DADE CITY, Fla. — An anonymous donation to the Dade City Police Department is once again empowering officers to deliver holiday cheer to their community through an initiative dubbed “Operation Blue Christmas.”
- Police rewarding safe drivers through Operation: Blue Christmas
- Officers gave safe drivers $50 Walmart gift cards as part of effort
- Driver who fled from traffic stop still at large
- More Pasco County stories
Police Chief James Walters said the agency has been receiving an anonymous donation from a community member for several years now, and each year they take those funds and put them back into the community.
This year, the donation was $7,500. The department used $5,000 on the gift cards and $2,500 to pay off layaways that were about to expire at the Dade City Walmart.
“It’s because of the work that our officers do in the community every day that we have a community that wants to reward them and pay them back,” Walters said.
Drivers confused, then elated
In this year's effort, officers each received four of the gift cards to hand out to whomever they choose. Recipients can be people obeying traffic laws or those who may be in need this holiday season.
“The opportunity to do something good for the community is definitely an honor,” said Sgt. Leroy Harrelson.
Two of the people Harrelson chose to give cards to were drivers obeying rules of the road. Katheryn Krzyzanski came to a full stop at a sign placed at Countryside Place and U.S. 301.
“I was so confused," she told us. "I’m like, ‘Okay, he just came out. I know I stopped because there was traffic coming.”
She said the $50 gift card is a welcome surprise.
“It means a lot because I’ve been struggling to find money to buy Christmas gifts for my family, so this is going to help so much," Krzyanski said. "It means so much to me.”
Harrelson said it’s a nice change of pace, since the public typically comes into contact with officers during stressful situations.
“Oftentimes, when we go there, it’s usually on their worst day,” Harrelson said. “It ends up being a bad day for us, as well, because sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do in front of children and things like that."
"I’m sure that gives them a bad attitude toward us," he went on. "Being able to do this, hopefully that’ll change their outlook.”
Driver flees from attempt to give gift card
One particular driver Harrelson tried to give a gift card to on Tuesday wasn't exactly interested in the offer. In fact, the driver took off instead of stopping.
It all started when Harrelson attempted to pull over a truck that came to a full stop at Countryside Place before turning onto U.S. 301.
The driver fled, eventually leading Harrelson and other officers on a chase.
He eventually stopped his truck at the intersection of Wilson Street and Dixie Drive, where he abandoned the vehicle and ran away on foot.
Officers are still attempting to locate him, according to Walters.