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Features - Posted August 31, 2009 10:50 a.m.
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Simple Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Theft

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Home and auto burglary aren’t just about the property that is stolen. They are also about the feelings of frustration that they leave behind – the sinking feeling you get when you come home to find the front door splintered open, or you go out in the morning to find the car window shattered. It is devastating when someone comes into your house and takes your hard-earned belongings, or even worse, items of sentimental value that cannot be replaced. The emotions last long after you’ve called the police, repaired the damage, and filled out the forms for the insurance.

After you’ve been a victim of a crime, it is normal to feel helpless, to think, “Will they come back?” A victim of a burglary or other crime may be the victim of a totally unrelated and completely different type of crime months later and tell the responding officer that he is “sure that it was the same person that broke in before.” On television, “they always return to the scene of the crime.” In real life, that isn’t always the case.

We hate to think that there are so many criminals that another one could strike again by random chance. Unfortunately, plenty of thieves are out there. Most people would be surprised about the number criminals that are active and committing crimes regularly. For some people, crime is not crime; rather, it’s an acceptable career option with an occasional furlough courtesy of the criminal justice system.

Another question asked is, “Why me?” People want to find out why they were victims so they can do what is necessary to avoid a repeat offense. Though some crooks have preferences, such as combing certain business parking lots for cars to burglarize, many victim selections involve bad luck. If the criminal just happens to be in your neighborhood and happens to notice you leaving your home unoccupied, your luck just ran out. If the thief is prowling your neighborhood, and you were the one that left the cell phone in the car, it was bad luck that he was there when you did. Why steal your cell phone? Because it was there.

You aren’t totally defenseless. You can do things to reduce your chance of being targeted, even if luck points the burglar to your home or car. The Crime Prevention Unit of the Amarillo Police Department can provide a Home Security Survey: a free service that may enable you to qualify for a discount on your homeowner’s insurance. More important is your chance to take an active role in protecting your property. You can often easily and inexpensively make your home a less attractive target to burglars.

As for vehicle burglary protection, the best advice is always the same: Do not ever leave anything you do not want stolen in a car, especially overnight. Thieves cruise streets and parking lots, looking for things like “cool guy stuff,” as one auto burglar described his preferred loot. Few nights go by that we don’t stop at least one car containing people that we suspect are looking for cars to burglarize. You can’t hide belongings well enough to protect them from auto burglars. The crooks know every hiding place, so just take the iPod inside at night.

For information on the Home Security Survey or other crime prevention strategies, call the Crime Prevention Unit at 378-6100 or check out the Crime Prevention section of www.amarillopolice.org

by Sgt. Brent Barbee

Amarillo Police Department
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