PCAO moves into new building

FLORENCE - The Pinal County Attorney's Office new building opened this week, adding to the criminal justice complex in Florence.

A ribbon cutting ceremony marked the opening of the new building Wednesday. The new building is located at 971 North Jason Lopez Circle.

The five-story office took 18 months to build, cost roughly $20 million and will house approximately 150 county employees.

"My very first thank you, really, is to the public, is to the taxpayer," County Attorney Kent Volkmer said. "We as a government entity have an obligation to use those resources wisely and use them to their benefit."

PCAO's criminal prosecutors, administration and victim advocates will now all be located in the same building.

"Our office is very symbolic, for justice to occur there is a constant friction, there is a dichotomy, there is a battle of personal accountability and mercy," Volkmer said. "Justice is found where mercy and personal accountability meet. My sincere hope is when they see this building, when you see it when you drive by it, that you'll remember that dichotomy that justice is found where those few things meet."

 

Fentanyl making up bigger share of drug cases

FLORENCE - The dangerous synthetic opioid fentanyl is sharply increasing its prevalence in drug cases in Pinal County.

Fentanyl, which is roughly 100 times stronger than morphine, has been attributed to an uptick in opioid overdose deaths across the country in recent years. It takes a small amount to overdose and has become the drug of choice for some due to how cheap and easy it is to obtain.

"Not just in Pinal County but across the state and across the nation, we've just seen this unbelievable explosion of fentanyl and we're not immune to it," said Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer.

Volkmer noted the increasing prevalence of fentanyl in drug cases in Pinal County.

In 2019, less than 2% of drug-related charges involved fentanyl. In 2020, that number increased to around 11%. In 2021, the number exceeded 22%.

"We've seen a 750% increase in...charging for fentanyl," Volkmer said.

The effects of the drug are not hard to find.

"Pinal County is witnessing overall, about one overdose every single day," Volkmer said. "Not everybody is passing, but on average we see almost an overdose every day. That's tragic."

A woman who previously used fentanyl hopes her story deters anyone else from trying the drug.

"I just have a great life," said Valley resident Amanda Thompson, who has been sober for nearly two years. "If you would have asked me three years ago how my life would be I probably would have told you I'd be dead."

Thompson said she first used fentanyl by way of a guy she was dating at the time.

"At first it was just laced in the heroin we got and when we didn't get that we started smoking the [pills]," Thompson said.

Thompson was candid in sharing her story, hoping others realize the dangers of fentanyl.

"My friend diluted the pill and I snorted it...that's the last thing I remember," she said. "I woke up to being shot with Narcan, on the second shot, because I flatlined."

Thompson noted the devastating impact fentanyl has had on her life and those around her.

"I can't even tell you in the last 18 months that I've been sober how many people I've known from my past have died from fentanyl," she said. "Probably at least ten."

Thompson said during sobriety she repaired her relationship with family and is now in a much better place. She hopes her story deters others from ever trying the drug.

"Don't do it," she said. "I had my family, I had everything, and it was just, in the blink of an eye I lost it all. You can die."

Volkmer noted the problem fentanyl is causing across the country.

"That's the scariest part, there's not an easy solution," he said.

If you or someone you know needs help with opioid addiction, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a National Hotline. That number is 1-800-662-4357.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, there have been more than 11,500 suspected opioid deaths in the state since the Summer of 2017.

Heading toward the end of 2021

FLORENCE - As we head toward 2022, the Pinal County Attorney's Office encourages people to make smart choices during holiday parties and get togethers in the coming weeks.

This year, PCAO has charged more than 100 felony DUI and more than 500 misdemeanor DUI cases. If you are planning to drink, ensure that you designate a sober driver.

Meanwhile, PCAO would also like to thank all of the staff who helped children in need this holiday season.

County Attorney Kent Volkmer shared the following about the photo below:

"I am so proud of this office. For the past 5 years, PCAO has chosen to partner with DCS to create an Angel Tree for children in need. Each year, the PCAO family has gone above and beyond to purchase and wrap presents to help meet local children’s needs and brighten their holiday season. This year, we “adopted” 25 of our most at risk and in need children in our community. This picture represents the sum total of our giving. Thank you to everyone at PCAO and to everyone everywhere that chose to help a child in need this holiday season. May you have a blessed, happy and safe rest of the year."

Angel tree gifts donated by PCAO staff are going to help children in need this holiday season

New initiative launches to curb illegal dumping

FLORENCE - A new rewards program will provide a monetary incentive for residents to submit tips and information on those illegally dumping items in the desert as part of a revamped effort to curb the issue across Pinal County.

Pinal County is a beautiful place to live, work and play. However, the amount of tires, mattresses and other items littered across the desert is unacceptable and an eye sore. The Pinal County Attorney’s Office is launching a ‘rewards program’ that will provide a $500 reward to tipsters who submit information on people illegally dumping items if the tip leads to charges in the case.

“This is a problem that we need the whole community to help us solve,” said Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer.

Pinal County has also created a new, simplified online page to direct residents to any resource they are seeking. This includes how to properly dispose of bulky items, when and where to find community cleanups, and how to report an illegal dump site.

“We wanted a one stop shop with all the information that people would need to do the right thing,” Volkmer said. “We are really excited and hopeful that this new program is going to cut down on illegal dumping and hold those that do dump accountable.”

The new online site, which includes the submission form for the rewards program, officially launched Wednesday, December 8th.

“There’s no longer the excuse of, ‘I didn’t know what to do with it,” Volkmer said. “All of the information is now at the end of your fingertips.”

You can find the new online page HERE.

The revamped effort to address this issue is truly a county-wide effort. The Pinal County Attorney’s Office would like to thank public works, public health, the IT department, communications and marketing and the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office for their contributions and participation in this effort to #KeepPinalPristine.

Watch out for Identity Theft

FLORENCE - As you make purchases this holiday season, be sure to stay alert and keep an eye out for signs that you have experienced identity theft.

If you believe that someone is using your personal or financial information to make purchases or commit fraud, visit IdentityTheft.Gov to report the issue and get a personal recovery plan. The site provides advice to help you deal with problems caused by identity theft, as well as the ability to get a personal recovery plan that walks you through the process, update your plan and print pre-filled letters to send to credit bureaus, businesses and debt collectors.

There are many types of identity theft. Regardless of which type you have experienced, there are several steps you should take as soon as possible.

WHAT TO DO RIGHT AWAY

Step 1: Call the companies where you know fraud occurred

  • Call the fraud department and explain someone stole your identity. Ask them to close or freeze the accounts
  • Change all logins, password and PIN numbers for your accounts

Step 2: Place a fraud alert and get your credit reports

  • For a free fraud alert, contact one of the three credit bureaus. The company you contact must tell the remaining two.
    • Experian.com/help
    • 888-EXPERIAN (888-397-3742)

 

    • TransUnion.com/credit-help
    • 888-909-8872

 

    • Equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services
    • 800-685-1111
  • Get your free credit report from the credit bureaus at annualcreditreport.com

Step 3: Report identity theft to the FTC.

 

Winners announced in Anti-Drug Poster Contest

FLORENCE- Dozens of families gathered to honor and celebrate students during the 2021 Anti-Drug Poster Contest Awards Ceremony Thursday night.

More than 750 sixth grade students submitted entries this year. Those submissions were whittled down to the top 40, who gathered for the awards ceremony where the top 3 winners were revealed.

"This is really about creativity and it's about fun," said County Attorney Kent Volkmer. "But what we really want to have happen is we want parents and loved ones...to have conversations with their kids."

The submissions came from students who attend schools all across Pinal County.

"It's my hope that this will be a conversation starter," Volkmer said.

The 31st Annual Anti-Drug Poster Contest is dedicated to the memory of Judge Robert Bean.

"What he realized 31 years ago is that sixth graders, even back then as they are today are facing...progression and maturity into, sort of, teenage years and into high school," Volkmer said. "As you progress, as you grow, you have choices to make."

While the event itself is a celebration of the students' achievement, Volkmer noted the serious issue at hand. He cited a rise in fentanyl cases, with 20% of all drug busts by law enforcement involving the opioid.

"[It] essentially gets you really high, makes you fall asleep and unfortunately if you overdose on it you fall asleep and you never wake up," Volkmer said, noting it is typically mixed into a pill. "You don't have to inject it, you don't have to smoke it, you don't have to take it any other way than just having a single pill that you swallow. You may think it's just a pill to have fun, you may think it's a pill that's just going to relax you, that you're stressed, that you need to calm down. But that pill could end up costing you your life."

The Anti-Drug Poster Contest allows students the chance to show off their creativity while crafting an anti-drug message.

"We get their families to come in, get their loved ones to come in, we get [a] great show from law enforcement that's here, we get to bring the kids up and talk about them and really shake their hands, congratulate them and truly celebrate them," Volkmer said.

The top 10 and top 3 selections are made by three Pinal County judges.

"It is as honest as we can make it," Volkmer joked. "Who better can we have to judge than our actual sitting judges?"

The third place winner’s poster will be placed on bookmarks, second place will be on spiral notebooks and the first place will be on t-shirts.  All 40 students will receive one of each of those prizes.  The first place winner’s class gets a field trip to Phoenix Science Center.

The winning poster this year was submitted by Savae Garcia from Casa Grande Middle School.

"I was like 'whoa' and then I just went up here with a big smile on my face," Garcia said about her reaction to being called as the winner.

Garcia's poster includes exquisite artwork with the phrase 'When it comes to drugs keep it moving.'

"I have a family member that's on drugs currently," she said. "I wanted her to stop because it took me away from her."

Garcia said she spent a couple hours a day over the course of several weeks creating and fine-tuning her poster.

"I'm very proud of myself," she said.

When asked what message she hopes other kids take away from her poster, she had a quick response.

"Don't do drugs, keep it moving," she said.

The top 10 posters will hang in the hallway for the next year in Pinal County Superior Court.

 

FIRST PLACE: Savae Garcia / Casa Grande Middle School

 

SECOND PLACE: Layla Perez / Eduprize

 

 

THIRD PLACE: Maria Elena Matus / Circle Cross Ranch

 

 

 

 

Community Shred Event this weekend

The public is invited to attend a community Shred-A-Thon that is scheduled for November 20th in Florence,  Arizona.

"The best assistance that I can provide to you as a victim of identity theft is to do everything we can to prevent you from ever being a victim," said County Attorney Kent Volkmer. "Once your identity is stolen, there is very little we can do to make you whole or give you your life back. "

 

WHEN: November 20, 2021

TIME: 9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. 

LOCATION: Anthem Community Park, 3313 N. Anthem Way, Florence

 

Top 5 documents to SHRED:

-Old Tax and IRS Documents
-Old Bills with account information
-Old Records with name, social security, addresses
-Old Medical Records
-Old Bank Records

Recognizing community nonprofits

FLORENCE - The Pinal County Attorney's Office would like to recognize some of the excellent nonprofit organizations helping communities around Pinal County.

"In today's world, where we hear and see nothing but negativity and divisiveness, I think it's important to recognize some of the good that happens in our community," said County Attorney Kent Volkmer.

One of the nonprofit organizations is HOHP (Honoring/Hiring/Helping Our Heroes of Pinal County), which is based in Casa Grande and provides resources for Veterans across Pinal County.

Another nonprofit in our community is Hope Women's Center, which is based in Coolidge. The center provides a safe haven for at-risk women and girls, as well as providing them resources.

 

Happy Halloween

FLORENCE - The Pinal County Attorney's Office would like to wish everyone a safe and happy Halloween.

While out trick-or-treating this weekend, have a good time but please remember to stay safe while enjoying the night with family and friends.

  • Watch out for vehicles (and vice versa to those driving)
  • Walk on the sidewalk
  • Stay together in a group
  • Have an adult inspect the haul of candy before eating it
  • Only approach homes that are lit up

Below is a message from County Attorney Kent Volkmer.

 

Youth Engagement

ANTI-DRUG POSTER CONTEST

The Pinal County Attorney's Office partners with schools across Pinal County each year to sponsor an anti-drug poster contest. The contest usually draws between 400-800 entries and involves roughly two dozen schools. It is our goal to help youth understand the dangers of drugs. The students are encouraged to come up with creative slogans and pictures illustrating their message.

The submissions are then whittled down to the top 40. Three Pinal County Judges choose the top ten and then the top three winning posters.  Those judges are Judge Joseph R. Georgini, Superior Court Presiding Judge; Judge Kevin White, Superior Court Associate Presiding Judge and Judge Daniel Washburn, Presiding Juvenile Judge.  The top ten join Mr. Kent Volkmer for a group photo at the Superior Courthouse, which includes a tour, a tour of the jail and then lunch.  The third place winner’s poster will be on bookmarks, the second place will be on spiral notebooks and the first place will be on t-shirts.  All 40 students will receive one of each of those prizes.  The first place winner’s class gets a field trip to Phoenix Science Center.

SKY IS THE LIMIT

This event is geared around 6th-8th grade girls and their favorite female companion (mom, grandma, aunt, step-mom, guardian, etc.). It is a day to come together to learn, laugh, and open up communication. The girls and their companion have the opportunity to have breakfast, take fun pictures, enter into raffle drawings, watch and listen to their classmates sing the National Anthem, and post the colors. Additionally, the girls and their companions get to do a journaling project, have a catered lunch,  learn about the dangers of sexting and texting, talk about suicide prevention,  self harm, trafficking, and how to build healthy relationships. The day wraps up with some fun singing, dancing and pictures.

SILENT WITNESS ANTI-CRIME NIGHT

This is an annual event held in Casa Grande that allows the community to interact with law enforcement and other partner agencies. There are dozens of booths setup that allow for families to interact, ask questions and play fun games. The event allows for kids of all ages to seek out prizes, while learning more about the agencies involved in the event. The Pinal County Attorney's Office also disseminates useful information at this event, including on topics such as bullying and teen dating abuse.

G.A.I.N  (Getting Arizonans Involved in Neighborhoods)

G.A.I.N is an opportunity for communities to come together and get to know each other. The event takes place generally in the Fall and is a nationwide crime prevention celebration. Attendees can interact with law enforcement and also receive crime prevention tips and information. The effort is aimed at strengthening community bonds and ensuring residents know what resources are available to them. G.A.I.N most recently took place in Coolidge in October 2021.

Trunk or Treat

One of our favorite times of the year! As temperatures fall, our annual Trunk or Treat gives an excellent opportunity to engage with our youngest community members. These events are coordinated in partnership with the Arizona City Fire District as well as the Town of Florence. This provides a safe place for kids and families to enjoy the Halloween festivities.