Maintaining law and order cannot be done by the Police Department alone. It must be a partnership between the police, who provide professional assistance and authority, and citizens, who take an active interest in the safety of their community.
Crime prevention is an umbrella for many different community oriented programs. The basic goal of crime prevention is to lessen the ability of criminals to commit crimes by educating the community in ways to avoid becoming the victim of crime.
The crimes we fear the most occur the least. Armed robbery, severe assault, murder, and rape while highly publicized are relatively rare; the average citizen is unlikely to become a victim. Prevention consists of common-sense measures: avoid dangerous areas, especially when you are alone at night, use street lights for visibility, stay in the view of others, walk in groups when leaving public events, and call for police assistance if your suspicion is aroused.
When we speak of crime prevention, in most cases the crimes to be prevented are burglary, vehicle prowls, and vandalism. They are the most common crimes and most likely to happen to the average citizen, regardless of location and social status. Burglary is a crime of opportunity. Burglars and vehicle prowlers seek targets like empty homes with easy, hidden entry. Unlocked vehicles with visible valuables inside are also a popular target. Defense against burglaries, vehicle prowls, and vandalism rest on three principles:
1. Reduce the criminal's motivation.
2. Reduce the criminal's opportunity.
3. Increase the difficulty of committing the crime successfully.
- Take note of strange people in your neighborhood, and make sure they know it. Burglars often case the area, noting which houses are unoccupied and how they might enter unnoticed.
- Get to know your neighbors. Getting together with your neighbors builds a sense of community and interdependence. A potential burglar should know that people are watching and the neighborhood cares.
- LOCK YOUR VEHICLE! Do not leave valuables (cell phones, CD holders, iPods, purses, wallets, etc.) visible inside your vehicle.
- Mark your major possessions with an engraver. Use your Washington Driver's License number. This makes your item identifiable and more difficult to pawn.
- Keep a list of the serial number and model numbers of your electronics, bicycles, or any other item which could be carried off by a thief.
- Use your imagination to protect your home and property. One person posts a sign "day sleeper" in his window, another puts a large dog dish and a pair of men's boots outside her back door. Leaving a radio or TV turned on creates the illusion that the house is occupied. Timers are now available that will vary the times that lights are turned on and off so the house seems occupied.
- For businesses, consider investing in a quality video surveillance system. Such systems make identification of suspects and the subsequently closing of criminal cases by arrest more feasible.
- Keep your hedges and bushes trimmed. Houses with large bushes offer cover for a burglar who breaks a window. Make it impossible to stand next to your house without being seen.
- Install perimeter lighting. Make sure a burglar cannot approach an entrance in darkness. Inexpensive lights are available which detect motion. Installed on a back porch, they illuminate the area if anyone approaches.
- Get to know your neighbors. The more you know about them, the more you will notice anything unusual. Establish an attitude of mutual watchfulness with them.
- Report anything suspicious. You are effective eyes and ears. The police are interested in anything suspicious, whether or not a crime is being committed. If anything strikes you as suspicious (slow moving vehicles, suspicious persons, vehicles being loaded with valuables, etc) report it by calling 911. Don't worry about causing a problem. it is our job to check on these things.
- No home is burglar proof, but any home can be made difficult to enter.
- Keyed locks are available to add to most existing aluminum sliding doors and windows. They can be fitted into existing locks and prevent opening without a key.
- Deadbolts cannot be forced with a credit card. We recommend 1.5" throw (how far it goes into the doorframe). This makes it harder to force the door open. Remember, a deadbolt keyed on both sides is doubly difficult. The burglar might get in a window but needs to get the loot out the door. For safety, leave a key near the door when you are home.
- Harden doors by fastening the striker plate with three-inch screws passing into the stud wall. Replace one screw on each hinge with a protruding nail and leave the opposite screw out. If the hinge is pulled, the door still cannot be removed.
- Anti-jimmy bars, as simple as a piece of wood, can be laid in sliding window tracks to prevent their opening. More sophisticated bars can be locked into place.