I have had many requests to provide another holiday safety message to the public, with issues concerning safety during the holiday season.
An interesting fact is that crime increases over 42 percent during the holiday season, whether it be scams, break-ins, thefts etc. I would like everyone to take a few minutes and review this information and please let your law enforcement know at once if you have questions or concerns.
Unfortunately with the holiday season we see a definite increase in people who are trying to scam others. In order to make this season more enjoyable and productive I would like to pass on a few tips to make the public a little more prepared and keep from becoming a victim. The main focus is to never give out personal information over the phone or computer. Many scammers are very smooth and convincing. There are so many different scams these days it is virtually impossible to keep track of them all. They range from individuals claiming to be relatives of county residents and are in desperate need of money to residents being notified that they have won huge amounts of money overseas and all that is needed is bank account information or a social security number so the funds can be transferred. I am asking folks to remember this key point–IF SOMETHING SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE—IT IS MOST LIKELY A SCAM! No one is going to randomly give away cash or vehicles. Around the holiday season, everyone would like a little extra money, these scammers know this and take advantage of financial situations. These scammers make their living by convincing a very small percentage of people to send them money or provide personal information and the longer they can keep you on the phone the easier it is for them to gather your personal information. As soon as you realize it is a scam call — HANG UP! Remember, never give out personal information over the phone or internet. If you are unsure about an issue that may be a scam, contact your local law enforcement at once. Scammers who call repeatedly can sometimes be deterred by simply telling them to contact local law enforcement and provide them with our number and then hang up. If a scammer knows law enforcement is involved, they usually move on to an easier target.
TIPS ON HOME SECURITY
Protecting your home and family from criminal intrusion should be a top priority for county residents. The most common criminal threat to our homes is burglary. The most recent statistics state that approximately every few seconds a burglary happens somewhere in the United States. This type of crime usually happens when the home is unoccupied. Being a victim of burglary leaves a family feeling vulnerable and unsafe in an area where they should have the most comfort. To avoid becoming a victim of burglary it is important to better understand who commits this crime and why, and to understand the difference between burglary and theft.
There is a huge difference between a burglary and theft. Burglary in short is defined as “without authority entering into or remaining within any dwelling, other structure which is not a dwelling or vehicle with the intent to commit a felony or sexual battery.” Burglary is a felony.
Theft is “obtaining or exerting unauthorized control over property or services.” If the item taken is valued at $1,000 or more it would be considered a felony and less than $1000 is misdemeanor. In most cases an arrest cannot take place on a misdemeanor unless it is committed in the presence of an officer.
By statistic, most burglaries happen during the day when people are working or at school. Those who work night shifts are also at risk in smaller communities. The peak months are June, July and August, but increase again in November and December--(The Holidays) By statistic burglaries are most often committed by males under the age of 25. Items that are usually sought after by burglars are cash, jewelry, watches, guns, ammunition, CD’s, computers, flat screen TV’s, laptop computers, video players, electronic devices, cell phones, I-PADS, etc. These items can be readily sold for quick cash and then in turn used to buy drugs or supplement a lavish lifestyle.
A majority of the time the burglar uses force to enter the residence using tools like screwdrivers, pry bars, hammers, pliers, or even objects to batter a door or window to gain entrance. The preference is through an UNLOCKED door or window.
By statistics, law enforcement clears about 13 percent of all burglaries as the thieves are rarely caught in the act and often leave few clues. This is one of the more difficult crimes for us to solve. It would appear that burglaries are random but most involve a selection process. The residence is usually chosen with easiest access with the most cover available with multiple escape routes. Remote locations with few neighbors, dimly lit and no outside yard dogs are also at risk.
Following are some tips to improve home safety:
One tip is to “beef up” areas in your home to make it harder for burglars to enter. It a suspect has to work too hard to enter your home they might not have the tools or means to gain entry and give up and move to another location. By statistic, most burglars enter through the front, back or garage doors. The weakest door is usually the garage door followed by the back door and they usually provide the most cover. Even inside a garage it is a good idea to remove your keys from the vehicle and any valuables. For exterior door locks, Grade#1 or Grade#2 are the best quality to purchase as they are more resistant to prying and twisting. Deadbolt locks are also suggested to be used in conjunction with the doorknob lock.
#1 Use a solid core or metal door for all entrance points.
#2 Use Grade#1 or#2 deadbolt locks
#3 Install a wide-angle 160 degree peephole at a height of no more than
#4 Use heavy-duty 4 screw striker plates with at least 3” screws
#5 Use heavy-duty lockset with a dead latch mechanism
The most common entry in to a door with a wooden frame is to kick it open since the strike plate on the door is the weakest point. Beefing up that area makes it harder for burglars to enter since most door jambs are encased with light grade wood molding with very little holding power this is why the 4 screw striker plates with 3” screws become an effective option to strengthen doors.
Some county residents have stated they would rather leave their home, buildings and vehicles unlocked to the thieves will not do damage to their property. We are urging residents to secure their homes, vehicles and outbuildings to make entry harder for the burglars. By doing so there is a chance that by working harder to gain entry, clues could be left behind or they could give up and move on to an easier target. There have been many cases throughout Kansas where burglars have broken in to garages and drove away with the victims vehicles because their keys were left in the car.
Windows are also a primary target of home invasion. If a window is left unlocked, it is a potential entry point. A secondary blocking device can allow a window to be opened approximately 6 inch for ventilation, but not allow someone to remove and enter in to the home. Such devices need to be removed easily as not to impede an exit in case of fire. Crime prevention or alarm decals in windows have proven to be crime deterrents also.
Interior lighting can make a big difference when burglars are looking for a place to break in to. A dark home at regular hours indicate that no one is home and sets up a routine for burglars. From this they can figure out what schedules a family has, one way to alter this is to purchase inexpensive timers for lamps which indicate activity in the home and simulates occupancy. Radios and TV’s can also be put on timers. It is also a way you can have a lighted home when you arrive after dark. Trusted family or friends can also turn lights/radios or TV’s on or off throughout the day or night to give the appearance that the home is inhabited.
Exterior lighting itself deters burglars. It also gives the family a well-lighted path to their home and illuminates a possible threat. Most potential burglars will not choose a well light residence to break in to for fear of being identified. There are several lighting choices available. Motion detection and heat-motion detection are top of the list followed by dusk to dawn “eye” lights and then those controlled by a switch in the home. Some homeowners use security cameras with exterior lighting in the perimeter of their home. Placebo security cameras are also available that look realistic to potential home invaders but are just a decoy. When porch lights are left on all day so the area will be lit at night is a clue that a family is not home, also an accumulation of mail and newspapers. Trail cameras are becoming more popular and there are models on the market now that have a “black flash” which means they are almost undetectable at night.
Home safes are also a plus as families can store valuables in them with a greater peace of mind knowing they will be secured. The better quality home safes are a good investment if they are properly anchored within the home. Make sure to anchor these safes as recommended by the manufacturer or intruders can carry them out of the home. Never keep the key or combination to these safes where an intruder can readily find them.
Alarm systems are an ideal form of protection but in rural areas response time is a factor. Alarm company signs and decals in windows help deter criminals. Most burglars will not attempt home invasions where alarms systems are in place. One tip is NOT to write your alarm security code on or near the keypad of the system. A loud audible alarm is very effective when the secured area of the home is breached. This usually sends the burglar running and the louder the better in rural areas as neighbors can be few and far between. Making sure your alarm call list is current is also a big list.
Other things that burglars are not fond of are fences with gates that have to be manipulated for entrance or exit. Families that have either an inside or outside dog that alerts the family or neighbors by barking is also a good deterrent. Driveway alarms that sound when vehicles drive over them are a good investment, also.
Good trustable neighbors are a definite benefit. This is the original version of “neighborhood watch”—neighbors helping neighbors. They look out for each other and are able to watch out for your home when you are away.
Neighbors can help in many different ways such as picking up mail, mowing yards or shoveling snow to give the appearance the home is occupied, doing a walk around the out side of the home to check for damage or break in or to park in the unoccupied driveway to give the appearance someone is home.
It is always a good idea to get to know your neighbors and build a network of friends to help each other in any emergency. Neighbors know what is usual in their neighborhoods whether it is rural or city, if strange or unusual vehicles or people are driving or walking around your neighborhood and you become suspicious, call your local law enforcement and gain as much information as possible.
If you have a vacant house or property in a remote area, make sure to check on it often or have trusted relatives or friends look after the area. A lot of scrappers are searching for locations “off the grid” where they can sneak in a steal items such as copper wire, metal, antiques or anything of value. Several suggestions to keep properties such as these safer are guard dogs, security or trail cameras, fence off the area and lock gates to help keep intruders out, routine visits to the property at different times of the day or night so a pattern is not established.
Finally, engraving your name or other positive identifier on your valuable property such as TV’s, computers, electronics, etc. will be a positive way to identify if property or valuables are stolen. DO NOT ENGRAVE YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER ON YOUR PROPERTY. VIN’s of all vehicles, ATV’s etc and serial numbers, make, model #’s of ALL guns, property etc. should be recorded and put in a safe place for identification purposes. Photographs or using a video camera should also be used to document anything of value.
These records should be kept in a safe place at the home and also at another location in case of fire or misplacement. Receipts of larger or more valuable items should be kept for insurance purposes and identification. If you leave your wallet, purse or credit card information this should also be recorded in case of theft etc. This can also come in handy if your wallet or purse is ever stolen.
While nothing is ever a sure bet, these tips or pointers are meant to give families an edge in securing their home against intrusion and helping identify their property if it would be recovered. Contact your sheriff’s office or local law enforcement if you have any questions or concerns. I hope there are some things that families can use from this article to improve their home security and help from becoming a victim of burglary or home intrusion.
If residents see anything out of the ordinary such as vehicles out late at night or in areas that seem strange. People walking in rural areas at odd hours, etc. Try to safely obtain any information and call local law enforcement at once. Any identifiers such as license plate numbers, color or type of vehicle, number of occupants, person descriptors, etc. will help us in locating the individuals in question. We are very fortunate to have 24 hour patrol in Brown County and have the assistance of tribal and city police departments, but we cannot be everywhere at once so we rely on the public to assist when they can. Please contact your local law enforcement with any questions or concerns.
HOLIDAY DRIVING TIPS
If you plan on traveling during the holidays or at any time during the winter months, check your entire vehicle routinely to make sure everything is in good working order. The most neglected part on the vehicle are the windshield wipers and the wiper fluid. This is one of the most important items to check on your vehicle to make sure you have a clear field of vision while driving. Always try to keep your gas tank at least 1/2 full at all times during the winter months. Create an emergency kit to carry in your vehicle. It should consist of a battery powered radio, blanket, jumper cables, small fire extinguisher, first aid kit, bottled water, non-perishable food items, maps, tire repair kit, road flares or reflectors, matches, candles, kitty litter, etc. It is very important to listen to weather forecasts and road conditions before traveling. If needed, take alternate routes and stay on well traveled roads. It is imperative that you contact friends or relatives and let them know the route you are taking and the approximate time you expect to arrive at your location. Become familiar with your route and know where the turn offs and exits are at. In this day and age, we rely a lot on the modern technology of cell phones, the down side to this is that many areas do not have service or we forget to bring along a charger. If this happens we have to rely to what we have on hand so it is always best to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. We are also asking motorists to drive defensively. With the added holiday traffic, people are in more of a hurry to get places and they are more likely to make mistakes while driving. Always be on the lookout for the other person. Also allow plenty of time to get to your location and take breaks often to stay refreshed and alert. ALWAYS BUCKLE UP!! By simply using your seat belt you are reducing the chance of fatal injuries should you be involved in a crash by more than 45 percent and it is one of the easiest ways to increase road safety. Seat belt usage is a state law and receiving a citation for not wearing your seat belt is no fun, especially during the holidays. We know everyone likes to enjoy the holiday festivities but if you are consuming alcohol,DO NOT DRIVE — it is always advisable to have a designated driver . During the holidays, DUI’s and alcohol related accidents skyrocket and by using a designated driver this decreases accidents and promotes traffic safety.
We would also like to remind residents who have elderly neighbors, friends, relatives, or those with disabilities to periodically check on them to make sure they have heat, are eating and drinking as they should and are not in need of medical attention. There are some folks who make it a point to regularly visit or call and deliver groceries and/or medications. This is one of the benefits of living in a close knit community.
Make provisions for your outside pets during the winter months. Sometimes with all of the festivities they can become neglected. Make sure they have shelter and plenty of food and fresh water. With freezing temperatures, water becomes frozen in a short period of time and animals have to have access to water.
Remember, when you are out and about shopping this holiday season, crooks are always on the lookout for an easy target. Lock valuables in your trunk and never leave items in plain view such as cell phones, purses, major purchases etc. It only takes a minute for thieves to break in to your vehicle and steal these items. Always take advantage of well lit areas and think twice before parking your vehicle somewhere you do not feel comfortable at. If you have immediate concerns while shopping and are afraid to go to your vehicle alone, contact store security or local police. Always keep track of your purse, wallet etc. Thieves are always on the look for these unattended items placed in the shopping cart. ALWAYS BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS.
We here at the Sheriffs office would like to wish everyone a safe, happy and healthy holiday season!!