More Crime Prevention Tips from a Veteran Cop
As a youth, I was actively involved in the Boy Scouts, which is where I learned the importance of being prepared. “Be Prepared” is of course the Boy Scout motto. That mindset transitioned with me into my career as a law enforcement officer.
As a police officer, I teach people the importance of being prepared and staying safe. Not necessarily for the end of the world, but how to protect themselves from crime, or how to be prepared and what to expect should they find themselves a victim of crime.
Chances are that at some time in your life you, a family member, or a friend has been a victim of a crime. It is a very unfortunate part of not just our society, but our species. Because of that, I want to convey some general tips and steps you can do to protect yourself.
The most important tip is to always be aware of your surroundings. Stop texting for a moment and take in what is going on around you. Criminals prey on those who look lost, distracted, and/or weak. So pay attention to your environment. Appear confident. Act like you are in control and are moving with a purpose. Don’t look like an easy target!
There are tens of thousands of muggings and assaults every year in the US. I mentioned that remaining alert and paying attention to your surroundings is a good way to help prevent being attacked. Here are a few tips to help you avoid becoming a victim:
- When exiting a building heading to your car, have they key you need to unlock your door already in your hand. Don’t be distracted at your car by fumbling around in your purse or pocket for your car keys.
- Criminals look for victims that appear to have money or valuables. Avoid wearing flashy, expensive items. Or at least be discrete with them. Carrying large sums of money is not a great idea for obvious reasons.
- Avoid using ATMs when alone and/or at night. If you need to use one, try to find one in a busy area like a grocery store. Thieves HATE witnesses!
- Stick to well-populated areas. If you are visiting or new to the area, try to learn about the area before venturing out into the unknown.
A majority of crimes committed today are crimes based on opportunity. What that means is that the “Ocean’s Eleven” highly planned and thought out crimes are not common. Instead, most criminals don’t put much planning into their crimes, if any at all.
Criminals didn’t scheme when they stole your car. You left it parked in the street, running to warm up while you go back in the house to finish getting ready for work. They didn’t see anyone else around, so they decided “it’s time to go on a joyride”! You presented them an opportunity and they took it.
A car is stolen in the US about every 30 seconds. That is almost 1.2 million stolen cars a year! But here are some tips you can do to reduce the likelihood that your car is one of them:
- ALWAYS lock your car. Over half of all stolen cars were unlocked at the time they were taken. Lock your car even when driving. (There are almost 50,000 car jackings every year in the US)
- Never leave your keys in the car, and never leave a spare key in/on the car. Almost one in five stolen cars had a spare key in the car.
- Don’t leave anything of value in the open in your car. Hide them, place them in the trunk, or cover them with something like a blanket.
- Don’t rely on only a car alarm. They are so common now that most are ignored. And thieves can break a window and steal your contents in less than 20 seconds. Not much an alarm can do about that.
When parking in a large parking lot (like at the mall, supermarket, etc), I always try to park beside a tall street lamp. This is smart for a couple of reasons.
- First, when you leave the building and walk to your car, it is easier to remember where you parked, and those tall lamps are easy to see.
- Second, if you are delayed for some reason and are now leaving and heading to your car when it is dark, your car will be illuminated. You will also be able to better see if someone is hanging around your car.
- And finally, the light at night helps to detract thieves from messing with your car. Like I said, they hate witnesses.
These are not 100% guarantees that you won’t be a victim. But as the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
At your home, there are ways to prevent (or at least slow down) thieves. Here is an excerpt I wrote on my friend Graywolf’s site.
- ALWAYS lock your doors and windows. Even your second story windows (if you have them) should be locked. If you have the money, install reinforced locks and striker plates.
- If you can avoid so, do not have windowed exterior doors. You also want solid doors, not hollow. Sliding glass doors should be avoided as well. If not, then brace them so that it cannot be opened from the outside.
- Secure your door frames to the walls by installing several 3-inch screws along the frame and doorstop. The screws should reach the wall stud.
- Use a peep hole cover on your door, as there are tools out there such as the reverse peep hole viewer which allow criminals to view into your home!
- Hopefully you know not to post travel plans on social media. But just as important, wait until you are home to post pictures of your vacation. Just tweeted pictures of you sitting on the beach in the Bahamas with a Rum Runner are a huge clue you aren’t home!
- Don’t post pics of high ticket items online either. You might be proud of that new 50 inch flat screen and Playstation, but you don’t need to advertise it to criminals.
- Have your mail/newspaper stopped or picked up while you are gone.
You can read the full article here.
Before I became a police officer, I worked at a prison as a recreation director. Basically, I handed out softball bats and pool cues to convicted felons. Fun huh?
Funny thing, during that time I had more problems and issues with the prison administration than I ever did the inmates. Why? Because I called the shots on what the prison population got to do with their free time, and they did not want to screw that up.
I was in charge of things like the basketball gym, the “weight pile” where they could lift weights, the softball field, etc.
Anyway, I had an inmate as a “Clerk” who handled a lot of the paperwork. We were always ordering basketballs or softballs, and I had to have someone type out the purchase orders. It was a “cush” job for the inmate. He had impressive computer skills, (I learned some of my website knowledge from him) and solid organizational skills.
His name was Jeff, and his profession, before becoming my prison clerk, was as a house burglar. He broke into houses when the owners were away. We had many interesting and insightful conversions about this career field, and a lot of what he told me I pass on to others as a way to prevent them from becoming a victim of crime.
Signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs!
He said that most of the warning signs people posted in their yards about alarms, he ignored. He said that most alarm systems he could get around. I’m not publishing on the internet how he did it. No need to give some people that kind of knowledge. But he said for him, those signs were not a deterrent.
He told me that if a house had a “Protected by Smith & Wesson” sign…or some other gun related sign, he specifically targeted those houses. Why? Because he knew those houses had firearms and firearms had value on the street.
Jeff said a lot of those houses had gun safes, but if the owner was going to display that sign, more times than not they would have at least one or two guns left out for easy access to the owner…and usually it was a pistol. That is what he looked for. (More than once he said he found a safe that was NOT locked. It was empty when the owner got home!)
He said that several times, he also found the original box that the gun came in, and he took those too. He said he did that because so many times the homeowners did not remember what the gun serial numbers were. He would take the box so that the owner wouldn’t have that reference.
I suggested that it would be more convincing to a pawn shop owner that it wasn’t stolen if he had the box it came in. He said he never sold guns to pawn shops unless they were top of the line, high end firearms. Typically it was a MUCH better market on the streets. But he did say it absolutely made it more believable if they also had the box, and he would do that with other items of value that he could pawn, like electronics.
Speaking of boxes, Jeff told me that empty boxes from large purchases, like a new TV for example, that was left on the curb for trash pickup alerted him that there was now something of value in that house. This is VERY true after holidays like Christmas.
Jeff said that the sign that usually did catch his attention was the Beware of Dog sign…especially if there was indeed a big dog in the house. He said that the alarm signs and the gun signs were to try and deter crime, whereas the dog sign was trying to deter crime AND prevent lawsuits if neighbors got bit. If the owners were worried about a lawsuit, there was a chance the dog would attack. So houses with big dogs he would typically avoid.
When picking houses, he would spend 3 or 4 days checking out certain targets. He looked for patterns in the home owners’ routine. Was everyone gone around the same time? Were the neighbor’s also gone? No witnesses are a good thing to criminals.
He especially liked houses that were “off the beaten path” so to speak. Trees and shrubs that covered windows were nice because people couldn’t see him inside the house. People like their privacy and kept their curtains closed, which meant no one could see him.
Some of the other things I learned are not as relevant. I mean, this was over 15 years ago. But much of what he told me still applies today.
Crime has always been and will always be a part of our world. It is unfortunate, but it is a fact. But that doesn’t mean you have to be a victim. Hopefully these tips will help you to remain safe and secure from the criminal element which infects our society.
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