Sunday, August 23, 2009

Reasons Most Neighborhood Watch Programs Fail

Neighborhood watch programs are a great concept, but in most cases they are ineffective because they are not properly executed. Many if not most, neighborhood watch programs rely on the street signs and window stickers to do the entire job. Street signs and window stickers are a deterrent, but can in no way report suspicious or criminal behavior. Also, when a community only relies on the most basic and simplistic portion of a neighborhood watch program, their complacent attitude shows on the outside, in the form of security breaches, that signal to a prospective crook that no one is really watching. These actions could be leaving a garage door up, or leaving valuables such as lawn equipment or ladders unsecured around the home.

Another reason that neighborhood watch programs fail is due to lack of participation. In order to have an effective neighborhood watch campaign the majority of the community needs to be involved and active. It’s not enough to start a campaign because someone was the victim of a burglary or worst, have a few meetings then not meet until the next criminal act occurs. In order to be effective, the committee must meet at least once a quarter. Have a designated person to send out regular email alerts of criminal activities that the local police are warning people about. Also a twitter account for the community could be set up so that everyone following can get the update at once either online or on their blackberry or cell phone.

Lack of proper training is another major reason neighborhood watch program fail. In order to be effective, the community participants must utilize the skills of a security officer. This means that you need to patrol the neighborhood regularly. When a neighbor is going to be gone on vacation they should tell the neighbor on either side of them and the two neighbors across from them. These four neighbors should walk around the vacationing neighbor’s home at least once a day. Burglars are likely to go to the rear of the home and the damage would not be seen from the street. You can also see if the neighbor may have left a window open. If Fed Ex or UPS leaves left a note on the door of the home, one of the four neighbors watching the home should collect it and give it to the homeowner when they return. This prevents a burglar from knowing that the homeowner is away. The neighbor that is going away should always leave his cell phone number with the people he has entrusted to watch his or her home. If a neighbor assigned to patrol happens to see something out of the ordinary, what should they do? They should observe and report the incident or individual to the local police or sheriff’s department. It is not the job of the neighborhood watch to confront someone or get involved.

Several things that participants in a neighborhood watch program should have with them at all times when they are patrolling. The first is a pen or pencil: the second a small note pad, and third a cell phone. If it is at night, carry a flashlight. The reason these items are a necessity, are so you can write down what you see in detail, when you first see it, and call the authorities.

Making a list of qualified contractors and service people that is distributed throughout the community is also a good way to prevent crooks from posing as workmen infiltrating the neighborhood. If everyone uses one or two qualified contractors to do work, such as painting, repair work, plumbing and lawn work, the community will get to know these individuals and if someone other than them is working on the house while the homeowner is way at work, the neighborhood watch will know to call the homeowner and if necessary the police. This may seem slightly over the top, but it is not because the last known profession of most criminals is in one of the above listed service fields. This is because these trades have low barriers to entry. Mandatory background checks are not required to work in these trades.

Neighborhood watch programs can succeed when there is ample participation, proper training and regular action by those that stand to gain the most. Getting to know your neighbors and caring for them is critical to making the neighborhood watch an important part of people’s lives, so that they become committed to service, not because of obligation, but out of genuine care and love for their fellow man.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Your Utility Shed Could Be a Prime Target For Thieves!

Thieves are always on the prowl and often look for easy marks such as storage sheds and crawl spaces were most homeowners don’t frequent every day. These areas are often scarcely protected, if they are protected at all. However, they store valuable treasures that crooks can easily sell, such as lawn and garden equipment and tools. Several methods of protecting a storage shed are to add reinforced hinges that are either riveted in or anchored with star bolts, and use a high quality lock. The best method of securing a storage shed is to add a wireless security sensor to the door and windows of the structure. In many cases if the home already has a security system a wireless receiver can be added to the existing system so that the wireless unit can communicate with the master control unit. By adding monitored sensors the home alarm will sound when the door is breached, when the system is armed and the police or sheriff deputy will be dispatched. Another method of prevention and apprehension is to install surveillance cameras. This is the most expensive solution, but it works hand in hand with the monitored security system. The cameras can capture the activity that triggered the alarm, making identification and prosecution of the suspect much easier. These tips are especially important if you live in the country, because of the secluded nature of the homes and the delay time it takes for law enforcement to arrive. People that live in town are not immune to having their possessions plundered, because in many cases people work the same shift and people do not know their neighbors. In conclusion, if security is important to you, don’t overlook the shed or the crawl space.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

What fire danger lies beneath the surface of your stove?

Just a couple of days ago I experience the thing that I have warned so many others about, a kitchen fire. There was a large serving pan of rice cooking over two eyes, when one ignited. I quickly realized that it was grease fire and I had not replaced the fire extinguisher that had been used about a year earlier to put a grill fire. It is true that the path to destruction is often paved with good intentions. I had thought about replacing the extinguisher numerous times over the past year but had never done so, now the need was there and I had to improvise. I remembered all the things I had written and educated about in seminars and first cut off the power to the stove. I grabbed a large lid and tried to smother the flames; it didn’t work. Still not panicking, I grabbed a box of baking soda which was only half full and used it to put out my kitchen blaze. There are several lessons I learned from this experience. First always be prepared and second what you see on the surface is not where the danger lies.

As a Boy Scout I had learned the saying and the lesson “to always be prepared”, but I had let life get in the way. Like so many others I found myself in a situation where my home was in jeopardy, because of failure to perform a simple task. I knew that a fire doubles in size every 20 seconds and time flies when you are not adequately equipped. The next thing I drew from situation was to always be educated about what to do and have a back-up. Sadly, many people make a bad situation worst due to lack of knowledge. I knew that most fires that originate on the stove are either grease or electrical, which means that they can not be put out with water. Water will only make the fire spread, because grease and water do not mix. Burning grease will float on top of the water and will splash back potentially causing medical injury. Also if the fire is electrical, water conducts electricity and will cause the situation to escalate, not only potentially causing physical harm but death. With proper education, you will stay calm and execute a back-up plan.

I learned early in life that if you don’t first succeed to try again until you do. My first attempt failed, but my second attempt, baking soda, succeeded. No damage, just a little smoke. However, there was still more to be learned. What you see at face value is not where the real danger may lie. I always clean the top of the stove until it shines, but things can drip into the stove eyes and are hidden from view. In order to prevent a future fire I had to raise the stove lid and clean everything that was there as well. Although the top was sparkling it was a greasy mess underneath. If you are like me, you probably haven’t cleaned beneath your lid either. Why would you? Now you know why, because it could cause your stove to catch fire and possibly burn your house down. Another item I’d like to caution people on is not to remove the batteries from your smoke detectors when you have a kitchen incident that sets them off. Why you may ask? You will most likely forget to replace them. As people we are often more concerned about what happens to us now, than we are about what could affect us later due to our cumulative actions of satisfying our immediate wants and desires over planning for potential challenges and life necessities. I went out the very next and purchased that fire extinguisher and got a huge box of baking soda. I hope that I will not have to use either one of them, but it was money well spent. While shopping for the extinguisher I saw a two story rope ladder for under $70 dollars. A great deal, if you don’t want to have to jump from the second story if your stairway was blocked and you had to get out. With this you don’t have to jump and risk injury.

The fire extinguisher only cost only $20.25 with tax and will last for ten years. A rope ladder under $70 dollars and a security system with fire and two-way voice for an initial investment of under $300 to protect a home valued at over $150,000. Protection of my family, priceless!