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Jack Simpson - 07/24/09
Crime Prevention

Turn on your television news or pick up your local newspaper. It seems like every day there are more and more reports of increased criminal activity. If you don't want to become a statistic, remain alert. They are out to get you - thieves, I mean!

You are vulnerable at your mailbox, while out shopping, on your computer, in public and private places. Personal safety has become more important than ever before. There are far too many reports of shootings, robberies, burglaries, embezzlement and the like.

Some people have begun taking their outgoing letters/bills to the local post office for mailing. Putting checks in the family mailbox for carrier pickup has become too risky. And, dumping trash with names and addresses isn't so wise either. Shredding machines in homes are more common these days and a good way to prevent thieves from stealing your identity by going through the trash.

All of these new precautions and extra security may be time consuming, but crimes, including high-tech crimes, are increasing as jobs disappear and the economy is in a slump. Precautions are ever more necessary. Being careless increases the possibility of becoming a victim.

Listening to a friend who has been a victim will make one aware of how devastating it can be to be classified as a victim of a crime.

Just a week or so ago in our residential neighborhood there was a daytime burglary. When the alarm went off, three criminals fled their get-away car, leaving the loot behind. They split up and one suspect reportedly headed in our direction.

Using a neighborhood watch approach to the problem, we began calling our neighbors alerting them to the fleeing burglar. Several calls were made and one was to a lady usually home alone with her grandchild. Alerted, she responded that during the call the suspect appeared at her door. He had come from the woods asking to use her telephone. Police arrested the individual.

The psychological effect of this encounter will probably remain with this lady for the rest of her life. She will always wonder what might have happened to her and her grandchild. Good police work and neighbors looking after neighbors paid off in this case. Vigilance was rewarded.

Those in law enforcement recommend that if a solicitor comes to your door and you are alone, remember the individual could be a burglar looking for a target. Do not open the door, but respond through it that you are not interested. This will reflect someone is at home and may dissuade a break-in. Call 911 and report suspicious persons or activities.

Neighborhood watches are useful tools in crime prevention. They can contribute to personal safety. In preventing crime, like those in residential neighborhoods, families and institutions must place greater emphasis on respect for the law. Too many citizens, including leaders, are getting by with infractions and setting bad examples for our young people. It should not be smart "to fix" a problem, and the fixers should not become our heroes. Schools, families, governments and churches all must present a consistent ethical front to all citizens.

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Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.