Every day, stories emerge about heroic actions of police officers. Whether it’s rescuing a family pet from a tree or pursuing a criminal in a high-speed car chase, a law enforcement officer’s job to protect and serve the community doesn’t end when the badge comes off.
In honor of Law Enforcement Appreciation month and National Police Week (May 11-17), the Electronic Security Association (ESA) sat down with Brian Crum, a police officer in Irving, Texas, which is a suburb of Dallas. Crum, who also coordinates citizen crime prevention programs for the city of Irving, provided some valuable tips on the best practices for maintaining a safe home and community.
Crum said the keys to maintaining a safe neighborhood are community organization and communication. Homeowners are encouraged to work with their neighbors and appoint a block captain to facilitate a neighborhood crime watch group.
“Neighborhoods should strive to have a good, strong reputation against crime,” Crum said. “They should let it be known that if a crime is committed in their neighborhood, someone will see it and the criminal will be caught.”
But for a neighborhood watch to be successful, Crum said, participants must be willing to report crimes. Often times, individuals succumb to the bystander effect, a social phenomenon in which those who witness an emergency situation fail to call for help when others are present. This occurs because witnesses assume that other bystanders will take responsibility and report the crime.
“People expect others to report crime or suspicious activity,” Crum said, “but it’s everyone’s responsibility.”
While a strong, active watch program is beneficial to a neighborhood’s safety, it’s not the only form of protection against crime. Homeowners must make every effort to secure their homes, and effective security systems are just the ticket.
According to a survey conducted by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 83 percent of convicted burglars said they would attempt to determine if a security system was present before attempting a burglary. But simply sticking an alarm company’s sign in your front yard won’t be enough to convince burglars that your home is protected; Crum says experienced burglars have several ways of determining whether the home is equipped with a security system.
“Criminals are very sharp when it comes to selecting a home,” Crum said. “They can tell the difference between a real alarm sign in the front yard and a decoy. They can also take a look at a window and know if it has alarm contacts or glass-break sensors. “
Crum went on to explain that some burglars lurk around neighborhoods and proactively scope out homes that aren’t equipped with security systems. Potential criminals may also knock on the front door with the hope that the homeowner will open the door, allowing them to quickly canvass the entryway for a security system panel or listen for beeps or alarms that sound when the doors are opened.
ESA urges homeowners to enlist a security company that is a member of ESA. Member companies are experienced professionals who must adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct. An ESA member company will recommend and install a system that accommodates both the features of the home and the homeowner’s lifestyle. Homeowners can find an ESA member company in their area by searching the Alarm.org database.
Security systems act as a crime deterrent at home, but what about preventing crime elsewhere? Crum says sometimes it’s as simple as listening to a gut feeling.
“If your gut tells you something is out of the ordinary, call the police,” Crum said. “Your gut is usually right. I would much rather scare someone off than take reports of crime the next morning. Even if you aren’t sure it’s a crime, call it in to the non-emergency line. Every department has one.”
Homeowners can show their appreciation for local police officers by practicing these crime prevention tips in their communities. After all, a safe place to work and live affects everyone positively.