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.