While recently reviewing police reports completed during my March vacation, I noticed that someone had broken into a vehicle in my neighborhood. Our Police Officers ran a great investigation, the suspect was identified, and the stolen property returned. This event, like too many others, prompted me to share with you some recommendations on how to help prevent yourselves from becoming victims of crime, as well as how to maintain your personal safety.
Most importantly, you can minimize your chances of becoming a victim of crime or finding your safety at risk by taking away the opportunity for these circumstances to occur. This requires planning and awareness on your part.
There are a fair number of both home and vehicle break-ins in Tyngsboro each month. If you have a garage, use it. Leaving a vehicle parked outside overnight creates opportunity. If you must park outside, don’t leave valuables in your vehicle. We often receive reports of GPS units, laptop computers, and other items taken from vehicles parked outside. When you go shopping, place items in the trunk of your vehicle, keeping them out of sight, as well as difficult to find.
When away from home, leave lights on. If you’re going on vacation, cancel the mail and the newspaper, have your driveway plowed, and have the grass cut. Your Police Department provides a House Check program in which Officers will make periodic checks of your home while you’re away; request this service. In addition, have a friend or neighbor check on your home, keeping an eye out for anything out-of-the ordinary or suspicious. Make sure all your doors and windows are locked. These simple steps will reduce the opportunity.
Be a nosey neighbor! If you see suspicious activity, report it to the police. Many times after a crime we interview people in the neighborhood who report having seen suspicious people or vehicles, but say they didn’t report them because they “didn’t want to bother the Police.” Believe me, the time is always well spent. We would prefer to be called and prevent a crime than to take a report from a victim of a crime.
You must also take protective measures around your personal safety. You should always be alert to persons around you.
Many people have become the victims of crimes because they failed to be aware of the other people in their environment. When you park in a large mall parking lot, do not park next to a person sitting in a vehicle. That person may just be waiting for someone or they may be waiting for an opportunity to commit a crime, with you as a potential victim.
Have you every felt you were being followed while shopping? Pay attention to that uncomfortable feeling you get yet when you know something is wrong. Ask the store manager to provide an escort back to your vehicle. Too many times victims of crimes report having sensed that something was wrong, but that they failed to act on their instincts. If they had, they may not have become victims of crime.
If you see someone committing a crime, report it to the police. Do not try to stop it yourself; you could become the victim of another crime. Many of these criminals have drug or alcohol problems, and may be carrying weapons. You can be a good witness by providing a description of the person, a vehicle plate number, or the color and make of a car.
I know we can not prevent all crimes, but by practicing these simple behaviors, we can dramatically reduce the incident of crime.
I have a friend who is a Community Service Officer in another town and involved in a number of neighborhood watch programs. One night a neighbor who belonged to the neighborhood watch program saw a vehicle moving slowly through her neighborhood.
The neighbor felt this just wasn’t right, so she called the local Police Department. An Officer on patrol stopped the vehicle for having a tail light out. The operator was issued a defective equipment tag and promptly left the area. The next day, a neighboring Police Department called to report they had arrested that same operator of the vehicle while he was breaking into a home in their community; the arresting officer had found the defective equipment tag in the vehicle.
During an interview with Police, the suspect stated he had planned to commit a crime in the neighborhood where he got the defective equipment tag, but moved on because he felt if he could get stopped for having a tail light out, he’d surely never get away with a crime in that town.
My friend likes to take credit for preventing that crime, but his story really shows how awareness and preventative actions on the part of the Community and the Police can minimize crime and maximize personal safety in our Town.
Be safe and have a great spring!
Chief W.F. Mulligan
Tyngsborough Police Department