Local Focus: Home Safety Checks Can Combat Property Crime

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NBPD Crime Prevention Specialist Andi Querry does a home security check in Newport Beach.
NBPD Crime Prevention Specialist Andi Querry does a home security check in Newport Beach.

Newport Beach has world class shopping, world class beaches, world class weather, world class hotels—and world class homes to break into.

Newport is considered a “safe city” with relatively few violent crimes, said Newport Beach Police Department Crime Prevention Specialist Andi Querry, which is why Newport’s trusting residents are often lulled into a sense of security.

However, according to the city’s most recent crime survey reports (prepared by Police Chief Jay Johnson), “Ninety-six percent of crimes committed are property crimes,” Querry quoted.

To that end, citizens and homeowners can help to reduce the numbers of burglaries and break-ins by taking prudent home security precautions.

Those can be as simple as locking your doors and securing windows through which criminals easily and quickly can enter, which Querry said is “something we all should do even if you leave just for a brief walk with your dog.”

For example, criminals can enter an open garage and remove valuables from autos or shelves, then escape in just a

Making sure the screws in the strike plate are long enough
Making sure the screws in the strike plate are long enough

matter of seconds. Additionally, by habit, people leave the door from their garage into their home open – added incentive for the daring criminal.

Residential burglaries fluctuate throughout the year in different parts of the city; so home security should be a 365-day-a-year consideration. Department statistics show slight upticks during summers and holidays – times when “securing homes may be a second thought,” Querry apprised.

In order to keep residents aware of potential crime during holiday periods, Querry’s office sends out reminders on-line and cell phone via a free communications service called Nixle (it provides citywide information and warnings as events unfold) and through flyers distributed door-to-door by the department’s Volunteers in Policing organization.

Alert citizens are an important component to successful crime prevention. All too often, Querry said, people see things that are suspicious, but they’re hesitant to call 911.  “Don’t be afraid to call, that’s why we’re here,” Querry offers. “Citizens are crucial in our crime fighting efforts.”

Querry's checklist
Querry’s checklist

If there’s a suspicion that a crime might be occurring, Querry suggests calling the NBPD non-emergency number: (949) 644-3717. Otherwise, when a crime is in progress, call 911 immediately.On average in Newport, patrol officers will reach the scene in less than three minutes upon that 911 call.

Bad guys (and gals), though often quick and stealthy, aren’t always the brightest in choosing homes to rob. Often times, residents are at home and some are even armed. Querry advises strongly against confrontation, if possible. In other words, don’t answer a door if you don’t recognize the person who’s ringing the doorbell.

Other than locked windows and doors, in case of imminent threat one of the best defenses is a strong pair of lungs.Adrenaline can bring out the Pavarotti in most of us.   In majority instances, she says, burglars will flee: confrontation is not a part of their criminal DNA.

In addition to locking easily accessible entry points, many home security choices are available and reasonable, from simple window decals or posted signs that announce private patrols or demand “no solicitors,” to inexpensive audio-only warning sensors that blare loudly if a gate is opened, to sophisticated multi-level systems featuring motion, audio and TV sensors that are monitored 24-hours-a-day by subscription security services. Either video or still cameras often provide leads that can identify “perps” – cop-ese for perpetrators of crimes.

Motion detector lights surrounding a home bring daylight to darkened side yards, walkways and driveways. Floodlights

Checking door locks
Checking door locks

are a skulker’s worst nightmare – other than spending his nights in a crowded jail cell.

Accomplished burglars always plan their getaways, even before invading a property. To that end, Querry suggests locking any gates, which certainly impedes access to – or exit from – side yards. She suggests installing any obstacles that might dissuade burglars from choosing your home.

Also, importantly, every hinged door should feature a quality brand deadbolt that inserts as deeply as possible into a steel strike plate secured by two-inch-long screws into the doorframe. What burglars don’t want are time-consuming challenges to entry.

Burglars are shadows, consistently wary about being seen or identified. Blending into an environment is a form of camouflage. But there are signs that suspicious citizens can look for: cars that cruise too slowly; people who walk by while scanning properties; and strangers ringing doorbells while looking in windows – to name a few.

Being a good witness is critical for responding officers. Dispatchers will ask callers for as complete a description of a suspect as possible. They’ll ask for gender, estimated height, hair color, ethnicity, color and type of clothing, facial characteristics, if a suspect is alone or with others (the others’ descriptions), vehicle type and color and direction of travel.  That’s a tall order when one’s normal calm demeanor is confused by anxiety and probable misperceptions.

Upon request, Crime Prevention Specialist Querry will conduct a home security check as part of the department’s community services. She has a checklist she uses to identify potential security problems, from not using long bolts in the door lock’s strike plate to easily-opened windows.

Citizens can also visit the Newport Beach Police Department headquarters at Jamboree and Santa Barbara to obtain a “Home Security Handbook,” published by the California Attorney General’s Office and the Crime and Violence Prevention Center.

Contact the writer: [email protected]

 

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