Do you want to make your house less attractive to criminals? Today we have a list of tips to help you do just that.
But first, we want to let you know about the possibility of joining a Neighborhood Block Watch Group, which has proven to decrease the crime rate in our area.
Right now there are 10 Neighborhood Block Watch Groups in unincorporated Grays Harbor, with the likelihood that more will be developed. In addition, if Aberdeen’s new police chief has his wish, new groups will be forming within Aberdeen.
BLOCK WATCH HISTORY
In 2013, Steve Shumate, who was then the chief criminal deputy for Grays Harbor County, began the county’s first Neighborhood Block Watch Group at the request of a citizen living on East Hoquiam Road.
“She had been a victim of a burglary on two separate occasions with irreplaceable items that had been stolen and never recovered,” said Shumate, who began his new job as the Aberdeen Police Chief in July.
So Shumate educated himself about Neighborhood Block Watch programs, helped the East Hoquiam group develop, and acted as the liaison from the Sheriff’s Office.
Now five years later, when Shumate left the county this summer to become the top cop in Aberdeen, he left his successor, Brad Johansson, to oversee 10 such neighborhood groups, with a total of about 1,500 citizens involved at some level.
Weekly e-mail reports about activities in the area, periodic meetings with the neighbors and being available as a point person, paid off for both the citizens as well as the Sheriff’s Office, Shumate said.
“Universally with all of the organized groups, there’s been not only a reduction in the crime rate in those areas, but also an increase in the solvency rate – both because community members are getting involved,” he said.
In other words, because of neighbors keeping an eye out for each other, there are fewer crimes and of the smaller number of crimes, a higher percentage are solved! Talk about a win, win!
“The number one thing is that the Neighborhood Block Watch Groups help law enforcement and citizens engage with each other, which helps to reduce crime,” Shumate said.
Now the new Grays Harbor County Chief Criminal Deputy, Brad Johansson, is in charge of the county’s Neighborhood Block Watch Program and is eager to continue and to expand it as other citizens form new groups.
“Anyone who is interested in forming a new group or about learning about one that might already be in their area, should call me at the Sheriff’s Office,” Johansson said.
Shumate is excited that the Sheriff’s Office will continue “this vitally important program.” In fact, this fall Shumate plans to introduce the citizens of Aberdeen to the idea of forming similar groups within that city.
“I’m hoping to have three community meetings and invite two of the city’s six wards to each. In addition to introducing myself, listening to constituents’ concerns and answering questions, I plan to let people know about the possibility of forming Neighborhood Block Watch Groups in Aberdeen,” Shumate said.
“I’m also eager to let people know about an upcoming Citizens Academy that is a free, two-month course for citizens about every aspect of law enforcement from the police departments to the court system,” he said.
Right now Aberdeen does have a couple of Neighborhood Block Watch groups, but none that are officially affiliated with the police department, he said.
“I’ve found that affiliation and exchange of information key. I’d like to stay engaged with the groups in Aberdeen and to encourage two-way communication like we did at the Sheriff’s Office,” Shumate said.
Those interested in discussing the Neighborhood Block Watch program can contact Johansson at the county at (360) 249-3711 or Shumate in Aberdeen at (360) 533-3043.
TIPS FOR UNINVITING BURGLARS
“Criminals tend to take the path of least resistance,” said Shumate. If criminals know that their chances of getting caught are substantially higher in a particular area or a particular house they will move to areas where they are less likely to be caught.”
So we say, let’s all do what we can to make our whole county a place where it’s not profitable to be a criminal.
Whether you are part of a Neighborhood Watch Group or not, you can help combat crime by making your home less inviting to thieves. Here are a few suggestions from Johansson and Shumate.
A home that looks “lived-in” is a deterrent to burglars. Never leave notes that can inform a burglar that your house is unoccupied.
When leaving on a trip, stop all deliveries, connect a light or two to timers, notify the police to ask for extra safety checks, have a neighbor check your home periodically and have someone maintain your lawn.
Do not announce on social media that you are on vacation. Some of your “friends” or “followers” may not be as trustworthy as you might hope. And it takes just one friend to “share” to take your information to people you don’t know.
Consider owning a dog, buying an electronic alarm system, or even just installing a game camera.
Secure all windows and doors before you leave your house.
Shut your garage door when you leave. An empty garage advertises your absence.
Trim bushes and trees near your doors and windows so an intruder can’t easily hide there.
Keep your home lighted well on the outside and consider investing in a motion-activated light or two.
Do not leave door keys under flower pots, doormats, above door frames, in an unlocked mailbox or other obvious places.
When going out at night, leave one or more interior lights on and perhaps the radio.
Consider getting (and using) a timer so that lights can be turned on and off during your absence.
All doors in your home leading to the outside should have dead-bolt locks.
When home, don’t open the door unless you know who is there.
Invest in and use a wide angle viewer (peep hole) so you can see who is at your door.
The single lock on a garage door is inadequate to keep intruders from prying up the opposite side and crawling in. Use a padlock.
Mark your valuables and keep an accurate record of all your most valuable possessions. One way of doing this is to video tape a tour of the valuables in your home, noting serial numbers and distinctive features.
If you come home and find that someone has broken into your house, do not enter!! The criminal may still be inside. Call the police with a cell phone or at a neighbor’s house immediately.
Do not touch anything or clean up if a crime has occurred. Preserve the scene until police inspect for evidence.