By CHRIS AGEE
Less than three months into 2013, the Palo Pinto County Probation Department has already dealt with more forged community service worksheets than all of last year.
Community Service Coordinator Bill Blevins said his department is cracking down on offenders.
"It's prevalent enough that I've filed five felony cases since Jan. 1," he said. "Prior to that, we'd done two or three last year."
A number of those found to have forged documents now face much more severe charges than those for which they received probation.
"Most of the people are actually misdemeanors that forged their hours," Blevins explained.
He speculated the increase in falsification could have ties to the county's current court system, "with the new district judge and the county judge, both of them being harder on community service and about them doing their community service."
According to Blevins, the reasons behind probationers forging their worksheets likely vary.
"They haven't done a lot of community service, they're saying, 'I need to do this to get off of probation.' They don't have the time or they have the time and they don't have the will to go do it," he said.
With decades of experience in law enforcement plus the experience he's gained in his current position, Blevins said he has become adept at spotting faked documents.
"I've been doing this for six years, and I know when a signature coming from some place doesn't look right; I check it out," he added.
Blevins said he is frustrated by those with just a few hours of community service remaining who decide to falsify the remaining requirements.
"That just does not make sense," he said.
As an aside, Blevins shared his observation that female probationers make up the overwhelming majority of forgery cases.
"Generally speaking, it's women that do it," he said. "I may have had one man out of six or seven cases."
No matter the gender, though, Blevins said his advice to those on probation is to complete all requirements and pay all fines associated with the sentence to avoid facing additional penalties.