August 1, 2015

Doing Crime Watch

Every resident of the L Streets Neighborhood can do Crime Watch. It starts individually by making a conscious choice to take action when needed for the protection of people and property. For each person that makes that choice, L Streets Crime Watch grows, eventually becoming a significant number of like-minded people.

If you make a conscious choice to take action when needed for the protection of people and property, doing Crime Watch is about these three things:

  • Being willing to call 9-1-1.
  • Being observant.
  • Being in communication.

Being In Communication

This is about the third Crime Watch fundamental, being in communication. In other posts we have covered the two other fundamentals, being willing to call 9-1-1 and being observant. You can review that info in the L Streets News Crime Watch Tips Archive:

Most of us have to work at being good active communicators, however if the goal is something like safety for ourselves and others it may be a bit easier for us to do. Here are some things that may help you be a better and more active communicator when it comes to Crime Watch:

  • Get to know your neighbors that live around you. At least share contact info. Then you can let each other know if something is happening after the 9-1-1 call that you've made.
  • Remember that it's not "being nosy" to be familiar with your neighbors' habits and vehicles — instead, it alerts you when something is out of the ordinary.
  • Let your neighbors know if you'll be away and the best way to get in touch with you. Remember to make sure they know if someone is dropping by to check up on your place while you're away or house sitting.
  • Don't think about it and try to decide if you should make a 9-1-1 call. Just make the call. Don't worry that you're bothering the police or about being wrong if your suspicions turn out to be unfounded. Think about what might happen to people or property if you don't act.
  • Social Media like Facebook and Nextdoor L Streets are two ways you can be a be a part of a community that is larger than just the L Streets Neighborhood and at the same time communicate with all that are there participating from the L Streets. Know that sometimes there is a lot of "noise" to filter out and that everyone there has their own opinions and version of things, but social media can be a valuable source of information about what is going on around us.

About getting to know your neighbors. That may be easier said than done. If it is difficult for you it may help to think of it in another way, "If my barn is on fire I don't care who helps me put it out." Now our L Streets "barn" is not on fire, but hopefully you get the gist of that sentiment. The Crime Watch version could be, "If a criminal is after me or my property I don't care who calls 9-1-1."

July 24, 2015

Robbers Are Equal Opportunity Criminals

From the National Crime Prevention Council this is info reproduced from the brochure Robbers Are Equal Opportunity Criminals.

Most of these tips may seem like common sense. But if you follow them you may ward off an encounter with a robber. If you are unfortunate enough to be accosted, stay calm and comply with the robber's instructions. In most situations it isn't worth it to fight back. Then, when he or she is gone and you are safe, call 9-1-1 as soon as you are able.

It isn't that robbers are around every corner. But they do take us by surprise and they can target anyone. The FBI defines robbery as "the taking or attempting to take anything of value under confrontational circumstances from the control, custody, or care of another person by force or threat of force or violence and/or by putting the victim in fear of immediate harm."

That's a pretty grim definition. However, there are lots of things you can do to reduce your chances of being robbed and there are ways to react while being robbed and after. The most important thing to do in all circumstances is give the robber what he or she wants: don't fight back and risk your life. It simply isn't worth it.

Personal Safety Tips for the Street
  • Don't walk alone late at night or during early morning hours. Instead, walk in groups whenever you can—there is safety in numbers.
  • Let a family member or friend know your destination and your estimated time of arrival or return. That way, the law enforcement can be notified as quickly as possible if there is a problem.
  • Stay in well-lighted areas as much as possible. Avoid alleys, vacant lots, wooded areas, and shortcuts or secluded areas.
  • Wear clothes and shoes that give you freedom of movement.
  • Don't talk to strangers.
  • If you are wearing headphones, don't turn up the volume so high that you cannot hear outside noises.
  • Never hitchhike or accept rides from strangers.
  • If someone or something makes you uneasy, avoid the person or leave.
  • Don't display expensive jewelry in public.
  • Know the neighborhoods where you live and work.
  • Check out the locations of police and fire stations, public telephones, hospitals, and restaurants or stores that are open late.
Personal Safety Tips for Home
  • Don't allow strangers into your home, even if they are hurt or say they need help. Keep the door locked and call the police for them.
  • Don't advertise that you live alone.
  • Don't be afraid to call law enforcement to investigate suspicious circumstances, unusual people, or strange noises. It's better to be safe than sorry.
  • When you move into a new home or apartment, change the locks if you own it or ask the manager to change them if you rent.
  • Don't leave notes on your door announcing when you will be home.
  • Keep outdoor lights on at night.
  • If you arrive home and your door is open or things appear to be out of place, don't go in. Leave and call 9-1-1.
  • If you are accosted by a robber, follow his or her instructions.
  • Don't argue or attempt to fight with your assailant.
Automobile Safety
  • Always park in well-lighted areas.
  • Always be alert to people just sitting in their cars.
  • If you are alone at a shopping mall, ask a security guard to escort you to your car.
  • After checking around your car, enter it quickly and lock all the doors. Teach your children to enter and exit the car quickly.
  • If your car is bumped in traffic, don't get out of the car. Use your cell phone to call 911. Many times carjackers use this technique so that they can overpower you and steal your car.
  • The last thing you should do is argue or fight with a carjacker. You could be seriously injured or killed. It isn't worth it.
  • Never agree to be kidnapped. Either drop the keys or throw them away from the car as far as you can. When the carjacker goes for the keys, get out of there as fast as you can.
Automated Teller Machine (ATM) Tips
  • Try to use machines you are familiar with and try to use terminals located inside banks rather than independent terminals.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Look around before conducting a transaction. If you see anyone or anything suspicious, cancel your transaction and go to another ATM.
  • If you must use an ATM after hours, make sure it's well-lighted.
  • Never walk away from an ATM with cash still in hand. If you are going to count your money, do so at a secure spot.

July 17, 2015

Recognizing Suspicious Activity

This information about signs of suspicious activity comes from Dallas Police Department training materials. It is focused on what to be aware of while on a patrol, but it does provide all of us with some ideas we may not have thought about.

What is Suspicious Activity?

"Am I witnessing a crime?" Most of us have found ourselves wondering this at some time or other. However, because we are not really sure, we tend to hope it wasn't something bad and continue about our business. PEOPLE AREN'T SUSPICIOUS, BUT ACTIVITY MIGHT BE!
Here are some signs of suspicious activity:
  • Unusual noises, including gunshots, screaming, sounds of fighting, barking dogs, or anything suggesting foul play, danger, or illegal activity.
  • A person running would be suspicious if he or she were looking about furtively, as if he or she were being watched or chased.
  • A stranger carrying property at an unusual hour or location, especially if the items are television sets, stereo equipment, office machinery, a locked bicycle, or lawn care equipment.
  • A person going door-to-door in an office building or a residential area may be looking for an opportunity to steal.
  • A stranger trying to gain entry into a residence, especially through a rear entrance, garage door, or window.
  • Any person forcibly entering a locked vehicle, especially at night and in a driveway, is highly suspicious.
  • Property in vehicles. This may not be suspicious unless the property is of an unusual nature: television sets, stereo equipment, lawn care equipment, or auto parts. Possible significance: could be stolen property.
  • Transactions being conducted from vehicles, especially near schools or parks. You may be witnessing an illegal drug sale or sale of stolen property.
  • One or more persons sitting in a parked car closely scanning the area around them may be lookouts for a burglary or robbery in progress, or for a crime being planned.
  • Certain moving vehicles, such as vehicles moving slowly, running without lights, or one that keeps passing the same area. It could be casing a building or house to burglarize, someone pushing drugs, or someone planning another crime such as a robbery, kidnapping, or sex offense.
  • A person (especially a juvenile or female) being forced into a vehicle may be a kidnapping.
  • A person exhibiting unusual mental or physical symptoms may have been injured in an accident, be under the influence of alcohol, drugs or medications, or otherwise need medical or psychiatric assistance.

You Can Protect People and Property

When you observe suspicious or criminal activity it should be reported by calling 9-1-1 as soon as you are able. Anything that seems slightly "out of place" or is happening at an unusual time of day might be criminal activity. Don't worry that you're bothering the police or about being embarrassed if your suspicions prove to be unfounded. Think about what might happen to people or property if you don't act.

July 14, 2015

Prevent Theft of Property From Vehicles

At the L Streets Summer Meeting on July 9, our Neighborhood Police Officer, Mitchell Gatson, asked that we be aware that theft of property from vehicles is the number one incident of crime reported in our area. Dallas Police Department reports for residences in the L Streets Neighborhood show that it happens more often than the total number of all other types of crime.

Take Action to Prevent Theft From Your Vehicle

Most times the property that is stolen is portable and not affixed to the vehicle. Everything from GPS, radar detectors, purses, laptops, briefcases, phones, money - you name it. Since most property that is stolen from a vehicle is portable, you can reduce the risk for a break-in and/or theft from your vehicle. Here's how:
  • Take property with you or hide it in covered storage or in the trunk so it is not visible. Remember not to hide the property while parked in the area where you're going to leave the vehicle because a thief may be "casing" the area.
  • For items with mounts and power cords (GPS units, radar detectors, phones etc.), remove the mounts and cords and hide them. Suction cup mounts often leave a ring on the window. Thieves look for this, and even if the GPS/Radar Detector (or whatever) isn't there, they'll break in and look around inside the vehicle. So, clean off those rings before leaving your vehicle.
  • Remove and take or hide faceplates from custom audio/video units.
  • Keep windows rolled up. Keeping windows open or partially open may help keep your vehicle cool in the summertime, but it's an invitation for thieves. Instead you can use a sunshade to block the sun and keep your vehicle interior cooler.
  • Keep doors locked. Sure, someone can break the window and get inside, but if you've left nothing visible inside, there's little incentive to do so. If the vehicle is unlocked, however, a thief often will take a look inside.
  • Utilize your vehicle alarm and other built-in theft prevention technology.
  • Purchase and utilize locking devices for pickup truck tailgates and especially for custom rims on any vehicle.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Don't park in secluded areas.
  • Park in well-lighted areas at night. Keep outdoor lighting at your home in functioning condition, especially lighting for driveways and other parking areas. If you are parking somewhere and it will be dark before you return to your vehicle, try to park near a light pole.
  • Keep the inside of your your vehicle clutter free. Remove visible items - cash or coins, laptops, laptop cords, phone chargers, handbags, coffee cups, wallets, credit cards, cell phones, brief cases, golf clubs, tools, CDs, duffel bags, office equipment, mail, backpacks, sports equipment, file folders, dry cleaning, radar detectors, shopping bags, even empty boxes!
  • Never leave your engine running and the vehicle unlocked/unattended. Every day in the summertime people run into their local dry cleaner, grocery store, or gas station for only a second, and they leave the engine running and the a/c on because they want to come back to a cool vehicle interior. Don't do it.
Call 9-1-1 as soon as you are able about all suspicious or criminal activity! These activities and types of behavior may indicate a potential vehicle burglary or auto theft:
  • Looking inside vehicle windows or pulling on vehicle door handles, then looking to see if anyone is watching. This is highly suspicious activity in a residential neighborhood, but it is also unusual activity at any location.
  • Bumping a vehicle to see if the vehicle has an alarm.
  • Breaking a window or using tools to defeat the locking mechanisms to enter the vehicle.
  • Taking items from a vehicle and loading them in another vehicle.

July 5, 2015

It's Vacation Time

Be observant and helpful by watching over neighbors' homes, especially when you know they are not home or they have let you know they going to be out of town. They will likely return the favor.

Call 9-1-1 to report all suspicious or criminal activity! Anything that seems slightly "out of place" or is happening at an unusual time of day might be criminal activity. Don't worry that you're bothering the police or about being embarrassed if your suspicions prove to be unfounded. Think about what might happen if you don't act.

Going Away on Vacation?

  • Double check that doors and windows are securely locked.
  • Let neighbors know you're going on vacation and when you will return. They can keep an eye out for anything suspicious. If you don't know your neighbors, you can have a trusted friend drop by occasionally to do the same thing. If a friend is dropping by you can give your neighbors a description of your friend and their vehicle to reduce false alarms.
  • Make sure your home is well-lit so there are no hiding places.
  • Use random timers to turn lights on and off to make it look like you're home.
  • Install motion-sensing lights that turn on automatically when someone approaches.
  • Don't leave spare keys on your property. Burglars know all the places you might think of.
  • Put a hold on newspaper delivery until you return, and put a hold on your mail, too, so it doesn't pile up. Burglars look for such things as a sure sign someone is away from home.
  • Look at your house from the street and make sure no valuables are in sight.
  • Unplug your automatic garage door opener.
  • Don't talk on social media about your trip before you return home.
  • Remember to adjust your central air thermostat to an away setting. Also turn off tankless hot water heaters. A leaking hot water pipe will fill your home with steam and ruin more than just the floors. Yes, not crime tips, but easy to forget.