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Preventing crime earns detective state honor

(ran Beach edition)

Cover sheets on last quarter's island crime statistics were decorated with Easter baskets, bunnies and eggs. Detective Kathi Lovelace wanted to make the reports attractive enough for residents to take note.

"Lack of crime sometimes means lack of involvement," Lovelace said.

When she first came to the Treasure Island Police Department in 1988, neighbors took a great interest in crime prevention.

"I actually became a crime prevention practitioner," she said, setting up neighborhood crime watch programs in all six sections of the island. But good crime statistics in the past 10 years have led to waning interest in prevention.

Lovelace, 40, wants to keep neighbors informed of local police activities and prepared to protect themselves and their property. She continues to publish regular reports of police calls in each section of the island.

Last month, she received a Crime Prevention Achievement Award from the Florida Attorney General's Office for her continued interest in preventing neighborhood crime.

She is organizing seminars on things like fraud, especially among senior citizens. And she has been working to involve businesses and the local hotel and motel owners in her prevention programs.

"This year we are hoping to have a crime scene day to set up a crime scene and let people try and solve the mystery," she said. Her ultimate goal is for the department to buy a mobile crime watch trailer to travel to each area of the island offering information about crime prevention as well as routine services such as bicycle registrations.

"We're really excited about that possibility," said her partner, Detective Dave Schilt. Until last year, Lovelace handled investigations in the 18-member department on her own.

She first became interested in police work at age 17 when she joined the high school police cadets in Palm Beach County where she grew up. She was certified as a police officer there in 1980, and in 1984 moved to Pinellas County.

In 1988 she became a full-time patrol officer in Treasure Island and was transferred to investigations in 1991.

Schilt, 37, has been with the department since 1981 as a patrol officer. He joins Lovelace in daily investigations as well as the crime prevention efforts.

"We mostly investigate burglaries and a lot of fraud complaints," Lovelace said.

In recent months, the pair has solved cases of credit card fraud as well as a case of an employee who allegedly embezzled $260,000 from a company. Another fraud case that the two handled locally involved a business offering $100,000 worth of phony services to elderly residents.

"We get hands-on experience with everything," Schilt said. "One day you're working a burglary and the next day a rape."

Involving the local hotel and motel owners and getting the word out to tourists to be more cautious is another focus of their detective work.

"We try to tell people to be more alert on vacations and not to be too relaxed," she said.

Keeping up on the latest trends in police investigations also is a priority of both Treasure Island detectives.

"Our chief (Joe Pelkington) is very pro-education," Lovelace said. "There is a class coming up on super-gluing human bodies that I want to attend."

The course is about new technology for lifting fingerprints off bodies. "I've always had an interest in forensics," Lovelace said.