Thursday, April 25, 2013

Neighborhood Watch meeting notes

Most excellent notes from last night's neighborhood watch meeting, via Dawn Forman @ Laurel Ridge:

Good Evening Everybody!!

Tonight we had a community neighborhood watch meeting. I wanted to thank everyone that came out, as well as let you know the information that we learned from Major Ellison, our new police major Mr. Fowler, our new community education coordinator, and the police detectives and officers present at the meeting.  I also want to thank Chick-fil-a for donating a large tray of chicken nuggets for tonight's meeting. Please take a few minutes to read this email.

I am going to do bullet points, as that is how I took notes:

*  There will be 13 more officers and 1 sergeant on the streets of Center Precinct, our precinct, in the upcoming months. Several of which will be on the street starting on Saturday.

*  The detectives working in our area have been able to clear numerous burglaries that have happened.  To clear a burglary means that they can likely attribute a burglary to a suspect apprehended, but they do not have enough on that individual to get a warrant for an arrest for that burglary, so the burglar will not go to jail for that crime.

*  One key item to getting property back and putting a burglar to a burglary, is to have serial numbers for all of your electronics and photos of jewelry. Take photos of the item and the serial number and place them on a thumb/flash drive or a cd, so that if your home is burglarized you have that information for police officers.  Having serial numbers of electronics and photos of jewelry helps detectives in several ways, first if your item is taken to a pawn shop or is found on a burglary suspect, police officers check the serial numbers with those that they have from burglaries, if there is a match you get your item back and the person who took the item to the pawn shop or caught with it, gets a visit from the police.  Second, having the serial numbers to items can make the difference between a burglary being cleared and and a burglary getting it's day in court, as it gives detectives more evidence to mount against a criminal. Please don't put doing this off.  It only will take a few minutes, and really could help you and the police officers if your home is ever broken into. We don't know when or if our homes are going to be burglarized, so don't put it off any longer.  Also don't keep the disk or drive in your jewelry box or another area where a burglar is likely to look.  You don't want them to take the disk or drive in their hurry to get in and out of your home.  I am also putting my photos in the cloud just in case.

*  Most burglaries are happening during the day while people are at work, when no cars are in the driveway.  Make it appear that someone could be home.  Leave a tv or radio on loud enough so that someone coming to your door or window may think that someone is home.  A light on helps as well.

*  Having a dog bark seems to be a deterrent.  Alarm company signs and stickers may also help in deterring a crime, however homes have been burglarized with a monitored home alarms, so this may not deter some.  Alarms may make burglars stay for a shorter time.   Outdoor alarm sirens may help stop a crime, as they alert the neighborhood to the crime in progress.

* If a stranger comes to your door, don't answer it, but acknowledge their presence and let them know that you are calling 911.  If you answer the door, you are making yourself vulnerable, especially if you are a female or elderly and the person knocking is male.  Many times this has been a technique used to see if someone is home or to distract the homeowner, while someone comes in through your back door.  Call 911, if the person makes you uneasy or feels suspicious.

*  Keep your doors locked even when you are home or outside in the yard working.  Unlocked doors make it easy for someone to come up and slip in.  Often when we are working outside we are focused on our task and not paying attention to an open front or back door, giving a burglar an opportunity to enter your home.

*  The judges in our county do not usually give criminals jail time when they are caught.  It is not unusual for criminals to be out on probation and go right back committing the crimes that put them on probation in the first place.  Even criminals caught on probation rarely get jail time.  Major Ellison told us of a community that made their presence known in the court rooms and helped get the criminals in their area behind bars.  I am going to be looking into how this community did this, so that we can do something like that here, if the burglars are caught and make it to court.  He also mentioned that it almost takes an armed robbery to happen to get a person jail time in DeKalb.  Knowing this made me want to learn more about the judges that I am voting for in the future.

*  The better the description we give the police officers of the person/s that we feel are suspicious in our neighborhood, the more likely they are to get a warrant for a suspect's arrest and that he could get prison time.  Getting the best description of his clothes, height, skin tone, facial hair, any body markings that stand out, hair color and style, and anything else that can help the police id the person we are suspicious about will help them.  They told us that they know most of the people committing these crimes, because they are repeat offenders.  The better the description of even the vehicles that  we see with license plates number or any special characteristic will also help the police catch those committing the crimes, and can even give them a better idea of what to look for when they are riding around, and can also help make an arrest.

*  We will have a greater police presence in our neighborhood.  With police officers cruising around looking for suspicious activity, as well as monitoring speed on Mount Olive and Harcourt.  You've been warned, so don't be surprised if you see a police officer on motorcycle in the very near future.  Watch your speed and stop at stop signs, or you may receive a ticket.  A neighbor is also helping me with getting the speed trailer on Harcourt that will make drivers aware of their speed and that also monitors the speeds drivers are going, to give the safety office information on making our streets safer.

*   There are many inexpensive devices at Walmart, Home Depot, Lowes, Targe, and I am sure even ACE that can help you with home security.  There are ways to make your back door a little more difficult to kick in, sensors to alert intruders that doors or windows are opened that sound like you have an alarm system when you don't, fake alarm company stickers or signs, cameras that connect to a computer, as well as motion detecting lights.  These devices could deter someone from entering your home, and are not true monitored home alarm systems.

*  A person in MANA looked into alarm systems.  I am working on getting the information, so that I can give it to anyone interested.  It slipped my mind to get a copy of my own at the end of the meeting.

*  Get to know your neighbors.  Find out which neighbors are home during the day.  Let neighbors know when you are going to be gone for extended periods of time or when a worker is coming that day that is out of the norm.  When you drive through the neighborhood, drive a different way and look around and see if you see anything suspicious or out of the ordinary.  When you see something, say something, email me, text me, call me, let your neighbors know, after 911 is called.  We need to work together.  Snarky comments don't help.  When descriptions of vehicles/people are given, they are given to inform.  Often times, I am out and about when I receive information about crimes.  I try to get information out as quickly as possible, getting information out on a cell phone isn't easy, and I try to give the details that I am given, as I am given them without any of my own interpretation.  I want you to have the first person account of what happened and not my interpretation. Nothing that I send out is meant to offend, but to inform.

*  Homes that are on corner lots, with privacy fencing in the backyard, private backyards, and backyards that have easy access to escape out the backyard are more vulnerable to break ins.

*  Every person from the police department that spoke told us to call 911 when we see suspicious activity or suspicious behavior.  I lost track of how many times that was spoken to us tonight.  We have to be vigilant about calling 911.  Calls are routed according to priority, so an officer will not be sent if there is a greater need elsewhere in our precinct.  When you call 911, you are asked if you'd like to meet with an officer, if you say yes, your call is given a higher priority.  The police officers also want to talk to us about what we saw, so that they can ask us questions.  They said that they want us to call for ANYTHING SUSPICIOUS/OUT OF THE ORDINARY that we see.  People parked in cars, slow cars driving around, homes with vans or trucks backed up into a driveway where no one else is home, young people walking around with backpacks during the day, middle school/high school aged kids walking around when they should be in school, people walking around a home where no one else is home, and things of this nature are all not normal behavior and when we see these things, and other suspicious activity we need to call 911 as soon as possible.

There were two home burglaries and one attempted today (4/24).  Please use your burglar alarm if you have one.  Please report suspicious activity and give as detailed a description of vehicle/person as possible.  We need to be vigilant as a neighborhood and work with the police officers. There were a number of officers and detectives at the meeting tonight and they really do want to work with us to put a stop to the increase in burglaries that we have seen.  We also need to work together and keep each other informed.

I felt that the police officers, detectives, our new Major, and our new community education specialist really want to work with us and make our area safer.  I have a feeling that I will be able to get information about crimes found on quicker and get questions we have answered, something that didn't happen with our prior education specialist.  I am really hopeful that crimes will go down in the future, but we need to do our part and call 911 whenever we see suspicious behavior/activity.  Having more officers working in our precinct will help as well.

This email is not to scare or frighten, but to inform people in our neighborhood, as we need to know what is happening around us.  Please call 911, whenever you see suspicious behavior/activity.  Don't wait to make the call, lets help the police make our neighborhood safer.  The quicker we call, the quicker the police response, and the quicker that we are able to get people off the streets.  Our calls let others know that we are watching and not afraid to call 911 whenever we see behavior of any sort that appears to be suspicious.  Also, let the neighborhood know of suspicious activity that you see, so that we can keep alert.

Thank you for staying alert and calling 911 when you see activity that makes you suspicious.

Dawn Forman