Auto Prowl Prevention
Statistics show that the amount of vehicle break-ins has dramatically increased from year to year and are continuing to do so. The thieves are often drug users looking to steal your valuables to sell to fuel their habit and not the type of people you want accessing your wallet, computer or other personal property. Please do your part to prevent this crime by removing valuables from your vehicle before you leave your vehicle unattended!
Where Does Auto Prowling Occur?
Health clubs, restaurants, trail heads, sports complexes, shopping centers and churches are favorite spots for thieves to hang out and watch for people to leave their cars unattended, then look through the window for valuables. If they see something they want they simply smash the window out, grab the valuables and go. In addition, parking your vehicle on a neighborhood street or in your driveway are also places thieves will look for opportunities to smash and grab. Not only do you have the theft but also damage to your vehicle to deal with.
What Items Do Thieves Look For?
GPS units, cell phones, laptops, briefcases, purses, wallets and other valuables are the top targets. Also the trunk is not a safe ‘hiding’ place since thieves will often watch someone pop the trunk, put their purse or other valuable in there and then when no one is watching they will smash the window, pop the trunk latch and make a quick getaway with the ‘hidden’ valuable. There are no places to ‘hide’ valuables inside your vehicle, thieves know all the ‘hiding’ places.
Keep your vehicle and your property protected, Remove valuables from your vehicle.
Home Safety/Burglary Prevention
Through crime prevention efforts, you and other citizens of Ridgefield can take control of your property and your lives, strengthen the bonds in our community and help police make your neighborhood a safe place to live.
- Most intruders seek easy targets. The more difficult you make it for them, the lower your risk of becoming a victim.
- Effective security measures need not be costly. Common sense and a bit of prevention can go a very long way.
Install Crime-Resistant Locks
- Deadbolts on all outside entrances (make sure they meet local building and fire codes).
- Reinforce or replace key-in-the-knob locks with cylinder dead-bolts or horizontal bolts.
- Secure sliding glass doors.
- Install locks made specifically to prevent sliding or lifting.
- Drill a hole through the inside frame and insert a nail to prevent sliding.
- Place a strong piece of wood or a steel rod in the track (a sturdy broomstick, for example).
Prevent Window Entry
- Use window key locks (keep keys in locks for quickly exiting case of emergency or fire).
- For double hung windows, drill holes (at a downward angle) through the top corners of the inside sash and the bottom corners of the outside sash. Insert nails, pins or bolts.
- Consider placing grates on basement and first floor windows. Be SURE to check local fire codes first.
- Look into an alarm system. (Check company references before you buy.)
Crime-Proof Outside Areas
- Keep yard, porch and entrances well-lit at night. Look into motion detection lighting.
- Store tools, toys, etc., after each use.
Never hide keys outside your home.
- Get a guard dog (or at least post “Beware of Dog” signs in highly visible areas).
Get to Know Your Neighbors
- Get to know each other’s schedules so you can be aware when something is not a normal pattern.
- Cooperate in keeping an eye on neighborhood homes. (Do you have a neighborhood watch program?)
Use Preventative Measures When Traveling Away from Home
- Inform a trusted neighbor of your travel plans.
- Have someone collect your mail, newspapers, and other deliveries while you’re away.
- Don’t share your plans with strangers.
- Leave shades and blinds in their normal positions to give the appearance that someone is at home.
- Use timing devices on lighting (two or more areas of the home).
- For extended absences, consider hiring a trusted housesitter.
Protect your Valuable Personal Belongings
- Engrave jewelry, watches, appliances, computers, stereo equipment with your driver’s license number or other identifiable label. (We do NOT recommend using your social security number.)
- Rent a safe-deposit box for valuables and extra cash.
- Consult your home insurance provider for suggestions to aid in recovering the value of stolen articles. (Some companies require that you follow specific procedures in protecting your valuables.)
We’ve all heard over and over again to keep doors and windows closed and locked when you’re away but it’s also important to practice good personal safety even when you’re home too. Keep doors locked and windows that are easily accessible from the outside closed and locked and don’t leave the gate open or garage door up. These open doors or windows could be just the invitation a residential burglar needs to “come on in.”
Here are some additional burglary prevention tips:
- Never leave your gate unlocked or doors and windows open or unlocked while doing yard work or other outdoor chores (washing the car, taking the dog for a short walk, getting the mail).
- Make sure to leave your garage door closed and locked whether you’re home or not.
- When closing your garage door, either on your way out or on your way home, watch it to make sure it goes down all the way and that no one sneaks in.
- Move all ladders, garbage cans, tool sheds (anything that can offer easy access to windows or decks) away from the side of your house.
- Treat second story windows and doors the same as the ones on the ground level. Keep them closed and locked.
- Never leave windows or doors open or unlocked while sleeping.
- Have an emergency plan for escape in case you hear someone breaking into your house.
- Get out of the house, have a cell phone ready if possible to call police, and go to a safe place to wait for police.
- If getting out of the house is not possible, call 9-1-1 and lock yourself in a room.
- Stay on the phone with 9-1-1 and wait for police.
- Join a Neighborhood Watch, if you don’t have one…start one!
- Getting to know and communicating with your neighbors about safety plans and working together to keep an eye out for suspicious circumstances happening in your neighborhood can be an effective deterrent to crime.
Business/Commercial Crime Prevention
Homes or neighborhoods aren’t the only places we should worry about. Businesses need to practice good crime prevention skills too. Read more about tips that will keep your business, your employees, and your customers safer.
Robbery is a crime against your person rather than against your property. If someone breaks into your home or business and takes property from the premises, the crime is called a burglary. However, if you are confronted by an individual on the street or in your home, car or business and force is used or threatened against you, you have become the victim of a robbery. It is important to remember two things:
- Robbers want one thing – your money or property – and they want it quickly.
- Robbery is a risky business and robbers are usually nervous.
You do not want to delay a robbery in any way and increase the potential for violence. Give the robber what he or she wants and do it quickly. Do not risk your life, or another person’s life for property.
- Good visibility allows employees to be aware of suspicious activities outside the store. It also increases the chance passersby will observe robberies taking place inside the store.
- Keep doors and windows clear. Post any necessary signs to the side, top or bottom of the display windows to allow maximum visibility into and out of the store. This will help customers see your merchandise too.
- Locate the cash register in a central place. Keep it in clear view of the door, with the customer’s back to the entrance. The register should be visible from the outside.
- Keep counter displays low. This allows employees to see over the top. You can also rearrange displays to allow surveillance up and down both sides of each aisle.
- Place wide-angle mirrors in strategic locations. This will assist with visibility in blind areas of the store.
- Make sure interior lighting provide good visibility in the store at all times. Outdoor lighting should be even and directed toward the sides of the building, not outward where glare can create hiding places for robbers.
Building Security and Security Devices
- Control access to the building. Keep all doors locked except the main entrance. Ask employees to use the main entrance.
- Install a lock on the back room door that can be unlocked from the inside. Supply this room with an extra key, a phone and a panic button. This will enable an employee to summon help if locked in during a robbery.
- Use signs inside and outside the store to emphasize your security policy on limited cash on hand and employee inaccessibility to the safe.
- Silent “hold-up” alarms should be considered. Alarm signaling devices can be installed on the floor and tripped by foot, wired to a money clip in the till, hidden under the counter or inside an office or freezer, among other possibilities.
- Install a “buddy alarm” system. A simple bell or buzzer connected to the neighboring business can be an effective and inexpensive “panic” alarm. It should not be hooked to lights, for a flicker could warn the robber that an alarm has been sent. It should not be loud enough to be heard by the robber. The alarm should be activated only if there is no possibility of detection. A slight movement or sound could trigger a panicking robber into violence.
- Consider installing a quality video camera and recorder kept high on the wall but visible. Don’t use fake cameras. Robbers know the difference. Have several cameras connected to the system, some visible, some not. Only the managers should have access to the tape.
Greet each customer. Establish eye contact and remember their general appearance. Good customer service discourages hesitant robbers as well as other thieves. This attention to detail conveys control and puts people on notice they have been observed and can be identified later.
- Check references of prospective employees.
- Keep a file on all employees, including their pictures. Past employees know store procedure and where money is kept. They sometimes share this information with others who use it to plan robberies at the store. Pictures of suspects are much more useful than verbal descriptions.
- Re-key locks and alter safe combinations or codes when employees are dismissed for cause.
- Establish clear and consistent policies regarding money in the till. Establish how much money will be kept in the till, what bill denominations employees will accept, how to respond to “suspicious” inquiries and how to handle loiterers. All employees should be trained and given a written description of store policy. Stress that their commitment to security procedures will reduce their risk of criminal confrontation and physical harm.
- Staff should never admit customers to premises after closing hours, particularly when the employee is alone.
- Always maintain adequate staff levels. Be especially careful during opening and closing periods, lunch hours and holiday seasons when there is more money on the site and more distractions.
- Store clerks should remain alert to what is going on outside their shop. Carefully observe phone booths, parked cars with people inside and loiterers in the vicinity. Many robbers like to watch and wait for the right opportunity. If a parked car containing several people has been noticed on many occasions, get the license number and a general description of the occupants. Notify the police. A discreet investigation can be made and no one embarrassed in case the situation is an innocent one. Be sure to notify the individual(s) following your shift of suspicious circumstances.
- Use gates and counters to separate clients from employees when appropriate. These devices can prevent the potential thief from gaining access to areas where cash or checks are kept or employees store personal belongings. These physical barriers aid in defining public spaces for general use.
- Post signs to designate restricted areas. For example, “Private” or “Employees Only”.
The Internet has opened up a world of information, education and communication possibilities. It allows us to book travel reservations, read news from around the world, shop and communicate with friends all from the comfort of home, work or even our favorite coffee shop. For most people using the Internet has become a part of daily life and is a positive and safe experience.
However, the Internet is also a place where predators lurk, waiting for their next victim. A great deal of content exists online is not appropriate for children. This content can include nudity or other sexually explicit material; hate or racist websites; promotional material about tobacco, alcohol, or drugs; graphic violence; information about satanic or cult groups; or even recipes for making bombs and explosives at home. Theft of personal information is also a growing problem. It is important to check the legitimacy of a website before giving out personal information, including your name, social security number, address, telephone number, and credit-card numbers.
For law enforcement, we must consider the dark side of the internet when we are confronted with the daunting task of responding to parents whose young son or daughter has gone missing. Because of technology and the Internet, we must always consider the possibility that any child who goes missing “may” have met up with someone they initially encountered online.
- Ninety percent of Internet-initiated cases of child sexual abuse involved children 13 through 16.
- Only 25% of the youth who encountered a sexual solicitation or approach told a parent.
- Less than 10% of sexual solicitations were reported to authorities such as a law- enforcement agency, an Internet Service Provider, or a hotline.
- Establish Rules for Internet Use.
- Keep the computer in a common room (not your child’s bedroom or other room the whole family does not frequently access).
- Discuss with your child the importance of telling you or a trusted adult if something ever makes them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused while online.
- Communicate with your child and react calmly if your child shares information that scares or makes you uncomfortable so they feel comfortable confiding in you.
- Learn everything you can about your computer including what services (parental controls and filtering options) your internet service provider (ISP) offers, chat room lingo, how to check history and what other internet access your child may have including text messaging.
- Consider safeguarding such as using parental controls and filtering, blocking and monitoring software.Report any incidents of child sexual exploitation to the CyberTipline at 1-800-843-5678 and your local law enforcement agency.
- Know who your children talk to online and what their screen name is.
- Talk to your children about what “personal information” is and make sure they don’t share that with anyone.
- Find out what sites your children visit online and supervise their Internet usage.
- Find out what other places your child may have access to the Internet (school, library, friend’s house).
Internet Safety Tips for Kids
- Don’t give out or post personal information (name, address, age, school name or address, phone number, parent’s names).
- Do NOT respond to mean, offensive, threatening or unwanted e-mail or instant messages.
- Choose a screen name that doesn’t identify you as a boy or girl.
- Don’t share your password with anyone but your parents (not even your best friend should know your password).
- Remember people online MAY NOT be who they say they are.
NetSmartz® is an interactive, educational safety resource from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® and Boys & Girls Clubs of America for children (ages 5-17), parents, guardians, educators, and law enforcement that uses age-appropriate, 3-D activities to teach children how to stay safer on the Internet. The NetSmartz Workshop can be accessed at www.NetSmartz.org and www.NetSmartzKids.org.
Cell Phone Dangers
Today’s cell phones are not just mobile telephones; they’re also web browsers, instant messengers, and E-mail terminals. In other words, just about everything you can do from an Internet-connected personal computer, you can also do from a cellular telephone. Text messaging allows users to send and receive short messages through their cellular telephones. Users of all ages need to be extremely cautious about the way they use this new cell phone technology, especially when it comes to sharing digital photographs or movies. Pushing a few telephone buttons can send an image, telephone number, and mobile E-mail address to the wrong person. It’s even possible to use your cell phone to instantly post photographs on the web for all to see.
Identity Theft Prevention
Identity theft involves acquiring key pieces of someone’s information such as address or social security number in order to impersonate them. This information enables them to commit numerous forms of which include, but are not limited to, taking over the victim’s financial accounts, opening new bank accounts, purchasing automobiles, applying for loans, credit cards and social security benefits, renting apartments, and establishing services with utility and phone companies.
What to do if you become a victim:
- Make a crime report with your local law enforcement agency.
- Set up a folder to keep a detailed history of this crime.
- Keep a log of all your contacts and make copies of all documents.
- Notify the US Postal Inspector if your mail has been stolen or tampered with:
US Postal Inspection Service (see phone listing under Federal Government)
Us Postal Inspection Service – Local Post Office (see phone listing under Federal Government).
- Contact the Federal Trade Commission to report the problem:
The FTC is the federal clearinghouse for complaints by victims of identity theft. The FTC helps victims by providing information to help resolve financial and other problems that could result from identity theft. Their hotline telephone number is 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338).This website also has very valuable information and 4 easy steps to follow once you have become a victim.
- Call any one of the three credit bureaus’ fraud units to report identity theft. Ask to have a “Fraud Alert/Victim Impact” statement placed in your credit file asking that creditors call you before opening any new accounts.
- Request a copy of your credit report be sent to you.
- Visit www.privacyrights.org and obtain victim advocate information and prevention tips.
PO Box 74021,
Atlanta GA 30374-0241
To order your report call: 1-800-685-1111
To report fraud call: 1-800-525-6285
PO Box 949,
Allen TX 75013-0949
To order your report call: 1-888-397-3742
To report fraud call: 1-888-397-3742
PO Box 390,
Springfield PA 19064-0390
To order your report call: 1-800-888-4213
To report fraud call: 1-800-680-7289
Alert your banks to flag your accounts and contact you to confirm any unusual activity. Request a change of PIN and a new password. If you have any checks stolen or bank accounts set up fraudulently, report it to the following companies:
- National Check Fraud Service – (843) 571-2143
- SCAN – (800) 766-2748
- TeleCheck – (800) 710-9898 or 927-0188
- CheckRite – (800) 766-2748
- CrossCheck – (707) 586-0551
- Equifax Check Systems – (800) 437-5120
- International Check Services – (800) 526-5380
Contact the Social Security Administration’s Fraud Hotline: 1-800-269-0271. Contact the state office of the Department of Motor Vehicles to see if another license was issued in your name. If so, request a new license number and fill out the DMV’s complaint form to begin the fraud investigation process.
Obtain description of suspect (if known). Obtain witness information:
- Persons who accept application
- Apartment Managers
- Evidence: Gather all documents and supply them to your local police agency at the time of the initial report or supplemental report
- Attach all documents showing your financial loss
- Protect your incoming and outgoing mail. Remove items from your mailbox as soon as possible. Do not leave outgoing mail in your mailbox, instead, deposit it in your nearest US Postal Service mailbox.
- Shred and completely dispose of all personal documents with your personal information on it. This information includes credit card offers, sales receipts, ATM receipts, old bank statements, credit card statements, doctor bills and invoices and carbon copies of checks.
- Rather than having new check books sent to your home, request that new checks that are ordered through your bank be delivered to the nearest branch and pick them up yourself.
- If you have a rural mailbox, purchase one that is secured with a key.
- Be aware of where your personal information is kept and who has access to it.
- Review your bills, including utility and bank information.
- Order a credit report once a year and verify that all accounts are accurate. Close any credit accounts that are not in use. (old accounts can be accessed by criminals and new charges can be made without your knowledge).
- Notify the credit bureaus that you want to OPT-OUT. By opting out, you can reduce the number of credit care offers you get in the mail.
- Don’t give out your personal information to anyone unless you initiate the contact.
- Do not use your Social Security Number unless it is required.
- Remove any unused credit cards as well as your Social Security Card from your wallet.
- Lock your car doors and do not leave any personal information in your vehicle while it is parked unattended.
Through crime prevention, you and other concerned citizens can take control of your property and your lives, strengthen the bonds in our community and help police make your neighborhood a safe place to live.
For information on keeping a safe environment for yourself and the children you are caring for, please review our Babysitter Checklist.