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Sheriff's Corner: How to prevent property crimes

We are often asked about how citizens can assist with crime prevention and what they can do about rural crime, especially property type crimes. In the fall and winter months of the year, we often see some of these crime statistics go up in occurr...

We are often asked about how citizens can assist with crime prevention and what they can do about rural crime, especially property type crimes. In the fall and winter months of the year, we often see some of these crime statistics go up in occurrence. This happens for many reasons, but mainly because many areas of our county are rural and less populated, especially during these months, and there are not as many eyes and ears watching things. Remote and isolated areas are always susceptible to crime, sometimes more often than urban or populated areas. At times, these areas have relatively unprotected, high valued equipment, furnishings or recreational vehicles. These areas, as well as urban or more populated areas, have specific needs for crime prevention measures and by taking a few simple procedures and being aware of your surroundings, you can help. Our communities are built on the strength of our citizens. Every day we encounter situations calling upon us to be the eyes and ears of law enforcement. These partnerships are very beneficial to the law enforcement and we are able to solve crimes, catch criminals and get convictions based on the information we gain from reports and tips made to us by citizens.

Criminals often look for easy targets, usually where the risk for detection is slight and the profits are high. By following some simple common sense prevention practices, you can make your homes and properties less available to criminals. The Cass County Sheriff's Office and the National Sheriff's Association would like to share and remind you of some common tips to assist you from becoming a crime victim.

Most burglars always look for something worth stealing and outbuildings are a popular target. Easy access areas combined with low visibility are usually high targets. A home or businesses that are unoccupied are also usually targeted. Residential burglaries occur during the day because homes tend to be vacant more often.

How to prevent break-ins: The oldest and simplest, but often overlooked tip, is to fool burglars by making your property look occupied all the time. The use of automatic timers on lights when you are away from your home or property is becoming popular. Place radios on automatic timers and raise the volume so they can be heard outside. Never leave notes on your door that can tip off burglars, about when you expect or return or directions for delivery or service personnel. If you are going to be away from home for more than a day, have your telephone calls forwarded. Burglars sometimes check to see if someone is home by making a telephone call.

By having a trusted neighbor pick up the mail and newspaper, your mailbox does not give the appearance that you are not regularly gathering these times. If you are planning on being away for an extended period, have a plan in place to have the grass mowed or snow shoveled. If you are away from home on garbage pickup day, ask a trusted neighbor to put your garbage cans out to the street and take them back in. There are systems available that will open and close window draperies by a timer. Constantly open or closed curtains can tip the burglar off that no one is home. By making your house look the same whether you are away or at home is a good deterrent for criminal activity.

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• Install motion detector lights around your house instead of just leaving lights on at night. The lights coming on and turning off attract the attention of neighbors. Install these lights at least 8 feet above the ground so they are more difficult to disable.

• Install the motion detector lights so they light all doors and windows. Doors, since they are the preferred entry point, should be the first priority to illuminate, followed by windows.

• Remove bushes and shrubs from around the house, especially under windows and next to doors. Keep your yard free of overgrowth.

• Always lock all doors and windows when you leave the house.

• Use a peephole to identify visitors before opening your door.

• Do not hide a spare key outside your home or cabin; instead give one to a trusted neighbor.

• Do not invite strangers into your home.

• Do not have money or jewelry lying out in view from a window. If possible, keep jewelry and other small valuables and important documents in a safe deposit box.

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• If you are at home working outside, leave all other doors that are out of sight locked.

• Avoid telling others about the valuables in your home.

• Discuss home security with your children, such as not talking with strangers about their home, its contents or family schedules.

If you are leaving your property for an extended period of time, it is a good idea to secure your exterior doors and any doors from attached garages by installing:

• Good quality deadbolt door locks.

• Security-type door strikes.

• Strong, properly installed doors and doorframes that cannot be spread apart.

• Security-type hinges.

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• Secure your windows by installing impact-resistant windows and locks.

• Prune lower branches of trees near your house if they could help a burglar gain access to a second story window.

• Secure your patio door with a pin-type lock, a key lock or a steel rod inserted into the door channel.

• Secure your garage by installing automatic openers or bolt-type locks on each end of the garage doors.

• Take time to become knowledgeable about your situation and your options so that you can best decide what to do.

By being a good and involved neighbor you can create friendships and partnerships to form a security network that can also help you protect your belongings and property.

• Organize a cookout or neighborhood get together so neighbors can get to know one another.

• Organize or participate in a Neighborhood Watch program.

• Arrange for a local law enforcement officer to complete a security survey or educate your neighborhood about specific safety concerns.

• If you are an apartment dweller, notify management if you notice burned out light bulbs, dark corridors, broken locks on mailboxes and doors and/or safety concerns.

Call the Sheriff's Office immediately if you see suspicious activity in your neighborhood, try to gather as many details about the person or vehicle that you encounter and relay the information to our dispatchers. At the time, it might not seem like anything important but it could come up in an investigation in the future. Law enforcement relies on its partnerships with citizens and community organizations to help in crime prevention and fighting. Without you telling us what you see, hear and observe, we could not complete our jobs successfully. Your reporting information to us is important to us in doing our jobs.

If you have specific questions that you would like answered in this column or in person, please feel free to contact me anytime using one of the following methods: email at tom.burch@co.cass.mn.us , phone at 218-547-1424 or 800-450-2677 or by mail/in person at Cass County Sheriff's Office, 303 Minnesota Ave. W. PO Box NO. 1119, Walker, MN 56484.

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