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Palm Coast Friday, Dec. 16, 2016 2 years ago

NEWS BRIEFS: Sheriff's Office honors consul of Portugal for donation to employee gym

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Also in News Briefs: Mail thieves steal joy during holidays

Sheriff's Office honors consul of Portugal for donation to employee gym

Sheriff Jim Manfre presented a plaque of appreciation Dec. 15 to Dr. Caesar DePaco for his generosity toward the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, according to a Sheriff's Office news release. DePaco, who serves as the Consul of Portugal for Florida, has donated $8,000 toward an employee fitness center for the Sheriff's Office.

Since August 2016, at least 10 employees from the Sheriff’s Office have been working to renovate part of a building at the Sheriff’s Operations Center that wasn’t part of construction of the new building.

The project cost approximately $22,000 in funding from the Sheriff’s Office and private donations from local businesses and Consul DePaco for supplies and materials, said Sheriff's Office Detective Art Erlandson, who has spearheaded the gym project.

Manfre told employees at the Dec. 15 presentation that DePaco has a heart for the Sheriff’s Office and its employees and has been very generous to help meet the Sheriff's Office's needs.

“Dr. DePaco has gone above and beyond in his loyalty to the Sheriff’s Office,” Manfre said. “We are very grateful for his passion.”

DePaco told those gathered that the men and women of the Sheriff's Office are the ones who risk their lives daily and should be honored.

“Having a Sheriff’s Office force which is in top physical condition is an obvious benefit to the citizenry,” DePaco said. “Lives, not only their own, but those of the community, are in their hands. It’s absolutely critical to be in top health to be able to be assertive and ready on the job.”

Mail thieves steal joy during holidays

'Tis the season to be jolly, unless residents discover holiday gifts or mail has been stolen off porches or out of mailboxes.

The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office has received several reports of holiday thefts — of both incoming and outgoing mail — this week, from areas countywide, according to a Sheriff's Office news release.

Some of the reported thefts include:

  • Five or six Christmas cards stolen from a sender’s mailbox on Eric Drive in Palm Coast on Dec. 12
  • 25-30 Christmas cards stolen from a sender’s mailbox on Esperanto Drive in Palm Coast on Dec. 13.
  • A package stolen from a recipient’s mailbox located on U.S. 1 South in Bunnell sometime between  Friday, Dec. 9, and Tuesday, Dec. 13.
  • Two gift cards stolen from a recipient’s mailbox on Cherry Lane in Bunnell between Nov. 16 and Dec. 5, 2016.

Palm Coast U.S. Postal Service Postmaster Jim Davis said his office is aware of recent mail thefts, which rise during the holiday season as thieves look for opportunities to commit crimes.

During the holiday season, local postal carriers are delivering packages early in the day to possibly reach residents before they go to work, Davis said. Also, due to the amount of increased holiday mail, carriers are delivering until early evening.

To reduce mailbox thefts, don’t send valuables, such as cards containing money, in your outgoing mailbox, Davis urges. Instead, use local U.S. Postal Service collection boxes or post office drive- up boxes in Bunnell, Flagler Beach and Palm Coast.

“This is the time to be extra vigilant. Criminals are looking for unsuspecting victims to prey upon,” Sheriff Jim Manfre said. “Please be extra cautious and aware, when you’re shopping, parking in public places and with your mail and holiday packages. It only takes a few extra minutes to prevent becoming a victim of crime.”

Mailboxes are considered federal property, and federal law makes it a crime to vandalize them (or injure, deface or destroy any mail deposited in them). Violators can be fined up to $250,000, or imprisoned for up to three years, for each act of vandalism.

The U.S. Postal Service offers these tips:

  • Use the letter slots at your post office to mail letters, or give them to a letter carrier.
  • Pick up your mail promptly after delivery. Don’t leave it in your mailbox overnight.
  • Ask your bank for “secure” checks that can’t be altered.
  • Advise your post office when you’ll be out of town, so your mail can be held until you return.

Consider starting a neighborhood watch program. By exchanging work and vacation schedules with trusted friends and neighbors, you can watch each other's mailboxes (as well as homes).

REPORT MAIL THEFT:

If you see a mail thief at work, or if you believe your mail was stolen, call the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office immediately by calling 911, then call Postal Inspectors at 877-876-2455 (press option three). Or report it online at postalinspectors.uspis.gov.

FILE A MAIL THEFT COMPLAINT:

By phone, call 1-800-275-8777. To report it online, go to usps.com, check under "Where is My Package," enter the tracking number or select "No," and then click on "Continue," and enter all applicable information.

PREVENTING MAILBOX VANDALISM:

Rural area mailboxes are vulnerable to vandalism because they are usually isolated, located on public thoroughfares, and frequently not visible to the box owners from their homes. City residential mailboxes are vandalized less often.

Postal inspectors recommend these tips:

  • Immediately report theft, tampering, or destruction of mail or mailboxes to your postmaster. Or click here to report it to the Postal Inspectors online, or call 1-877-876-2455 (press 5).
  • Keep your mailbox in good repair, and make sure it’s properly installed. This may help prevent theft of the mailbox itself.

Anyone with any information about these crimes, or any crime in Flagler County, is asked to call the Sheriff's Office at 386-313-4911. Callers may remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000 by calling Crime Stoppers of Northeast Florida at 1-888-277-8477.

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