Hollywood police launch economic crimes unit

Hollywood police launch economic crimes unit

HOLLYWOOD The identities of those living here should now be a little bit safer.

The Hollywood Police Department has launched an economic crimes unit, which will investigate crimes including identity theft and fraud. The unit will also be there to help residents whose identities have been stolen — whether in Hollywood, online or somewhere else — and to educate residents about how to protect themselves against economic crimes.

“Identity theft can create considerable emotional and financial distress for its victims, and that is why we’re providing this outreach center here,” said Chief of Police Frank Fernandez. “We understand the frustration.”

The unit’s offices in the police department’s West Network Center at 1109 N. 69th Way are now open Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Wednesdays from noon to 8 p.m.

Other agencies, including the Broward Sheriff’s Office and the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, already have economic crime units.

In Hollywood, the impetus for creating the unit is that reported economic crimes have risen over recent years, said Maj. Scott Pardon. In 2011 there were 853 reported. In 2013, there were 931.

Florida has the nation’s highest rate of identity theft, Fernandez said, and South Florida is the epicenter of that. That’s because South Florida is a “melting pot,” with people moving here frequently, Pardon said.

“When people move here from other parts of the country, they change their driver’s license, their insurance, they change everything. They apply for new jobs,” he said. “So their information is out there all over the place, and that makes their information vulnerable.”

At an event to announce the unit’s creation Friday, police department leaders gave out tips on how to stay safe from identity theft.

One major way identity thieves work is by stealing personal documents including driver licenses, registrations and insurance cards from people’s cars, Fernandez said, so keep those documents with you or at home.

“Take control of those documents, and take control of your identity,” he said.

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