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Crime Prevention

Crime Prevention is everyone’s responsibility.  Be informed about what you can do as a resident or visitor to prevent crime and prevent becoming the victim of crime.  Most tips are common sense and easy to apply.  Please take a moment to review some helpful advice from the National Crime Prevention Council.

Home and Neighborhood Safety

Work with your neighbors to keep your neighborhood clean and orderly. Keep spare keys with a trusted neighbor or nearby shopkeeper, not under a doormat or planter, on a ledge, or in the mailbox. Set timers on lights when you’re away from home or your business is closed, so they appear to be occupied. Illuminate or eliminate places an intruder might hide: the spaces between trees or shrubs, stairwells, alleys, hallways, and entry ways. With many law enforcement agencies cutting costs, it has never been more important for citizens to work together to prevent crime.

Neighborhood Safety Tips For Parents

Unfortunately no neighborhood is completely immune to crime. However, there are steps you can take to help keep your family and your neighborhood safe.

  • Know where your children are. Have your children tell you or ask permission before leaving the house and give them a time to check in or be home. When possible, have them leave a phone number of where they will be.
  • Help children learn important phone numbers. Have your children practice reciting their home phone number and address, and your work and cell phone numbers. If they have trouble memorizing these, write them down on a card and have them carry it at all times. Tell your children where you will be and the best way to reach you.
  • Set limits on where your children can go in your neighborhood. Do you want them crossing busy roads? Playing in alleys or abandoned buildings? Are there certain homes in your neighborhood that you don’t want your children to go to?
  • Get to know your children’s friends. Meet their parents before letting your children to go to their home and keep a list of their phone numbers. If you can’t meet their parents, call and talk to them. Ask what your children might do at their house and if they will be supervised.
  • Choose a safe house in your neighborhood. Pick a neighbor’s house where your children can go if they need help. Point out other places they can go for help, like stores, libraries, and police stations.
  • Teach children to settle arguments with words, not fists. Role-play talking out problems, walking away from fist fights, and what to do when confronted with bullies. Remind them that taunting and teasing can hurt friends and make enemies.
  • Work together with your neighbors. Watch out for suspicious and unusual behavior in your neighborhood. Get to know your neighbors and their children so you can look out for one another.

Gas Station Theft Prevention

Recently, there has been increased media coverage across the country regarding theft at gas stations. The unique setting allows thieves to catch their victims by complete surprise — when they are pumping gas or paying their tab inside the station. Most of the time, gas station customers leave their car doors unlocked and items like purses and wallets are often left in plain view. A thief is able to drive up next to the victim’s car, open an unlocked door, and grab any valuables within reach. Then, the thief quickly drives off. It happens in a matter of seconds.

But these thefts can be easily prevented if the appropriate precautions are taken. NCPC and the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia recommends the following tips to prevent citizens from becoming victims of theft at area gas stations.

  • Pick stations that are well-lit and have video surveillance cameras at the pump.
  • Always remove your keys and lock the doors while you are pumping gas.
  • Keep valuables out of plain view in your vehicle and lock the doors even if you are going inside for a moment.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings.
  • Don’t let your cell phone distract you.
  • The NCPC blog, Prevention Works, featured an interesting article regarding gas station theft and provided a link to a very informative and helpful video on the subject. Click here to read the article and watch the video.

Internet Safety

Almost all children today have access to the Internet through schools, libraries, community centers, or their home. And most 8 to 18-year-olds, 74 percent, have Internet access from their home computers according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Not only do more children have access to the Internet than ever before, but they are using it more, too. Many schools incorporate the Internet into their curricula and encourage online research for projects. But that’s not all kids are doing online. They also email, chat with friends through instant messenger and in chat rooms, play games, create websites and web blogs, and just surf the ‘net.

Even as kids grow savvier in their use of the Internet, it can still be a dangerous place. The good news is that most dangers can be avoided if children and their parents learn about smart Internet use.

Social Networking Safety

Tips for Parents

They love it! And oftentimes it seems that they can’t live without it. The rise of social networking sites has teens throughout the United States fanatical about these addictive websites. Social networking is a platform of online sites that focus on building relationships among people who may share the same interest or activities. It provides a way for users to interact over the Internet. Users are often identified by their profiles, which can consist of photos and basic information, such as location, likes and dislikes, as well as friends and family. Well-known sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Friendster, have taken social networking to a new level. In addition to the convenience of being able to access these websites from a computer, there are also applications on mobile devices that make it easy to access social applications anywhere and anytime. As a parent, you want to make sure your child is safe when he or she is engaged in social networking. You may find it challenging to keep up with the ever-changing technology. You may also feel like your child is much more Internet savvy than you are, and in fact, that may be true. But as savvy as your teen may be, he or she may not be aware of the dangers of online networking and what precautions he or she should take to stay safe. It is time to talk to your teen about social networking safety.

Familiarizing yourself with the basic terminology that is used on most social networking sites will help you communicate effectively with your teen about the topic.

  • Post -A message that can be updated to notify your selected followers of what you are doing or thinking.
  • Tagging-To label friends in a photo and link to their profile pages. If tagged, you’re notified so that you can de-tag or stay linked to the comment, video, or photo.
  • Wall-Area on your profile where friends can post their current locations, comments, pictures, or links.
  • Places- This feature allows a user to post his or her current location. This information is then shared with all of the user’s followers.
  • Friend Request-A person interested in being a friend will send a request, which can either be accepted or denied.
  • Blocking- Prevents another user from searching and viewing your profile; you can ban access temporarily or permanently.
  • Hacker- Someone who breaks into computers or computer networks and accesses a profile user’s information to get money or to break into other personal accounts. Some may also create false profiles or pose as another user.

 The four major dangers of using social networking websites are:

  • Over sharing information. When creating a profile page, most websites will ask for personal information such as home addresses, birthdays, and phone numbers. Giving this information can be very dangerous and will be made public to anyone who visits a user’s profile page, especially if privacy settings are not set correctly. Even if account settings are set to private, users are still at risk of their accounts being hacked. If someone hacks into an account he or she will be able to view and use the information.  Sharing simple things like your favorite color can tip off a hacker to try to see if you used that as a password on your account. The biggest threat of over sharing information is identity theft. Identity theft is not uncommon in the world of online social networking. Online computer criminals look to steal identities in obvious and not so obvious ways. An obvious way would be someone asking for your social security number. A not so obvious way is luring a user to click on a link that will allow the criminal to download all of the user’s personal information. The anonymity provided online makes it easier for computer criminals to go undetected.
  • He’s not who you think he is. Social networking sites make it very easy to pretend to be someone else. Even if an individual may be friends with someone on the site, anyone can take control of a user’s account if he or she can obtain the user’s password. As a result, someone who is a “Friend” can ask for money or gain personal information that can be used to hack into other accounts. For example, you may get a message from a relative asking you for your banking information because he or she would like to wire you some money for your birthday. You may think you’re talking to your relative, but in fact the information is being requested by someone who has hacked into your relative’s account.
  • Location-based services. Location-based services can be one of the most dangerous features provided by social networking sites. It exposes the profile user’s location and whereabouts. The service also has a feature that allows users to tag who they are with at any given time. While it can be fun to share your location with friends and family, it can also increase your vulnerability, potentially opening you up to being robbed, sexually assaulted, or worse. Predators can use this tool to track your movements and determine when you are alone or when you are not at home.
  • Posting photos. One of the features of online social networking that many teens enjoy is the photo-sharing feature. This feature allows you to post photos 24 hours a day. Whether it is from your computer or mobile device, posting photos can be done in seconds. The Internet makes it easy to obtain photos and use the images in any way a person may choose. Posting inappropriate photos that may be deemed as fun, cute, or sexy, can end up where one least expects it.  Photo tampering is a big threat when it comes to posting photos online. The use of photo editing tools allows people to manipulate online images in any way they choose, whether it’s used for good or bad purposes. While posting pictures and sharing them with friends can be fun, it can also be risky.
  • Teaching Your Teen Three Simple Steps To Increase Safety
  1. Don’t give optional information-When creating a profile, you do not need to enter all of the information that is requested. The set-up page usually requires you to fill out basic information, such as your name and email. Everything else is optional. Do not feel obligated to put your address and telephone number.
  2. Third level of privacy- There are three levels of privacy settings to choose from for your profile. There is “open to everyone,” “open to friends of friends” and “friends only.” The best setting to use is the “friends only” setting on all of your privacy choices. “Friends only” is the strictest level of security; it only allows people that you have accepted as a friend to view information about you.
  3. Accept only people you know- Accepting only people you know and trust is a great way to ensure safety when using social networking sites. Doing this can protect you from spammers, pedophiles, and other people who use social networking sites to commit crimes.

When discussing social networking safety with your child, encourage him or her to always use discretion when posting any type of photo, location status, and message. Tell your teen to ask him or herself these four questions before posting to the world:
“Think Before They Post”

  1. Should I share this? Will the information you share put yourself or someone else in danger?
  2. Do people really need to know where I am and who I am with? – Is it a good idea to let everyone know my exact location?
  3. Am I selecting friends online that I can trust? –Always keep in mind that it’s not just about what you post, but how others may use that content.
  4. Is the information I am sharing transparent? – Before sharing information to the public, does your post give out too much personal information?

Having a discussion with your teen about social networking sites can ease some anxiety about your child’s safety. Social networking sites help us stay connected to family and friends. However, it’s important to make sure your child knows how to be safe while online. Encourage them to enjoy the sites but to be safe at all times.
For more information on social networking safety visit www.ncpc.org 

Fraud and Identity Theft

Information and resources to protect yourself and your family from fraud and identity theft.

It’s not always easy to spot con artists. They invade your home through the telephone, computer, and mail; advertise in well-known newspapers and magazines; and come through your door. Most people think they’re too smart to fall for a scam, but the opposite is true.

The National Consumer League’s National Fraud Information Center reported that from January to September 2005, online auctions accounted for 42 percent of all complaints received. Far worse, the average loss was an astounding $1,129. The loss to consumers from identity theft was $5 billion in 2004, with an average loss of $400, $1,440 if the crime was committed online.

One particularly insidious type of crime preys on the goodwill of the American public: charity fraud, which increases at times of national tragedies and natural disasters. (According to the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, Americans gave $200 billion to charity in 2000.) Anyone can fall victim to these crooks: Almost without fail, they’re well-mannered, friendly, and helpful—at least at first.

Tips to Prevent Identity Theft

Stay informed on how technology affects crime trends, and keep yourself safe from high-tech crimes.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft was the number one fraud complaint during calendar year 2008. And limiting your use of your personal computer may not help much: a study released by Javelin Strategy and Research reported that in 2009 most identity thefts were taking place offline, not online — just the opposite of what many folks might think. One other troubling finding: the study found that 43 percent of all identity thefts are committed by someone the victim knows.

It’s in the newspapers every day and on the news every night. People worry that someone will run up charges on their credit card or fleece their bank account while their back is turned. There is reason to worry. All a thief needs is your Social Security number to commit identity theft. This crime is relatively easy to commit, but investigating and prosecuting it is complex and time-consuming. But once you know the facts and some preventive measures you can take, you can win the fight against identity theft!

Identity thieves commit their crime in several ways:

  • They steal credit card payments and other outgoing mail from private, curbside mailboxes.
  • They dig through garbage cans or communal dumpsters in search of cancelled checks, credit card and bank statements, and preapproved credit card offers.
  • They hack into computers that contain personal records and steal the data.
  • They file a change of address form in the victim’s name to divert mail and gather personal and financial data.

Tips

To guard against identity theft, never give out your Social Security number. Treat it as confidential information.

  • Commit all passwords to memory. Never write them down or carry them with you.
  • When using an ATM machine, make sure no one is hovering over you and can see you enter your password.
  • When participating in an online auction, try to pay the seller directly with a credit card so you can dispute the charges if the merchandise does not arrive or was misrepresented. If possible, avoid paying by check or money order.
  • Adopt an attitude of healthy skepticism toward websites that offer prizes or giveaways. Chances are, all that’s been “won” is the opportunity to buy something you didn’t want in the first place.
  • Choose a commercial online service that offers parental control features.
  • Tell your children never to give out their address telephone number password school name or any other personal information.
  • Make sure your children know to never agree to meet face-to-face with someone they’ve met online without discussing it with you. Only if you decide that it’s okay to meet their “cyber-friend” should they arrange to meet this person, and then the meeting should be in a familiar public place in the presence of a trusted adult.
  • Tell your children never to respond to messages that have bad words, are scary, or just seem weird.
  • Tell your children never to enter an area that charges for services without asking you first.
  • Tell children never send a picture of themselves to anyone without your permission.
  • Make sure that access to the Internet at your children’s school is monitored by adults.

 

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