Local News

Authorities warn against vehicles with fake flashing lights stopping drivers

—Highlands County Sheriff’s Office detectives are investigating two reports within the past week of suspicious activity involving people impersonating as law enforcement officers.

Both cases involve drivers who saw vehicles behind them with flashing blue lights like those on law enforcement vehicles, a sheriff’s office news release states.

“Thinking they were being pulled over, one of the vehicles stopped and two people approached the car,” the news release adds.

The driver was forced to hand over cash and valuables.

The driver in the second complaint refused to stop and the pursuing vehicle fled, authorities said. Both cases are under investigation.

It is a first-degree misdemeanor for anyone other than an authorized law enforcement officer to use flashing or rotating blue lights, authorities warn.

Sheriff Susan Benton advises those who see an unmarked vehicle with flashing or rotating blue lights following them, to proceed to a well-lit, public location such as a convenience store or restaurant.

Call 911 and inform the operator of your location, she adds.

“Central Dispatch can confirm if the vehicle behind you is legitimate law enforcement or not. If not, they can expedite a legitimate law enforcement officer to your location,” Benton added.

Those who have been followed or stopped by an unmarked law enforcement vehicle and have not reported it, should call the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office non-emergency number, 863-402-7200, and make a report.

Anyone with information can contact detective Hank Smith of the Criminal Investigations Unit at 863-402-7382 or 863-402-7250.

Anyone with information who wants to remain anonymous and be eligible for a cash reward can call Heartland Crime Stoppers at 1-800-226-TIPS(8477) or go to www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com