Monday, February 10, 2014

19 Tips for Keeping Our Neighborhoods Safe

Rick Hawkins, Stanwood's Chief of Police, was our guest the other night at a meeting of our Home Owners Association. He came to introduce us to Neighborhood Watch, a national program that encourages folks to keep an eye on their neighborhoods, and to give us some tips on how to keep our community safe.

Communities that start a Neighborhood Watch meet, like we did last week, with the police chief for an overview of the program. A Neighborhood Captain is selected and volunteers are recruited. These folks gets some training in how to be alert to concerns and when/how to respond to needs.

Seattle has a similar program called Block Watch, and this information is from their website:
Block Watch really just organizes and extends what you are probably already doing on an informal basis. We tend to know and watch out for our closest neighbors, but a group of neighbors at one end of the block who are doing this may not know the group of neighbors at the other end of the block. Organizing a Block Watch makes this attitude of watchfulness more systematic, and provides a block map or contact list with neighbors' names, telephone numbers and emails that can be used in case of emergency.
But it's not just the captain and the volunteers that have a responsibility for keeping our communities safe. We all do. Chief Hawkins called it "hardening the target," making it difficult for outsiders to cause trouble in our neighborhoods. Here are 19 tips that he gave that we can all put into practice:

1. Identify the serial numbers on your belongings -- TV, computer, etc. Record the serial numbers along with photos of your property and store them on a thumb drive.
2. Install dead bolts on your doors.
3. Keep a rod in the bottom track of your sliding glass door or opt for a bar than swings from the door frame for greater security.
4. Use a security system. You can pay for a service or install a system you purchase. Be sure the cameras are located where they can detect faces (too high and all you will see is someone's hoody!). Some systems include a smart phone app and will alert you, wherever you are, when any suspicious activity on your property is suspected.
5. Keep your porch light on and the doors locked.
6. Trim your bushes away from windows and doors.
7. Be sure your cars are locked when they are in your driveway.
8. Use a security lock when your car in parked.
9. Report any break-ins, even if nothing was taken. It gives the police a sense of what is happening in the community.
10. Keep your eyes open for people behaving strangely in the neighborhood.
11. Pay attention to details -- i.e., color and license number of unfamiliar cars in the neighbors' driveways. You never know when that information will be helpful.
12. If you suspect domestic violence, report it to the police.
13. When someone comes to your home selling a product or a service, ask to see their permit which they are required to get from the city.
14. Talk to your neighbors; break down barriers.
15. Work as a neighborhood. Designate a neighborhood clean-up day. Host a block party.
16. Attend the National Night Out in the summer.
17. Friend your local police department on Facebook.
18. Check out the your local police department's website to learn what you can do to promote community safety. If you live in Stanwood, click on Stanwood Police Department.
19. Begin a Neighborhood Watch where you live.

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