The neighborhood watch is one of the oldest and most effective crime prevention programs in the country, bringing citizens together with law enforcement to deter crime and make communities safer.
Sponsored by the National Sheriffs’ Association, Neighborhood Watch can trace its roots back to the days of colonial settlements, when night watchmen patrolled the streets. The modern version of Neighborhood Watch was developed in 1972 as a response to requests from sheriffs and police chiefs who were looking for a crime prevention program that would involve citizens and address an increasing number of burglaries.
Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design
Commonly known as CPTED, (pronounced “septed”) it is a pro-active crime prevention strategy utilized by law enforcement agencies, planners, architects, security professionals and everyday citizens.
CPTED operates on the belief that the proper design and effective use of the built environment that can lead to a reduction in the fear and incidence of crime, and an improvement of the quality of life. The goal of CPTED is to reduce opportunities for crime that may be inherent in the design of structures or in the design of neighborhoods. Applying CPTED starts by asking what are the designated purposes of the space, how is the space defined and how well does the physical design support the intended function? Only then, can effective design or problem solving begin.
There are four underlying CPTED concepts:
- Natural Surveillance
- Natural Access Control
- Territorial Reinforcement
The Sanford Police Department can conduct a security inspection using CPTED concepts.
We have all been in situations where we stood back and said, “Wow. I can’t believe that just happened!” And the longer you sit back and watch it happening, someone else like you, is being victimized by that crime. Think for a moment, “what if it was me?”
ACT! Don’t re-act! There IS something you can do….call 911! NOW!
What do I say when I call 911?
Tell the dispatcher your location, where the suspicious activity/crime is occurring, and EXACTLY what you are witnessing. If you see a 20s something white, hispanic, or black male or female entering your neighbor’s house (and you know the neighbor is out of town or not home), provide the dispatcher ALL of that information! Give the dispatcher a detailed clothing description: “She is a thin white female wearing a black tank top and blue jeans. She also has curly black hair, and is climbing into a back window!” “There is a white, medium build, man in the driveway standing next to a green, newer model Nissan pickup truck too!” “I think the truck’s license plate is…. . He is wearing … .” This is ALL vital information!
The dispatcher will ask you several questions, so be sure to answer all of them as best you can. You may wonder why they ask so many questions, and this is why:
The officer(s) responding to the scene are being provided information by dispatch on what they are enroute to, and what to be on the lookout for. If officers are in the area of the activity you are calling in, they will know who and what to look for, and can then take appropriate action(s) to handle the situation.
If you see someone holding a knife or other type of weapon, let dispatch know! Tell them what you saw, and who was holding it. This is vital for not only the officer(s) safety, but also you and others in the area. An officer never really knows exactly what type of situation he/she is responding to, so be as accurate as possible with the information you provide.
For example, an officer was just dispatched to an incident in which the caller stated it was a business burglary that was over with. When the officer arrives on scene, it is actually a burglary in progress, the suspect is still in the store and armed! It’s all about safety, so please help us help you and our fellow citizens.
Finally, don’t wait for the suspicious activity, or crime, to have occurred. Call as soon as you see something happening. Consider the time frame: You are witnessing a suspicious incident. Fifteen minutes later, when its no longer occurring, and all suspects are gone, you call the police. You provide your information, the dispatcher types it into the system as you talk, another dispatcher reads it, then that dispatcher relays it to an officer. Two minutes later, an officer is enroute, and be aware that the officer dispatched has travel time from wherever they are too. It’s now 25 minutes later…Would it be fair to say, at this point, any and all suspects may be long gone from the area? Now, if the call is made as soon as you see suspicious activity occurring, the officer(s) may be able to arrive while suspects are either still on scene, or still in the area.
Stay vigilant and alert, and if something doesn’t seem right about a situation you are observing, do not hesitate to call the police. We will respond and identify if the situation is criminal or legitimate.
It’s always better to be safe rather than sorry
Though we can install the most high-tech alarm system ever made, if a person really wants to break in, they will find a way. We can’t always prevent a crime from occurring, but we can take steps to deter it from happening. So, how do we become less of a target?
1) Get to know your neighbors.
Verbally share your work schedules and vacation schedules. Let each other know whether or not a specific vehicle should be in your driveway when you are away.
2) If you have a house alarm, set it.
Many times, officers have responded to residential, or commercial, burglaries and the alarm wasn’t set or working properly. Check your alarm frequently, and turn it on every time you leave the house. You can also buy audible “trip” alarms so it sets off an ear-piercing noise if a door or window are breached, without having to pay a monitoring service. You never know when someone is watching, and waiting, for you to leave to commit a crime in your home.
3) Ensure all doors, windows, and garages are secured.
Criminals look for easy access, and by leaving any door unsecured, you have now assisted in your home becoming a target for unlawful acts. Always make sure the door leading into the house from the garage is locked, as well! If, for some reason (because it has happened), your garage door opens in the middle of the night, persons will not have easy access to enter your home.
4) Do not leave any valuables in view of open curtains.
If you are not home, close the blinds or curtains which would otherwise “showcase” your flat-screen TV, or laptop. Don’t entice a criminal by showing the “goods.”
5) Trim all hedges and trees.
If you have hedges around windows, or doors, which rise 4-feet or higher, you may want to consider trimming them down. Why? A person can use these as a form of concealment, especially if the foliage is covering up a window.
If neighbors work together and “watch out “ for one another, it can help deter criminal activity from occurring where you live.
If you see suspicious activity in your neighborhood, don’t wait to see what they do, call 911 NOW!
If we are to effectively address the arson problem in our community, every citizen must participate in combating this vicious crime. This means understanding the impact arson has on the community and doing what you can to prevent it. By following the tips provided, you can help to protect your property from becoming a target for an arsonist. Many arson fires occur out of doors and with materials that are easily accessible. Survey the areas around your home, garage, carport and out buildings being sure to pay close attention to the items listed below:
- Keep doors and windows locked when a building is unoccupied. Board up abandoned buildings. Do not use double cylinder deadbolt locks without keeping a key nearby, bars without quick release mechanisms, or other security provisions that could trap a person in a building with a deadly fire.
- Store all flammable liquids such as paints and gasoline in an approved storage location. Locking cabinets and storage units can also prevent access to kids. Keep all flammables and combustibles away from heat sources such as furnaces and any type of heaters.
- Report suspicious activity near houses or other buildings to the local police and support Neighborhood Watch programs.
- Keep leaves, firewood, overgrown brush and shrubbery and other combustibles away from buildings.
- If you suspect a child is setting fires, notify the proper authorities. It may not be “just a phase” they are going through. Keep matches and lighters out of reach and out of sight of young children.
Keep outside lights turned on at night. Consider installing light fixtures with build-in motion sensors.*
If you know, or suspect, that an arson crime has been committed contact Sanford Police Department at 407.688.5199, or Crimeline at 1.800.423.TIPS. Any information you have could be important, so don ’ t hesitate to call. You don’t have to leave your name, and you can call 24 hours a day. You could make the difference between a crime going unsolved and putting an arsonist behind bars.