveries of newspapers and mail.
- An Authorization to Hold Mail card (PS8076) may be obtained from your mail delivery person or picked up at your nearest Post Office. Or – have a friend pick them up while you are gone.
- Arrange to have the lawn mowed.
- Leave information where you can be contacted in an emergency with a trusted neighbor and ask them to keep an eye on your house.
- Give your house a lived-in appearance.
- Have a neighbor occasionally use your garbage can.
- Put automatic timers on several lights and a radio. Set them so they will turn on and off at random times in different rooms, especially the bathroom.
- Do not leave lights on 24 hours a day.
- Leave drapes in a normal position to maintain a lived-in appearance.
- Turn the bell on the telephone down to low.
- Have a neighbor park in your driveway or in front of your house.
- Contact the WCSO and ask for a deputy to conduct security checks of your home and property while you are away. This service is free to the public.
On the Road
While you are on your vacation, you can greatly increase our protection by taking the following safety precautions.
- Carry traveler’s checks instead of large amounts of cash.
- Always carry wallets, purses and bags securely. (Do not leave purses on chairs, under tables or on restroom hooks.)
- Keep your cash, jewelry and valuables (such as passports, cameras and airline tickets) locked in your hotel safety deposit box or safe.
- Keep track of your keys. (You may consider returning your hotel room key to the front desk while away from your room.)
- Do not leave room keys lying around the swimming pool.
- NEVER pick up hitchhikers.
- Never leave your keys in unattended car, even while running a quick errand or filling up with gas.
- While driving, travel on main roads and use maps.
- Lock any packages, cameras, clothing or other valuables in the trunk when you leave your car.
- At night, park your car in a well-lighted area. Remember to lock doors and roll up windows.
- Be wary of solicitors.
- Travel in pairs or groups if possible.
- Pay attention to your surroundings. Should you see anything suspicious; call 911.
- ALWAYS lock your hotel room door, even if just going for ice. Intruders much prefer to walk in rather than crash in.
Hide, Lock, Take
The Walton County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) is always looking for ways to keep its citizens and visitors safe. Now the deputies and investigators are urging folks to “Hide, Lock, Take” your items from your vehicle, meaning: hide your things, lock your car, and take your keys. It is a common sense approach to remind visitors and residents in our county to protect their belongings and prevent themselves from becoming a victim of a crime.
“Hide, Lock and Take” was started by Texas Auto Burglary & Theft Prevention Authority and the Central Business District (Dallas). The City of Dallas, Texas even adopted a local ordinance requiring all properties with more than 100 parking spaces to place signs to remind people on their property. In the fast-growing city of Frisco, Texas the signs were first put up in 2007 and a recent analysis by the Frisco Police Department concluded that the holiday season vehicle burglaries in the town’s busy shopping district had dropped 87 percent since the program began.
With the permission of local businesses, the signs are placed in the parking lot of the business by a member of our Civilian Volunteer Posse unit. The Posse members meet with businesses to discuss the number of signs needed and the location of the signs.
It is the hope of the WCSO that businesses will take advantage of this free program and become our partners in crime fighting. If you would like to participate in this crime prevention program, please contact Lt. Danny Garner at 850-892-8186 or [email protected].
Preventing Identity Theft
When your personal identification information (name, social security number, driver license number, etc.) has been used fraudulently to open credit accounts, bank accounts, obtain loans, utilities, telephone services, etc., without your knowledge or permission, you are the victim of the crime of identity theft. If you believe that your identity has been stolen, you should take the following steps:
- Immediately contact the company or financial institution’s fraud department where your information was used and alert them of this fraudulent account. Have the account closed or cancelled.
- File an immediate offense report with the law enforcement agency holding jurisdiction where the identity theft occurred and obtain a case number. The location of jurisdiction is where the account(s) were opened or services provided. If your identity has been assumed outside of Walton County and you wish to file an information report with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office, you may do so. The report will be forwarded to the jurisdiction where the crime occurred.
- Contact the three credit reporting companies listed below to report this identity theft complaint. You will need to confirm that a fraud alert is placed on your personal credit file. This alert should help prevent any future acts of fraud involving your personal identification information where a credit check would be conducted with the three credit bureaus.
To prevent yourself from becoming a victim you can:
- Try to use ATM machines you are familiar with and ones located in banks.
- Look around before conducting a transaction. If you see anything suspicious cancel the transaction and go elsewhere.
- Try to use the ATM before dark. If you must use the ATM after dark make sure it is in a well-lit location.
- Never walk away from the ATM with cash still in your hand. Don’t be distracted by counting your cash while walking away.
- When making a transaction from your car open the window as little as possible and keep your doors locked.
- Work with your bank to have your social security check or other regular income direct deposited into your bank account.
McGruff the Crime Dog
McGruff teaches children how to “Take a Bite out Of Crime”. McGruff the Crime Dog is a national symbol that assists law enforcement build crime awareness among children. Through personal appearances and media messages, McGruff partners with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office, to communicate to all how to protect themselves, their families and their neighborhoods against crime. McGruff Programs:
- Take a bite out of cyber crime.
- McGruff Child ID.
- Stop Bullying.
- Home Safety.
- Community Safety.
- Guns, Drugs, and Other Dangers.
If you are interesting in having McGruff visit your school, organization, or community event you may contact Lt. Danny Garner at 892-8186.
Reporting a Crime
In an emergency call 9-1-1. Remain calm and answer the questions asked by the dispatch personnel. The following list will be some of the information you will be asked.
- Type of Crime.
- Location of crime.
- Crime in progress or when it occurred.
- Description of vehicle.
- Description of suspect.
- Suspect Armed?.
- Direction of travel.
- Give your name, address, and phone number.
- Stay on line until you are told to hang up.
After calling police, activate your Neighborhood Watch telephone chain. If you come home to find you have been burglarized, do not enter your house or apartment. Immediately find a phone and call the police. Wait at a safe nearby location until they arrive. If the crime has already occurred and you need to file a report you may do so at any of our office locations. If you would like to report a crime anonymously you may do so my contacting Crime Stoppers at 888-654-TIPS (8477).