As technology has gotten more sophisticated, so, too, has crime prevention. Simply leaving a light on when you go on vacation may no longer be enough to prevent a burglary. Keith Roberts, criminal justice instructor at the University of Phoenix Southern California Campus, offers tips for keeping the streets in your neighborhood safe:
1. Think of your cellphone as protection.
“Always take a charged cellphone with you when going out,” Roberts says. “And take a moment to program the local law-enforcement number into your speed dial.”
Dialing 911 is the best emergency number to use if you’re calling from a landline. If you’re using a mobile phone, though, it’s actually preferable to call a local law-enforcement number — 911 will not always get you the quickest response on a cellphone, Roberts explains.
2. Be aware of your surroundings.
Take some time to drive or walk around your neighborhood and familiarize yourself with the cars and homes on your street. If you see something out of the ordinary, such as a fallen tree or another hazard, report it to the appropriate agency.
“Use the Internet to report safety concerns,” suggests Roberts, who worked as a police officer in Southern California for 22 years. “Many local law-enforcement agencies now allow you to report and log information online.”
3. Be cautious when using social media.
With cyber crime on the rise, online vacation posting (“This is me in Aruba!”) has become “the modern-day version of 10 newspapers in the driveway,” Roberts says. You don’t want to broadcast your exotic vacation — and the fact that your home will be empty — by sharing it in advance on Facebook®, much less Twitter®.
“Play it safe,” Roberts says. “Post photographs and stories about your vacation after you return from your trip.”
4. Keep your streets beautiful.
The “broken window theory” of fighting crime suggests that areas with unmaintained properties see a higher incidence of crime. “If you see something broken or needing attention, report it to the appropriate agency right away,” says Roberts, who suggests also taking a photo.
“Instead of calling the police to say, ‘Hey, there’s graffiti over here,’ just take a picture of it and document it that way.”Many government agencies now have public-access areas on their websites that encourage people to report graffiti by uploading images directly online.
5. Get involved in the neighborhood.
“Get to know your neighbors, and exchange cellphone numbers or email addresses for easy contact in the event of an emergency,” Roberts says. He also recommends forming a neighborhood watch group so residents can serve as an extra set of eyes for the police.
“However, if you see something that looks suspicious, you should always be a good witness and report it to the police, rather than trying to get in the middle of something,” warns Roberts, who suggests visiting the National Neighborhood Watch website or calling your local police station for information about how to get started.
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