As I write this, it is about 75 degrees outside and beautiful, but as a dedicated civil servant, I am inside reviewing police reports. Once a month I have a deadline for this column and find that, after two years, I am struggling for a topic. After noticing “hot prowl” burglaries seem to be slightly up, I have decided to dedicate this column to that crime prevention topic. I know I have written about this topic in the past, but a review never hurts.
A hot prowl burglary occurs when someone breaks into your house while you are home. Opportunists walk our neighborhoods looking to commit crime and on a hot day – even the very few we get in San Francisco – people tend to leave windows and doors open for our natural air conditioning. It would be simple to say always keep your doors and windows closed and locked. But as complicated, city-dwelling humans, we don’t always do things in a simple manner. So on this hot day I am sure there are many open windows and doors.
Generally speaking, burglars are nonviolent criminals and upon learning someone is home, they usually flee. Call 911 immediately if this should happen to you and give as complete a suspect description as possible. That opportunist criminal who entered your home and was scared off is now a few blocks away, having identified another “soft” target such as an open window, door or garage.
Officers will respond hoping to catch the bad guy. We will ask you lots of questions: is anyone hurt, what he/she was wearing, did he/she get anything, what direction they fled, and so on. We will then contact our operations center and request that the crime scene investigation team respond in an attempt to gather any type of physical evidence. The initial officer will determine the point of entry and ask you to identify any surfaces that the suspect may have touched.
Before a crime occurs and to help us further if one does, take some time to record (whether writing them down or video/photographing them) the serial numbers and descriptions of your valuables. If at all possible, inscribe a number unique to you on that item. Having engraved your driver’s license number on your $7,000 bicycle will be a huge help if it goes missing. If you do leave a window in your bathroom open for ventilation, no matter what floor, lock it into position to ensure that it opens no more than three inches. And when you leave, close your window shades and always avoid placing valuables in front of windows for others to see.
Finally, take a walk around your block. Is the lighting adequate, especially in passages between buildings? Is shrubbery properly trimmed so it does not provide a burglar cover from visibility or as an aid for climbing? Do you know your neighbors? You should get to know them; think about forming a neighborhood watch and discuss block concerns with your neighbors.
More crime prevention information, including steps to forming a neighborhood watch group, is available from San Francisco SAFE, and can be found on their website at www.sfsafe.org or by calling 415-553-1984. They offer a great service at a nominal fee (if any) to come out to your home and do an on-site security survey where they make recommendations on how to crime proof your home.
As always, be aware of your surroundings and conceal your valuables. And never leave anything in your parked, unattended car.