(904) 264-6512: Sheriff’s Office’s non-emergency line can stop crimes before they happen

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Write this telephone number down: (904) 264-6512.

Better yet, put the Clay County Sheriff’s Office’s non-emergency number in your cellphone and don’t forget it. Do it now.

The non-emergency number isn’t just about reporting a cat stuck in the tree or a noisy neighbor playing the trombone in the middle of the night. It’s a chance for ordinary people to do extraordinary things by helping law enforcement stop crimes before they happen.

If you see something, you can say something by calling (904) 264-6512.

“It’s very discouraging because I’ve seen so many people say they didn’t want to bother us with something,” said Sheriff Michelle Cook. “That’s what we’re here for. Call us. We’re here to serve, and we can’t do that after the fact.”

Florida has been rocked by two senseless crimes in the past month that may have been thwarted before they happened. All somebody had to do was make a call to their county’s non-emergency number.

For Tristyn Bailey, a 69-year-old woman and her 1-year-old grandson, it’s already too late. There were signs of their imminent demise and nobody did anything about it. We should be better than this.

Bailey was a 13-year-old girl who was stabbed 114 times in the middle of the night on May 9 by a 14-year-old classmate, Aiden Fucci. Her body was found near a St. Johns County retention pond.

Other classmates said Fucci talked of taking someone into the woods and stabbing them to death. They didn’t report it. Now a 13-year-old girl is dead.

In West Palm Beach, 55-year-old Timothy J. Wall, bragged on social media he wanted to “kill people and children.” He followed through by stalking the grandmother and boy in the produce section of a Publix Supermarket. He killed the boy with a single shot. The grandmother tried to wrestle with the assailant, but she eventually was shot to death. Wall then turned the gun on himself.

Palm Beach Sheriff Ric Bradshaw was outraged by the complacency of Wall’s friends. Somebody had to see the posts, he said. Now a woman and a child are dead because nobody acted on them.

“The real sad part of this, other than the fact that two people are dead, is that there was a chance that this could be stopped,” Bradshaw angrily said.

If someone had called authorities may have been able to take Wall’s firearms away, citing Florida’s red flag law.

We’ll never know if that could have prevented the horrible double-murder. What we do know is nobody did anything to prevent it.

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office has a new project called “Do you have the number?” Cook hopes every resident puts the non-emergency number in their cellphone so they can report something suspicious.

“Sometimes you may have to call a couple of times,” she said. “That’s all right. It doesn’t do anybody any good when you get a call after the fact.”

Alerting authorities works. Although many calls turn out to be false alarms, a few have led to solid police work that likely saved lives.

Last year, a student at Lake Asbury Junior High saw a post on the social media app Houseparty that a classmate said he was going to “shoot people” at the school. The girl reported it to a teacher, who told the Clay County School District Police Department. The school then notified the sheriff’s office. Together they deemed the threat to be credible.

The boy was caught with a Colt rifle and ammunition he took from a locked cabinet at his grandparents’ house, CCSO said.

“This is a good went right with the cooperative atmosphere between Clay County Sheriff’s Office and all of our local agencies and our own police department,” Superintendent David Broskie said. “Here’s where when things went right. One, a student came forward bravely to announce to an adult what had happened. The teacher then did the right thing to report it to the deputy on campus, and then contacted the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.”

Thankfully, nobody wound up dead or injured at Lake Asbury Junior High – all because one girl did the right thing.

We should take her lead and do the same.

Remember, it’s (904) 264-6512.

Write it down. Store it in your cellphone. And don’t be afraid to use it when something seems out of order.

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