The top thing that should be on our minds when evaluating the area we live in is the safety of the neighborhood. It is our responsibility as parents and residents of the neighborhood that we live in to do our best to make the neighborhood as safe as possible. Making sure that we feel safe inside and outside our homes is very important when considering the dynamic of the neighborhood. There are many things that can be done to increase security to prevent potential attacks against our home and our family.
The truth is, police officers cannot be everywhere, all the time. Although we rely on law enforcement to patrol our neighborhoods periodically, they cannot be there 24/7. Police officers depend on the citizens of a community to remain diligent in being aware of crime and promptly reporting incidents. By working together, the members of the community can decrease criminal activity in their neighborhood.
Preventing Home Invasion
Even if you live in an upscale neighborhood, you are still at risk of a home invasion. Despite the high security of a gated community with a guard at the entrance, intruders still have ways to access the grounds. There are several things that can be done to increase the security of your house and help prevent a home invasion.
- Never open the door to strangers.
- Consider getting a dog.
- Create a plan for your family in the event of an intrusion.
- If you suspect an intruder is in your home, call 911 immediately.
Securing Your Home
Simply locking the doors to your house unfortunately is not doing enough to secure your home. A full evaluation of both the interior and exterior of the home should be conducted regularly to ensure that entrances are not accessible to intruders. You may have to invest in some additional security measures that aren’t already installed in your home; however, including new and updated technology to your house puts you a step ahead of criminals threatening your safety.
- Install high-security locks and solid entry doors.
- Keep garage doors shut at all times, even if you are home.
- Always keep doors and windows locked, even on the second story.
- Replace old windows with newer windows with strong hardware.
- Consider equipping your house with a security system.
- If you have an alarm system, post warning signs or stickers on the property.
- Install a bright outdoor light that has a motion detector.
- Keep bushes and trees trimmed to minimize hiding places.
- Never leave valuables in plain sight.
Reporting Vacant Properties
Vacant properties in a neighborhood pose a major threat to the security of the other houses in the neighborhood. Abandoned homes welcome all types of crime, putting the other homes in your neighborhood at risk. Many homeless individuals frequently search for vacant properties to squat in. One, or several individuals will begin living in the abandoned structure illegally with no regard to the house or the neighborhood in which it is located. Making sure vacant houses are properly secured can help prevent squatters from accessing the property. Additionally, if a squatter does gain access to the home, take the necessary steps to have them removed by authorities before more squatters discover the property.
- Regularly check on vacant homes in your neighborhood.
- Look for signs of squatting and vandalism.
- Report broken windows or doors to law enforcement.
- Teach your children to never enter an abandoned house.
- Contact your city when landscaping begins to become overgrown or trash accumulates.
Joining a Neighborhood Watch Group
An active neighborhood watch group is vital to the overall safety of the neighborhood. If your neighborhood has a Neighborhood Watch Group, seriously consider joining. If you are not sure if your community has a Neighborhood Watch Group, contact your local police department to inquire about your area. More than 40% of Americans live in an area that has a Neighborhood Watch Group, so there is a decent probability that there is already one established where you live.
Being a member of your area’s Neighborhood Watch Group gives you early access to information and activity in your neighborhood. You will be able to remain more informed and serve as ambassadors for local police departments. If you decide to join your neighborhood’s Watch Group, there are certain responsibilities you and the other members of the group must take on to have a successful Neighborhood Watch Program.
- Conduct periodic neighborhood patrols.
- Check on houses for neighbors that are out of town.
- Contact both law enforcement and the home owner if you observe any suspicious activity at a neighbor’s house while they are either at work or out of town.
- Inform law enforcement of suspicious activity in the neighborhood.
- Monitor vacant home homes.
Organizing a Neighborhood Watch Group
Studies show that Neighborhood Watch Groups help reduce crime. If your neighborhood does not have a Neighborhood Watch Group and you and your fellow neighbors are interested in creating one, there are certain criteria that must be met. Below is a checklist of some items that must be followed and maintained to have an effective Neighborhood Watch Group.
- A group of people committed to starting a maintaining a Neighborhood Watch Group
- A list of issues that need to be addressed in your community
- A way to communicate with residents in the neighborhood (email, fliers, phone messages, etc.)
- A way to advertise the meeting
- An agenda for the meetings
- A meeting place such as a community center, church, or resident’s house
- A relationship with local law enforcement to discuss and notify of any crime in the neighborhood
- A map of the community
- Brochures and other educational materials to hand out to residents
- A sign-up sheet for participants interested in joining the group
- Neighborhood Watch signs to be posted around the community informing residents and visitors that they are in a Neighborhood Watch area
- A compilation of crime information in your neighborhood which can be accessed from police reports, news articles, and resident’s knowledge of incidents in the community
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