“If common sense were so common, we’d all have it!”
So says Peggy Lince, one of four civilian Crime Prevention Specialists with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office who oversees the West District that serves Fort Myers Beach. A retired Fort Myers police officer, Peggy begins by asking and answering, “Are you a target for a burglar? Yes, you are!” Because of this, Lee County Sheriff and native Mike Scott believes in a proactive way to reduce crime, so Peggy delivers 2 to 3 public safety programs a day, four times a week, because “the safer you are, the easier it is to run the Sheriff’s Office!”
Simple common-sense ideas can reduce your likelihood of being a victim, for crime is a triangle of Target, Desire and Opportunity and we control Opportunity. “If someone wants to commit a crime; they will,” reasons Peggy. “They do not look for the biggest house or prettiest girl, but the easiest opportunity. If you lock your home and your neighbor does not, they are an easier target. Burglars want in as quick as possible to grab as much stuff as quick as possible to get out as quick as possible, and locked doors make that difficult.”
Homeowners are the first responder of their own house, Peggy explains, “not law enforcement. You can call 911 but we will most likely not be there when the crime occurs, so employ easy safety steps so you do not need us.” Criminals kick in front doors all the time because “despite bolt locks, only tiny screws secure the strike plate; replace those with 3-inch ones. If you have an alarm use it! Draw your shades, keep your hedges low, install security lighting and have a peephole in your front door. A crucial element is to know your neighbors and look out for one-another.”
Sore Thumbs & Pre-Plans
Lack of car security frustrates Peggy because “next to your home, that is your most valuable purchase – protect it! Lock it and store belongings out of sight, not under a towel in the back seat that sticks out like a sore thumb. Pre-plan before going out – if you don’t need a purse, leave it at home. Park under a light and the safest spot is not always the closest – those 7 extra steps may save a lot of trouble. Crooks are not looking for the nicest car to steal but the easiest. Lock it when getting gas and check the back seat to make sure no one snuck in while you were paying.”
Homes and cars intersect in your garage. “Lock your garage and use the alarm,” Peggy emphasizes, “because it is full of bicycles, golf carts and tools, and once in there, it is a stone’s throw to inside your house. Most people leave their keys right inside the door and if thieves get those, they have your house and other security keys too, basically gaining access to your entire life. Hide your keys in an obscure spot because criminals generally won’t search for them.”
Most burglars know their victims: “they can be con artists, repairmen and most crucially family members. Identify theft is so easy today because everyone has a camera – you leave out your bank statement or credit card bill, someone takes a quick photo, and they own your life.”
Burglars favor warm weather climates, 56% are white, 96% are men, and most are under 25 years old who are familiar with your area from seemingly-innocent things like bicycle rides through your neighborhood – “They know when Bill walks the dog or that Mrs. Smith goes to bed at 8 p.m.” Most are non-violent and do not use a weapon. They work fast – as little as 2 minutes – usually when people work from 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., preferring small valuables like money, credit cards and jewelry. “It is hard to carry a TV down the street,” Peggy offers, “but easy to walk with a pocketful of jewelry and money.” A burglary occurs in the US every 15 seconds, at an average loss of $2,230.
Socks & Underwear
“If you conceal valuables at home, avoid the master bedroom and sock and underwear drawers,” Peggy says with emphasis. “That is where everyone hides their stuff and the first place burglars look. The safest is a children’s or guest room because if they are only in the house for two minutes, they do not have time to look in obscure places.”
Criminals tell law enforcement they avoid homes with alarms and especially cameras, as well as those with significant outdoor lighting and neighborhoods without easy escape routes like cul-de-sacs. They most hate dogs! “You do not need a junkyard dog,” she says. “If you have a barker, burglars stay away! They do not want to be caught or bit! If you cannot own a dog, create the illusion with ‘Beware of Dog’ signs.”
Peggy’s easy-to-implement ideas go on: Don’t walk or shop alone; check out maintenance and security identification when people come to your house and call their supervisors for verification as they wait outside; be alert in parking garages and common areas; and don’t be so self-absorbed on your cell that you are oblivious to your surroundings: “Employ common sense!”
If you are a victim, assist law enforcement with HALT: Head details such as height, hair, complexion, eyes, jewelry, teeth and voice; Abdomen for shirt, scars, tattoos and weight; Legs for pants and any limp; and Toe for shoes and feet. With vehicles note the make and color, direction, number of occupants and license plate if possible.
To have Peggy conduct a free residential security review of your home, with her suggestions in writing, call her office to schedule an appointment at 239-258-3200; they can generally do this within two weeks, though it may be a bit longer now due to Season. To reach Peggy email firstname.lastname@example.org. In an emergency call 911; for nonemergencies call 239-477-1000 or see www.sherifflee.org.
“Protect your property,” Peggy concludes – “it’s yours!”