Neighborhood Crime Watch

A Part of Neighborhood Communications
By Teri Simpson, Optimum Preparedness

ANOTHER Robbery

I just got a call this morning about ANOTHER robbery that happened yesterday, again during the day. This robbery yesterday (Thursday Nov 3rd) took place off Bald Hill Rd in the vicinity of the Fire Station at Piessner Rd. In this last case, the property was gated and locked. After ascertaining that no one was home, the thieves used bolt cutters to remove the lock so they could drive in. They also had the tools to disconnect the propane generator from the big tank and a vehicle big enough to steal the big generator.

During the last month, Elbow Lake Road got hit 6 times in 10 days. The last robbery there, the thieves cleaned the people out. Hart Lake Road has had robberies. 

I have written several articles about neighborhood communications coming from the position of being a more cohesive group if power and communications go down in the event of an emergency or disaster. But with this rash of robberies going on in the Yelm/Rainier/McKenna areas, it is more important than ever that everyone gets to know their neighbors and actually take some actions.

 It sounds like the same set or group of thieves, because they keep using the same method. They pick a dead end road so there is no through traffic. They hit in the day time, usually in the afternoon. They case a road before hitting the houses on it. Most of the houses hit have no gates. Most people have described one man and one woman, or two men and one woman observed in suspicious behavior. If questioned, they are "looking for a lost dog", "looking for a lost horse" (were they high? a lost horse?), "looking for the person selling a meat grinder". 

It was my friend where the woman went up to her house to ask about the meat grinder while her male accomplice hid in the woods, then jumped back in the car as the woman was leaving. The woman even told my friend that she had asked at each house except the gated one. Luckily my friend's landlady that also lived on that short dead end road knew everyone on the road. She called and alerted everyone for that car and that couple. The sheriff said the car was from Napavine in Lewis County. 

I can think of quite a few dead end gravel roads in the area. I am not going to name them but if you live on a dead end road or a private gravel road/drive that is not gated you might want to take some precautions. You might want to get to know your neighbors. Please note: I am not saying act from a place of fear. Rather, act from a place of community, of common unity.

This has nothing to do about whether you attend RSE or not. This is about neighbors watching out for neighbors, and neighbors helping neighbors whether it is because of a disaster or because a few hooligans are robbing people who live in the countryside. 

Burglars look for easy targets because they’re not professionals, as a rule. They’re amateurs looking for easy targets. And there are enough easy targets to make residential burglary one of the fastest growing crimes in recent years. You want to avoid having your home look like an easy target.

There are things you can do THIS WEEKEND to deter thieves.

Put up a gate on your drive. Don't have the money (or time) to put up a gate right now? Go to Lowe's or Home Depot and get a braided steel cable and a lock. Don't get chain; chain is super easy to cut through. A cable will run you $15-$20. You can get a lock for under $10 (although you might want to spend a bit more on the lock since these robbers travel with bolt cutters). Or maybe you HAVE a gate, you've just gotten out of the habit of using it. Might want to re-think that for a little while.

Get a No Trespassing sign and a Beware of Dog sign and post them on either side of your gate/cable, or driveway if you have no cable or gate. So what if you have no dog. If I were a thief, I would see the cable/gate, the No Trespassing sign and the Beware of Dog sign and think "Hmmm... Maybe I should look for an easier target..."

Start locking your doors when you leave. One can have a tendency to think "Well, I'm just running over to Sue's for 10 minutes, and I'll be right back" and so don't lock their door. Or they make sure the front door is locked, but leave the sliding glass door unlocked because it faces the backyard. One of the robberies out towards the end of Bald Hills Rd happened just that way. The slider was open and the woman was gone for a very short time. But it was long enough to be robbed. 

Lock ground floor windows. In the summertime, use sticks in the windows so they only open so far. Don't leave ladders out making it easier for a crook to access your home.

Additional Security Options

Here are some additional security options that go beyond just a gate and sign:

Put up a tall wood/metal  fencing on both sides of your gate so it is not easy to walk around or see in when the gate is closed.  Trees can work as a backup.

 If you are building a gate for the first time, design it like Weyerhaeuser gates that have the lock that is inside the metal pole so that it cannot be cut.

Get an Alarm System in your home – they are only about $25-40 a month.

Purchase a camera for your gate or an Infrared camera, along with a sign saying "You are being watched", etc.  A fake camera as well as a decoy would be a great deterrent.

Always have Pepper Spray handy at the front door of your home, in your car and in your purse.  

Get a good Safe (Costco, etc) for your valuables and important documentation.

Get Mini Blinds for all your windows, so people can't see in your homes.

Get Walkie Talkie’s for your home if you need to communicate without a phone and practice with them.  Even keep a set in your car.

Neighborhood Watch & Road Communities

Cooperative community effort is still society's most effective tool in accomplishing objectives too large for the individual. An isolated individual may have little control over his environment, but in cooperation with others, can accomplish much. 

You and your neighbors can help prevent crime in your immediate area and make it a safer, more secure place to live. Even though today's lifestyles sometimes make it difficult to be as neighborly as we'd like, being a good neighbor is one of the best ways to prevent crime. Neighbors can be your best protection when you come together as a group to look out for each other's interests. 

Neighborhood Watch is more for the suburbs and Road Communities/Groups are more for the rural properties where housing density is a lot less (there may only be 4-5 households per "clump").

At all times when you are at home, be alert to what's going on in your neighborhood.  Washington State is one of the most progressive states in the country when it comes to the Map Your Neighborhood program. In the city, a "Neighborhood" is usually one city block. But all these robberies are taking place in the rural areas, most of which are 5 acre parcels (or larger). That's why we look at "Road Communities" or "Road Neighborhoods".

The road community works through cooperation - Neighbors Watching out for Neighbors. Neighbors know who you are, and what type of car you own. They may be the first to notice a strange car in your driveway when they know you're at work. Each neighbor can effectively watch those homes to each side, the front and back of his own home in the city. But in the rural areas, you need to be aware of people going door to door, strange vehicles parked at your neighbor's home, or a vehicle passing up and down your road slowly, or suspiciously parked.

Other activities to watch for are screams from anywhere, the sound of broken windows, the sound of dogs barking madly when they are usually silent, anyone removing valuables from homes or vehicles (really – in another city, there was a truck that backed up to a home, and a couple of guys moved out everything including the appliances, and then off they went. The neighbors just thought the homeowners were moving. When the homeowner got home from work that afternoon, his house was stripped – the robbers even took the carpet).

Get together, learn who lives where, what people drive. Talk about how to stop looking like an "Easy Target" - by everyone putting up gates or cables and No Trespassing signs.  Collectively get the official Neighborhood Watch signs and put them up at regular intervals - the signs come in reflective or non-reflective. You can also get window decals for windows and doors.

You can get the Neighborhood Watch signs at the National Neighborhood Watch Institute at  http://www.nnwi.org/ . You can select which agency you'd report to, meaning rural people would get the signs saying they report suspicious things to the Sheriff's office whereas a city person would report to the police.  There are some rules as to where you put them up that you need to adhere to but it's mainly not on wood utility poles or traffic signs.

There is another road out Bald Hills way that had several robberies a few years back. They all got gates and No Trespassing signs and put up the Neighborhood Watch signs. They are diligent in keeping an eye open for any vehicle that looks like it shouldn't be there. They let each other know if there are any suspicious cars going around the neighborhood. And it worked.

If you live on the type of a road that is being targeted, consider keeping a pad of paper and pen on the front seat of your car so you can write down the license plate number of any suspicious vehicles, as well as the color, make and model of the vehicle. Carry a camera or use your phone to snap a picture of a suspicious looking vehicle. If you are going to be out of town for a while, let your close neighbors/friends know so that if they see some car coming out of your driveway (and there shouldn't be if you are gone) they can snap a pic or 2 or get the license number.

Stay Safe

If you see a suspicious vehicle on your road, you shouldn't go confront the person in the car – they could be armed, crazy or high on meth. You should write down the license plate number and color/make/model of the car. Snap a pic if you have your camera ready.  Just the fact that you are obviously taking note of the car and driver should make a criminal type nervous and leave.  Then you can let your neighbors know to be on the lookout for such and such a vehicle. You can also call the Sheriff's office (not 911) and let them know that this car/person was casing homes on your road.

Remember, this current rash of robberies has been done by people that are spending considerable time and effort to make sure you will not be at home, so get in contact with your fellow 'roadies'  even if only by phone, so that if any of you have someone coming to the door during the day (9am to 5pm) looking for a dog, or something supposedly for sale, get their description, car make, model and tag number, then let everyone else know including the sheriff. 

How to Report a Crime

If you actually see a crime taking place DO call 911. Let the police dispatcher control the conversation. Stay calm and state the problem. Give the address where the emergency is occurring. Remember to give the full address if you know it and the nearest cross street (or give your address and say that the crime occurred 2 properties down from yours, for example).

It is important to be able to describe the offender to police. Police need to know the suspect's race, sex, age, height, weight, build, complexion, hair color, eye color, clothing and miscellaneous identifying marks such has tattoos, scars, etc. 

Answer all questions to ensure the best response. If you wish to remain anonymous, give your name to the operator, then request anonymity and tell the operator that if they need more information, they can call you later. 

What Else Can You Do? 

Exchange work and vacation schedules with a neighbor(s) you trust so you can keep an eye on each other's homes. If you know that your neighbor is away and you see an obvious invitation to a burglar, correct it. Close the open garage door and remove the accumulation of newspapers from the doorstep or pile of mail from their mail and paper box. Make the effort!  Become acquainted with your neighbors. 

How to Develop the Block Watch, Map Your Neighborhood or Road Group program

To develop a Block Watch program in your neighborhood, you can contact your local police/sheriff's department or go to the Thurston County Sheriff's Office Block Watch Program www.co.thurston.wa.us/sheriff/community-block-watch.htm. They will assist in developing a community plan. For the program to be totally effective, each resident must take an active role in both security improvement and observation.  

Since rural people usually can't see each other's houses, doing the Map Your Neighborhood might be better for your road. Info on this is here:  WA State Map Your Neighborhood http://www.emd.wa.gov/myn/index.shtml  This website has info on the Introduction to MYN, How to organize a MYN team, and downloadable resources.

A couple of other excellent resources are the Washington State Crime Prevention site which offers good manuals on being pro-active with crime prevention:  http://www.wscpaonline.org/Manuals/Manuals2.cfm  and
Do It Yourself Crime Prevention: Your Crime Prevention Handbook which covers more in-depth things you can do to Robber-proof your house, property and goods  (http://www.wscpaonline.org/Manuals/DITYCP.cfm ). 

There are road groups that have formed and that are at varying degrees of development. Some are just starting up, some are well established and just amazing ("well oiled machine" comes to mind). The point here is that you do not have to re-invent the wheel. You just have to decide to do something about creating more cohesiveness and unity in your immediate neighborhood. It is a very important step, and can only serve you should there be an emergency, a disaster or if a carload of common crooks looking for an Easy Target come by. You will be able to say "Not on MY road you don't. Not today."

Teri Simpson
Optimum Preparedness
www.OptimumPreparedness.com

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Comments   

0 #3 Aurora 2011-11-30 12:16
Big dog or dogs, solve problem!
0 #2 LJ Martin 2011-11-07 06:16
I think with the rash of robberies around here, one key fact is not to react with fear. Continue to grid your home and place your focus on what you want to create. That being said, over the weekend, we had 4 thefts with my neighbor to the left, my neighbor to the right, and the 2 behind us - and they were all home. It is our MIND that carries us to safety, not reacting out of fear. Be blessed all of you!
0 #1 Tom 2011-11-05 09:04
One 9 mm on watch and shoot their asses, then thieves will know there's consequences to their stupidity and freeloading. Just shoot their asses!

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