Personal Awareness & Simple Precautions


 It usually takes a serious criminal act in or near your neighborhood to jump start you and your neighbors into thinking about security, but the truth is you should be thinking about your personal security all the time.  Proactivity is the central theme of this edition of “Security Tips from the Experts”.  

Let’s begin by introducing the concept of personal awareness.  We’ve said it before but we can’t emphasize it enough:  Always be aware of your surroundings!  We’re not just talking about being out late at night or traveling in a strange area – we mean all the time, even in daytime in the familiar surroundings of your own home or workplace.  Most of us aren’t fully aware of what’s happening around us, but with relatively little effort we can learn to think proactively and act defensively.  Develop the habit of looking around before you leave your home, vehicle, or workplace.  We don’t mean just taking a quick glance – visually scan 360º and think about what you’re actually seeing.  Using this simple precaution, you’ll spot dangerous situations and suspicious people in time to avoid them.  

Ask yourself why those “street people” are hanging around in your neighborhood, and if no reasonable answer comes to mind it’s probably a good idea to alert the patrol (or the police if you observe actual criminal activity).  If you’re walking the dog, scan the block ahead as you cross the street and glance behind every minute or two; you can also suddenly stop walking and listen for any sounds.  Before you turn off your vehicle’s ignition, look around and make sure you haven’t been followed.  If you think you are being followed, head straight for the first police or security unit you see or drive to the nearest police station.  (Just in case you forgot, the 2nd District NOPD station is located at 4317 Magazine St. just off the corner of Magazine and Napoleon; the 6th District NOPD station is located at 1930 Martin Luther King Blvd. just off the corner ofMartin Luther King and Rampart).  If you’re going to be out late, be more alert and cautious than usual.  If you take a taxi (and those who drink should take a taxi), have the driver drop you directly in front of your home and wait until you get inside, then wave at him after you’ve taken a quick look inside to make sure everything is safe.  

Teenagers and young adults are usually the least aware of their surroundings and the most careless of their own safety.  They also tend to be out later than most other folks.  Take a few moments to review these tips with your kids and make it clear that despite what they may think, they aren’t bulletproof.  If you can talk to them about drugs, alcohol, and sex, the security talk should be a breeze!  (And it may be the most important talk of all.)  

Let’s get back to that word “proactive”.  Here are some tips you should follow to avoid becoming a crime statistic:  

Always carry your cell phone with you when you’re away from home.  It’s a great security tool with no downside risk, especially when police and security numbers have been programmed into your cell phone’s directory.  It’s especially useful with teenagers, who always seem to have a cell phone.

No matter how safe you think your neighborhood is, always keep your car, house, garage, shed, etc., locked at all times.  Even if your neighborhood really is free from crime now, if enough folks become careless you’ll soon have a problem.  Criminals are street smart and often very observant, so it won’t take them long to figure out where the pickings are easiest. 

Good lighting is the cheapest nighttime crime deterrent and one of the most effective.  Automatic on/off switches and motion detector activated lights can reduce electricity costs to a minimum.   FYI, the new fluorescent & LED floodlights and spotlights use only a fraction of the electricity of incandescent bulbs, and they last for years.   Let your utility company know when streetlights burn out, and ask the company if it offers free conversion to less expensive lighting.  (Some actually do this.)  

Trim shrubbery and trees to allow for visual sightlines from the street. Overgrown areas obstruct sightlines and restrict ambient light at night, giving criminals more places to hide.   You might be surprised how much your neighborhood brightens up.  Your utility company can also help here.  

If you have an alarm, use it.  If you don’t have an alarm, get one!  Alarms can be installed to conform to almost any budget, and even the most basic alarm is better than none.  Consider adding a portable wireless panic button which can activate your home alarm if you are attacked in your yard or driveway.  (And don’t forget to post security and alarm yard signs & window decals all over the place!)

If you think residence burglaries only occur at night, the F.B.I. begs to disagree! Fact is, a burglary can occur at any time but more and more residence burglaries occur in the morning.  With Mom and Dad at work, the kids in school or daycare, Grandma living a thousand miles away and few homes with full-time domestic servants, the burglars just made the logical choice.  Get in the habit of securing and locking your home in the daytime just as you’ve always done at night.  

Never hire casual labor if you aren’t familiar with the worker, either through personal acquaintance or a recent reference from a trusted source.  Just because someone is carrying a bucket and brush, don’t think this necessarily means that person is a legitimate window or car washer.   

Be careful about hiring small contractors who drive around the neighborhood looking for work – they may be scam artists.  Check their references and ask how long their helpers have been with them – it’s a bad sign if you constantly see new faces every day.  Be especially watchful if construction or repair work is going on in your neighborhood within a block or so of your location.  Things tend to disappear around construction sites!  

Never leave any property visible inside your vehicle.  Even inexpensive items like CD’s, loose change, clothing or books can prompt a petty thief to break in. Also remember to park your vehicle in a lighted area whenever possible and above all, lock your vehicle at all times.  (Most vehicle break-ins occur on vehicles which have been left unlocked.)  

Use your patrol for escorts to and from your house.  After all, that’s one of the reasons we’re there.  When you call us, give us a precise arrival or departure time so we can coordinate multiple requests.   If you’re leaving town, call in a patrol request and we’ll keep an eye on your property.  If you like, we’ll remove your mail and newspapers to a safe place so it won’t be obvious that no one has been home for some time.

Become active in neighborhood security groups, and organize a group if you don’t already have one.  Neighborhood Watch and Crimestoppers come to mind, but there are others.  They provide valuable training in crime prevention and detection.  

If you observe a suspicious person in the neighborhood, call the patrol and request a drive-by surveillance.  If you observe actual criminal activity, call NOPD, and then call the patrol.  

Remember to be aware of your surroundings at all times.  Become “street smart” and make your personal security an unconscious habit.  Before you walk out the door of your house or turn off the ignition in your vehicle, take a look around to make sure you are safe.  Look before you leap!  

Distributed as a public service by New Orleans Private Patrol – serving Louisiana since 1930.