News

Problems enforcing texting while driving ban

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. -- Texting while driving has now been illegal for over 30 days, but are deputies on the roads really able to enforce the law?

The Clay County Sheriff's Office has issued zero citations for texting while driving and deputies are saying the statute's language is making it difficult to enforce the law.

Maureen Blakeney is no stranger to laws banning texting and driving. She lived in New York for 19 years where any hand-held activity with your cell phone while driving is illegal.

"It will ask you for the phone number or the name and it will dial it out for you," said Blakeney, who now uses hands-free dialing and voice-activated commands.

Blakeney is now living in North Florida and says she's shocked when she sees drivers texting behind the wheel.

Make A Difference Day spirit on the First Coast

ST. JOHN'S COUNTY, Fla. - Volunteers in St. John's County and Green Cove Springs we're out in full force for Make A Difference Day.

The Housing Finance Authority (HFA) of Clay County donated materials to build a ramp at a home in Green Cove Springs.

Through State Housing Initiatives Partnership Program (SHIP) funds, the resident's floors were stabilized and the new ramp will keep her safe as she comes and goes.

Volunteers from the St. Johns Housing Partnership also participated in community improvement projects celebrating Make A Difference Day.

Inside 'Operation Wrong Destination'

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. -- Sixteen men from at least ten different cities and four states were all arrested in Clay County for allegedly traveling to meet a minor for sex.

"It doesn't appear that there's any common denominator with these individuals, however, it does continue to amaze me the great lengths these individuals will go to in hopes of meeting and ultimately exploiting these kids for their own sexual perversions," said Colonel Craig Aldrich of the Clay County Sheriff's Office. 

In a five-day online sexual predator sting operation spearheaded in Clay, officers had online conversations with the suspects who arranged meetings with the person they allegedly thought was a minor.

"A lot of times they will start off as another child and then you'll find out they're 44 or 45-years-old but by then they've already engaged with this child and got this child thinking that they really care about them," said Col. Aldrich.

Arrests made in 'Operation Wrong Destination'

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. -- The Clay County Sheriff's Office, joined by the North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, announced 16 arrests on Tuesday in "Operation 'Wrong Destination.'"

The arrested include 16 men ranging in ages 20 to 53 who were charged with Traveling to Meet a Minor for Sex Offense and Use of a 2-Way Communication Device to Facilitate a Felony.

Athlete of the Week: Ridgeview's Rachel Castelli

Ridgeview High School junior Rachel Castelli has a lot on her plate.

This fall, she is a varsity cheerleader and team captain on the varsity volleyball team.  In her spare time away from these two sports, she serves a referee at junior high school volleyball games and coaches volleyball and basketball at the YMCA.

Despite all of her interests outside of school, she still manages to maintain a 3.6 weighted grade point average.

This spring, Rachel will be competing on the Panthers tennis team, and she'll be playing club volleyball.

If you'd like to nominate a local high school athlete for our athlete of the week award, please fill out the form located at this link:  http://www.firstcoastnews.com/sports/highschool/athleteoftheweek/default.aspx

CCSO urges awareness of counterfeit bills

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. -- The Clay County Sheriff's Office is trying to increase the public's awareness about counterfeit money being circulated in the community.

On Saturday, the Kangaroo Express at 4486 County Road 218W reported that it had in its possession a counterfeit $100 bill. The bill was ripped, did not have a ribbon or a hologram and did not change color when marked by a counterfeit detection pen, according to a CCSO incident report.

CCSO Detective Bill Roberts shows in a public service announcement tips that citizens and businesspeople should be aware of when handling money.

For example, on a $20 bill, Roberts says a hologram of President Andrew Jackson's face would be visible on the right lower portion of the bill. Also, on the left side of the bill, a strip that says "USA 20" would be visible.

Police need help identifying restaurant purse thief

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It was a gift from her sister, so it had sentimental value.

"The wallet inside was also a gift from my sister," said Vicky Danner.

Last month Vicky Danner's purse was stolen while she was at a restaurant.

"I was shocked that someone took it, that it was gone, that someone stole it," said Danner. 

Danner, 65, was having lunch at this Burger King on Fleming Island.

"I had my purse on the seat next to me, and my sunglasses and the keys were on the table," she said. 

She was apparently so involved in their conversation she left the restaurant without her purse. She turned around quickly but when she got there it was gone. 

Clay County Detective Michael Layne said say the person in a booth next to where Danner was sitting saw the purse and stole it.