Alcohol is the most common drug consumed in our society which is legally available for persons age 21 and over in Ohio. Alcohol is abused through excessive consumption, and alcohol-induced behavior continues to be a significant factor in the commission of various crimes, including driving under the influence of alcohol. Under Ohio law, ordinarily it is a crime for persons under the age of 21 to consume alcohol. It is reported that every day in the United States, an average of 7,000 children under the age of 16 begin drinking alcohol. Children who consume alcohol put themselves at enormous health and safety risks. Any person who drinks a sufficient quantity of alcohol and drives a vehicle under the influence due to alcohol impairment commits a crime and risks the safety of himself or herself, any passengers in the vehicle, along with other drivers on the road or pedestrians/bystanders in an alcohol impaired driver’s path. Alcohol-related crashes continue to be a leading cause of vehicular-related deaths.
Persons age 21 and over who choose to drink alcohol should consume it responsibly and certainly never drink and drive a vehicle. A designated driver who has not consumed any alcoholic beverages should get behind the wheel when persons decide to leave a social gathering where alcohol is served and consumed. Parents should store alcohol kept at home in secure places, away from children. Parents should also refuse to supply alcohol to anyone under the age of 21. As a parent, it is a crime if you give alcohol to your teen’s friends under the age of 21 under any circumstance, even in your own home, even with their parent’s permission. It is a crime for a parent to host or allow teen drinking in your home. This is why you should make sure as a responsible parent that alcohol is not brought into your home or on your property by your teen’s friends. Talk to other parents about not providing alcohol at other events your child will be attending. Create alcohol-free opportunities and activities in your home so teens will feel welcome. Report underage drinking to your local law enforcement agency and by calling the anonymous, toll-free hotline at 1-877-4-MINORS.
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Dangerous and illegal drugs are readily available to people who live in our communities, including children. When protecting children from marijuana, cocaine, LSD, and other illegal drugs, parents can be the best weapon in the fight to keep kids safe and off drugs. Start by arming yourself with information, then talk to your children about the dangers of drugs. Learn more by visiting The Partnership for a Drug Free America on the Internet.
Trafficking in illegal drugs continues to be a crime problem in our communities. Persons who sell illegal drugs commit felony crimes and distribution of illegal drugs is like a poison injected into our communities, negatively impacting the quality of life in our towns and neighborhoods such that it can have devastating effects on families. Drug users who buy from traffickers become addicted to drugs and sometimes commit other more serious crimes such as robbery, burglary, and breaking and entering to find cash and other valuable property from other persons and from residences in order to support their drug habit.
Police can fight the drug problem more effectively if the community becomes more involved in providing needed assistance. Citizens should be vigilant in recognizing, recording, and reporting drug indicators in neighborhoods where suspected drug trafficking offenses are committed. Citizens can recognize exchanges of suspected drugs for cash, frequent vehicle visits to a residence, and other out-of-the ordinary behavior in problem neighborhoods. These observations, particularly identifying information such as descriptions of the persons and vehicles involved, and the relative times of the suspicious activity, should be recorded and reported to law enforcement. Although it may take some time and effort for the police to develop and build a case against a suspected drug trafficker, citizen tips have been helpful in numerous drug investigations which have led to the arrest and conviction of drug traffickers who were dealing drugs in Seneca County.
If there are adults or other children who have approached your child about using drugs, offered to sell drugs to someone you know, including your own child, or you have information about persons who are suspected of possessing or selling illegal drugs in your neighborhood, please contact the local confidential Drug “Tip” Hotline at 1-877-446-DRUG with the Seneca County Drug Task Force METRICH Enforcement Unit.
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Domestic violence is a crime most often associated with physical abuse by a spouse. However, domestic violence also occurs when a person is physically abused by an ex-spouse, a parent or child, or a parent of one’s child. A threat of violence, commonly referred to as domestic menacing, may also be prosecuted as a domestic violence or menacing by stalking.
Under Ohio law, the first charge of domestic violence is prosecuted as a misdemeanor offense in the appropriate municipal court, depending upon where the crime occurred.
A second domestic violence charge, however, if charged as knowingly causing or attempting to cause physical harm to a family or household member, is prosecuted as a felony offense of violence in a local Common Pleas Court. If you are being physically abused by a family or household member or you are aware of someone who is being physically abused, contact your local law enforcement agency for help. A person who physically abuses a child faces more serious charges under Ohio law and any suspected child abuse should be reported immediately to your local law enforcement agency in Seneca County (See “Law Enforcement Contacts” page) and Children’s Services at 419-447-5011 or toll free at 1-800-825-5011. You should assess the level of danger posed to you or your family and household members, particularly children. Don’t assume that things will improve as many batterers become more violent. A civil protection order may be filed to seek protection from violence. Please contact the Seneca County Victim Assistance Program at 800-400-9900 or 419-448-5070 to receive more information and assistance about applying for a CPO to protect yourself and your family against physical abuse.
Whether or not a CPO is ordered, you should establish a support network of family, friends and trusted neighbors, develop a safety plan, and contact the Seneca County Victim Assistance Program, who can refer you to other service providers for available specialized help. The safety of you and your family is of critical importance so contact local police immediately if there is a threat of domestic violence in your home. See “Law Enforcement Contacts” for a list of local law enforcement agencies.
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FRAUDULENT HOME REPAIR
There is probably no more important investment than your own home and it is important to protect yourself and your family from being victimized by unscrupulous or fraudulent home repair contractors. Contractors who perform work on your home are providing a service for compensation. If the contractor fails to complete the work or you are unsatisfied with the workmanship, you should consult with a private attorney to pursue any civil remedies against the contractor. A fraudulent home repair ordinarily does not involve a criminal act unless a contractor takes money based on a fraudulent representation he will perform work but never returns to start the job, which may suggest an intent to defraud, depending upon the facts and circumstances of an individual case. In this particular instance, local law enforcement should be contacted.
Otherwise, protect yourself, your family’s finances, including elderly family members and their finances by approaching any home improvement deal with a number of precautions. First, ensure that any home improvement deal is in writing, signed by both you and the contractor with the name, address, and telephone number of the contractor. Also, the agreement should contain a complete description of the work to be done, the materials to be used, a requirement that any changes in the project need to be approved in writing, the completion date of the project, the total cost for the work, and a clear statement explaining the contractor’s guarantee or warranty of the work to be performed.
It is also helpful to insist that the contractor give you references and be sure to check all of them. Proof of licenses, insurance, and bonding should be presented. You may want to receive written estimates from at least three different contractors before entering into a home improvement contract.
Be wary of any contractor who uses “scare tactics” to influence you. If a contractor tells you your roof will collapse if the work is not done immediately, you may want to get a second opinion. Watch out for contractors who place ads for cheaply priced repairs but then switch you to a more expensive job upon providing an estimate. Read and understand all papers before you sign, including copies. Avoid paying a contractor a large sum of money in advance of the work to be performed. Pay a reasonable down payment, but reserve final payment until the job is fully completed to your satisfaction. Always get a receipt for partial payments or deposits. If you have any questions about consumer protection related to home improvements, contact the Ohio Attorney General’s toll-free Consumer protection line at 800-282-0515 for more information.
Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes committed in the United States, aided by the fact that nearly 80 million American households use at least one credit card. On average, persons age 18 to 29 are more likely to become victims of identity theft because people in this age group do not take preventative steps to protect their personal information. Identity theft is named Identity Fraud under Ohio law and is a felony offense. Identity theft occurs when an impostor uses your personal information, such as your name, social security number, date of birth, or driver’s license number, etc. to secure credit cards, loans or merchandise as if the person is you. Identity theft can result in your credit rating being negatively affected, ruining you financially, and may result in arrest warrants being erroneously issued in your name.
Protect yourself from identity theft by using several preventative practices. When you pay by credit card, cross out all the card numbers except the last four on your signed receipt. Draw lines through any empty spaces on the copy. Reduce the number of credit cards you carry and cancel any unused cards in writing. Keep copies of your credit cards, including account numbers and expiration dates in a secure place, not your wallet or purse, so you can quickly notify creditors if your card is stolen. Do the same thing for your bank accounts. Further, never give your credit card numbers over the phone unless you can completely trust the company you are speaking with and you initiated the call.
Mail can be a source of identity theft. Take letters to be mailed directly to the local U.S. Post Office; refrain from leaving letters in an unlocked mailbox or vehicle. Shred or tear up mail containing unwanted credit card applications. Be sure to speak with your mail deliverer if mail is not being delivered to a secure location.
In general, check your credit history at least once each year and never give out your social security number. Use a password for your debit card, bank accounts, and other personal data to restrict access to your financial information. Report a missing ATM card to your bank within 2 days to avoid additional fees charged to your account. Block your name from marketing lists by calling 1-888-567-8688.
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INTERNET SAFETY & SEX OFFENDERS
The Seneca County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and Seneca County Sheriff’s Office are members of the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Ohio ICAC is a federal anti-crime initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. It is a collaboration of city, county, state and federal law enforcement authorities across Ohio whose mission is to identify, arrest and prosecute persons who: (1) use the Internet to lure minors into illicit sexual relationships; or (2) use the Internet to produce, distribute or solicit child pornography.
According to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Justice, 20% of children age 10-17 have received unwanted sexual solicitations online. That’s one in five of our kids. This is one reason why it is important for parents to think of the home computer as a “door” to the outside world and it is important that your child’s computer use is monitored to ensure your family’s safety to keep that “cyber-door” locked.
Parents should take preventative steps to ensure Internet safety in their homes. Keep a child’s computer in an open area of your home instead of in your child’s bedroom. Do not allow your child to password or otherwise hide computer activity from you. Know your children’s online friends and habits. Do not allow your child to post an online personal profile. Set rules for computer use, discuss and post them near your home computer, and monitor their compliance. Watch the amount of time your children spend on the computer: excessive Internet use, especially late at night, may indicate a problem. Periodically check your child’s e-mail account.
Additionally, remember that everything you read online may not be true. Someone claiming to be a 12 year-old girl could, in reality be a 40 year-old man. Be wary of offers that involve meetings or someone visiting your home based on an Internet contact. Tell your children never to respond to instant messages or e-mails that are suggestive, obscene, threatening, or make them feel uncomfortable. Encourage them to tell you if they encounter such messages. If you or your child should receive such a message, immediately forward it to your Internet service provider and ask for help. Report child pornography immediately to your local police or federal law enforcement authorities. It’s a crime and should be investigated. See the “Law Enforcement Contacts” page for a listing of local law enforcement agencies.
Finally, to find out information about nearby threats and to protect your children from sex offenders, conduct a free offender search at www.familywatchdog.us or view the sex offender registration listings for Seneca County by going to the "Links" page under the category for Sex Offender & Prison Offender Search.
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THEFT AND OTHER PROPERTY CRIMES
Although we live in neighborly communities in Seneca County, persons mainly with drug and alcohol problems commit theft and other property crimes and sometimes persons come from places outside Seneca County and commit crimes, particularly theft and other property crimes. Take preventative measures to deter criminals from invading your privacy and stealing your property in as many ways as you can. Some helpful tips are common sense but sometimes people fail to regularly take basic preventative measures such as locking the doors of a home, garage, or vehicle. Besides securing property to prevent access, keep lights illuminated at night on your property to deter a thief who ordinarily does not want to undertake the risk of an eyewitness observing the thief’s commission of a property crime. Keep certain valuables or heirlooms secured at a bank safety deposit box or in a safe place in your home, not in dressers or cabinets where access may be gained merely by opening a drawer or door. Do not leave cash, personal checks, or credit cards unsecured. Security systems should be installed to protect against illegal access into your home, garage, or vehicle.
Remember to report suspicious activity on your property as soon as possible when detected. While you may think property has been misplaced or lost, contact your local law enforcement agency to report suspected stolen property if it is unable to be found and family members or other persons with access to the property have been contacted to determine its whereabouts and it is unable to be found. The same is true with damaged property. A broken window in a garage or the basement window of your house could be the point of entry of a breaking and entering in your garage or a burglary of your home. When in doubt about such an occurrence, call the police to investigate.
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