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Sanford Vigil Shines Light on Domestic Violence

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SANFORD – The Sanford Police Department ended Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October with a candlelight vigil.

The event, coordinated by Officer Kate Walsh, was attended by members of the Sanford Police Department, Seminole County Sherriff’s Office, State Attorney’s Office, Safe House and citizens from local and neighboring communities.

dv hotlineA_182xDuring the vigil, guest speaker Dohmeher described the nearly fatal attack from her ex-boyfriend, who stabbed her 32 times because she was breaking up with him.

“He said he just wanted a hug,” she recalled. “It’s all he wanted … a final goodbye. All he wanted was closure and I basically, you know, walked outside to my murder.”

Dohmeher’s story has been featured on “Good Morning America,” “48 Hours,” and in the “National Enquirer.”

Please report domestic violence to your local law enforcement agency or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE).

Keep Your Children Safe Online

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SANFORD – You wouldn’t drop off an 11-year-old child at a shopping mall alone and on their own, would you?

That’s essentially what parents are doing when they let their young children surf the Internet unsupervised in their homes, said Special Agent Frank Heinzmann, of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Cyber and High Tech Crimes Squad.

Heinzmann’s specialty is Internet crimes against children and he gave an informative and important presentation on the subject during the August meeting of the Seminole Prevention Coalition.

“The Internet is probably the greatest double-edge sword ever,” Heinzmann remarked. The global system of computer networks offers a vast array of useful information. But it also contains many dangers, such as child sex predators, who find and groom their victims online.

“These guys are everywhere,” said Heinzmann, who added that last year there were about 1,500 computers advertising child pornography in Orange County alone.

FDLE circle logo 182x182The FDLE squad works with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® (NCMEC), (link: and is a member of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (link:, a network of 61 coordinated Task Forces representing more than 3,000 Federal, state and local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies.

“No one agency can take this on by itself,” Heinzmann said. “Unfortunately, we are very busy.”

According to NCMEC, 1 in 7 children who go online will get solicited by a child sex predator, 1 in 3 will be exposed to unwanted sexual material, and 1 in 25 will get a request from a child sex predator to meet in person.

Also, 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys will be sexually victimized before
they reach the age of 18. That victimization can range from sexually explicit pictures to sexual battery, and only 1 in 3 victims will come forward.

There are 620,000 registered sex offenders in the United States and 100,000 are non-compliant and/or missing, Heinzmann added. Finally, two thirds of sex offenders in prison victimized children.

Child sex offenders use the Internet to network with like-minded offenders, trade child porn and gain access to children, Heinzmann
said. Oftentimes, these predators will hide their true identities in order to make friends with children online.

The danger areas that parents should beware of are:

  • Chat rooms, which are now accessible via smart phones

  • Peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing networks, such as Kazaa, LimeWire and Shareaza

  • Online video games

  • Social networking sites, such as Facebook, Myspace and MeetMe

  • Smart phones, where kids can access the Internet, text and use photo apps like Snapchat

Again, Heinzmann urges parents to prevent their children from going online unsupervised.

Parents should make sure their children’s computer screens are visible to them. They should also utilize parental control software, such as Net Nanny and WebWatcher for computers, and My Mobile Watchdog for smartphones.

“If something doesn’t look right to you, tell somebody,” Heinzmann added.

If you suspect your child could be the victim of an Internet pedophile, call your local law enforcement agency. You can also visit, which will direct you to an agency in your area, or To learn how to teach children to be safe on the Internet visit, and go to for more tips.

Learn About the Dangers of Marijuana

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SANFORD – Community members who attended the May meeting of the Seminole Prevention Coalition learned about the latest research, emerging trends and common myths about marijuana.

The presentation by guest speaker Christine Stilwell, Orlando Regional Director of Informed Families/The Florida Family Partnership & Grassroots Regional Director, was particularly important given Florida’s pending legislation to legalize medical marijuana. A constitutional amendment was approved by the state Supreme Court and will appear on the ballot this November.

“Twenty one states and the District of Columbia have passed medical marijuana laws,” Stilwell noted.

Made illegal in 1937, marijuana is the most abused illicit drug in the nation, she added. It affects every organ in the body, it is linked to mental illness and can produce a psychotic reaction.

The mind-altering THC content in today’s marijuana is 16 percent, up from just 1 percent a few decades ago, Stilwell said.

Marijuana is the top substance for those entering into substance addiction programs, she said. Its abuse rate is higher than that any other drug, including heroin and pain relievers.

Persistent use of marijuana leads to an average loss of 8 IQ points, according to a New Zealand study. Long-term use of the drug by either a mother or father can cause harmful effects for newborns, such as low birth weight.

After alcohol, marijuana-impairment is the second leading cause of car accidents, Stilwell pointed out. Marijuana doubles incidents of car accidents.

Stilwell also covered new ways of ingesting marijuana – dabbing (inhaling of super-concentrated smoke) and vaporizing – and tackled several myths about marijuana. Just a few of the myths and facts follow:

Myth: Marijuana is not addictive.
Fact: Marijuana is addictive. Nine percent of people who try it become addicted, 17 percent of those who start using it in their teens become addicted, and 20-50 percent of daily users develop addiction.
Myth: Marijuana is safer than alcohol.
Fact: Both have similar dangers, including addiction, birth defects, suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety and brain damage.
Myth: Marijuana is medicine. 
Fact: Medicine that stimulates appetite and reduces nausea and vomiting is already on the market, such as Marinol and other drugs on track for FDA approval.
Myth: We’re locking up all our marijuana users.
Fact: Only 0.1 percent of drug-related offenders in jail are there for using marijuana.
Myth: Marijuana is good economics.
Fact: Social, health care and criminal costs would go up.

The Florida amendment on the ballot in November would allow for edible marijuana products such as butters, baked goods (brownies and donuts) and sodas.

Pot delivery guy_white borderCritics of the ballot wording, including Stilwell, argue that the measure would require no criteria for a caregiver, so that one can list oneself as a caregiver, it sets no age limit, permits unlimited marijuana use for those with a physician’s recommendation, and it allows for pot shops that could offer onsite marijuana use and delivery service. A physician can be an acupuncturists, naturopathic doctors, optometrists, chiropractors, podiatrists and osteopathic doctors are all listed as physicians.

Finally, the Florida law would allow out-of-state visitors to buy and use medical marijuana, which could lead to similar problems that the state had with pill mills.

“This is scary stuff,” Coalition Director Debbie Owens, said, adding that is important for word of mouth to get around to voters about the wording of the amendment. “Educate the people that you know, so they know the facts.”

Additional resources: Drug Free America Foundation, Inc., Don’t Let Florida Go to Pot, Florida Sheriff’s Association, Save Our Society From Drugs, Community Alliances for Drug Free Youth, Smart Approaches to Marijuana

Advocating for Victims

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SANFORD, FL – The Seminole Prevention Coalition’s late-March meeting featured guest speakers who discussed a pair of very serious issues — sexual assault and human trafficking.

Nearly 1 in 5 women (22 million) have been raped in their lifetime and only 39 percent of rapes are reported, according to statistics shared by Rebecca Crawford, Community Outreach Coordinator from the State Attorney’s Office, SAVS (Sexual Assault Victim Services).

SAO 18th District logo_182xSAVS is a certified rape crisis program working in cooperation with the State Attorney’s Office to provide free and confidential support and advocacy services to sexual assault victims and their loved ones.

SAVS is staffed with victim advocates who provide victims with emotional support and assistance in making informed decisions.

In 2012, there were 237 forcible sex offenses and seven domestic violence sex offenses reported in Seminole County. During that same year, 920 forcible sex offenses and 184 domestic violence sex offenses were reported in Orange County.

The majority of rape victims are young, between the ages of 16 and 24, Crawford added.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 80 percent of female victims were raped before they turned 25 and almost half were raped before they turned 18.

“Rape is everyone’s problem, not just the victims’ problem,” Crawford said.

The 24-hour rape hotline operated by SAVS is 407-321-RAPE (7273). For more information on SAVS visit

Human trafficking is another disturbing topic that was addressed by Sue Aboul-hosn, Central Region Criminal Justice Coordinator Missing Children/Human Trafficking Advocate with the state Department of Children and Families.

Florida DCF res_182xHuman Trafficking is modern day slavery. It is defined as the transporting, soliciting, recruiting, harboring, providing, or obtaining of another person for transport; for the purposes of forced labor, domestic servitude or sexual exploitation using force, fraud and/or coercion.

In 2013, there were 12 reports of human trafficking in Seminole County.

Trafficking is a huge industry that generates up to an estimated $34 billion in profits for traffickers. Aboul-hosn explained that unlike other illegal enterprises involving drugs or weapons, people can be repeatedly exploited and sold over and over again, making the industry extremely lucrative.

There are 2.2 million victims in the United States and 56 percent of victims are women and girls. Victims can be found working on farms, in factories, bars and restaurants, brothels, escort services, on the Internet and even in private homes.

Some child victims work in traveling sales crews and roam through residential neighborhoods seeking donations for fake charities, Aboul-hosn said. They’re forced to work long hours, they’re mistreated and are left unsupervised all day long.

While anyone can become a victim of trafficking, certain populations are especially vulnerable, such as undocumented migrants, runaway and homeless youth, and impoverished individuals. These groups are all vulnerable to recruitment tactics and methods of control.

In fact, two thirds of all runaways are recruited into the sex industry after spending 48 hours on the street, Aboul-hosn said. It is estimated that 1.5 million to 2 million children will go missing this year and that 5,000 of them will die.

Please call to get help, report a tip of suspected trafficking, or request information and training.

The state Department of Children and Families Abuse Reporting Hotline is 1-800-96-ABUSE (22873) and the number for theNational Human Trafficking Resource Center is 1-888-373-7888, or text INFO or HELP to BeFree (233733).

SWAT Stands Up to Big Tobacco

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SANFORD, FL – In January, the Seminole Prevention Coalition welcomed a representative from Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) to our meeting to discuss Big Tobacco’s efforts to target kids with ads and flavored tobacco products.

SWAT is Florida’s statewide youth organization working to mobilize, educate and equip Florida youth to revolt against and de-glamorize Big Tobacco. The organization is open to 6th- to 12th-graders.

Our guest speaker was Shirley Castillo, of Lake Mary High School, who has been active in SWAT for more than six years. She gave an eye-opening presentation about tobacco marketing.

In 2011, Big Tobacco spent more than $8.37 billion in advertising and promotion, mostly on point of sale ads.

“Almost every tobacco product that they sale is flavored,” Shirley said, adding that fruit- and candy-flavored products are aimed at young people in an attempt to replace people who die from smoking.

Later in January, SWAT is scheduled for an educational meeting with Winter Springs City Mayor Charles Lacey to discuss flavored-tobacco issues. A Coalition representative will be on hand for support.

You can learn more about SWAT at and learn how to quit smoking at Tobacco Free Florida at

Plan for a Safe Super Bowl Sunday

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SANFORD, FL – As Super Bowl Sunday approaches and football fans across the country prepare for the game, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), along with the National Football League (NFL) and Techniques for Effective Alcohol Management (TEAM) Coalition, have joined forces with local highway safety and law enforcement officials to spread the message about designating a sober driver on Super Bowl Sunday, because – Fans Don’t Let Fans Drive Drunk.

According to NHTSA, in 2011, 9,878 people were killed in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes. These crashes were 31 percent more likely to occur on weekends than on weekdays.

Whether attending the game, watching at a bar or hosting a party, NHTSA, TEAM Coalition, the NFL and the Seminole Prevention Coalition remind everyone that Fans Don’t Let Fans Drive Drunk.  Before choosing to drink, choose your team’s MVP – a sober designated driver. NHTSA offers these additional safety tips:

If you’re attending a Super Bowl party or watching the game at a sports bar or restaurant:

  • Designate your sober driver, or plan another way to get home safely before the party begins.

  • If you don’t have a designated driver, then ask a sober friend for a ride home; call a cab, friend, or family member to come and get you; or just stay for the night.

  • Call the free ride program Tow to Go, sponsored by AAA and Bud Light, at (855) 2-TOW-2-GO or (855) 286-9246.

  • Never let friends drive if they have had too much to drink.

Designate a Sober Driver This Holiday Season

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SANFORD, FL — The holidays are a time for celebration, visiting with loved ones, and reflecting on the year past and the year ahead. Yet all too often, the holiday spirit is destroyed by the recklessness of a drunk driver.

That’s why the Seminole Prevention Coalition is joining with highway safety partners and law enforcement organizations across the country this December to remind everyone that Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving, and that drinking and driving don’t mix.

Whether you’ve had one or one too many — drinking and driving is never worth the risk. If you are going to drink, designate a sober driver before the party starts, and encourage your friends and family to always do the same.

Twenty-nine percent of fatalities during the Decembers of 2007 to 2011 occurred in crashes that involved drivers with blood alcohol concentrations of .08 grams per deciliter or higher.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 760 people died as a result of drunk driving-related crashes during December 2011.

The Seminole Prevention Coalition is encouraging people to take steps to ensure their holiday celebrations don’t end in tragedy.

  • Designate a sober driver before the celebrations begin; plan a way to get home safely at the end of the night.
  • If you are impaired, call a taxi, phone a sober friend or family member, use public transportation or call the free ride program Tow to Go, sponsored by AAA and Bud Light, at (855) 2-TOW-2-GO or (855) 286-9246.
  • Be responsible. If someone you know is drinking, do not let that person get behind the wheel.
  • If you see an impaired driver on the road, contact law enforcement. Your actions may save someone’s life, and inaction could cost a life.

The holidays should be a time for celebration — not tragedy. Help the Seminole Prevention Coalition make Seminole County’s roadways safer by never driving after drinking. Remember: Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving.

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