All urban areas have some degree of crimes. Washington, D.C. is no different. Many of the burglaries are occuring through forced entry and through rear doors or windows. But, some are crimes of opportunity (snatch and grabs) through unlocked doors or unsecured cars. Here are steps we can do to help ourselves now.
Fighting crime is not simply the police department's responsibility. Each of us should work to make our neighborhood safer. Our efforts are even more important since the officers at 4D are stretched pretty thin…and they look after neighborhoods that have a much greater crime rate than ours.
Most of the crimes in Crestwood involve automobiles—such things as stolen vehicles, attempts at stealing vehicles (or their tags), breaking into vehicles to steal something, and occasional vandalism sprees. In response, remember to keep your car locked...rely on anti-theft devices like The Club…and park in well lit locations. Also, never keep ANY object or package in your car in plain view—even if it’s just a few coins or an item worth a couple of dollars.
Break ins into homes and garages do occur at times. Some common sense advice includes: making your home appear occupied...lighting your property properly (make it bright enough but not over-illuminated…and consider using motion-detector lighting)...clipping bushes where a potential intruder could hide...obscuring with drapes, shades or blinds all windows where a criminal could see objects inside that are too tempting to pass up...keeping garages closed and locked ...keeping doors and windows locked...and having your house number clearly visible day and night. Most of these suggestions are easy to accomplish—but are often ignored.
Take advantage of programs offered by the police: make an appointment for a free security appraisal of your home...participate in Operation Identification and borrow a tool to etch your Social Security number on valuables. Some insurance companies also offer discounts if you etch your Vehicle Identification Number on your windshield and other auto glass.
Take care not to keep equipment, bicycles or toys in your yard where they can be stolen. Also make sure you keep ladders locked in the house or garage—since criminals steal ladders to break into homes.
Beware of workers and charity solicitors coming through the neighborhood. Most of them are honest, but others may be scam artists or criminals casing houses.
Serious crimes are very infrequent but they do occur. There have been a few assaults and armed robberies, especially as residents walked home from bus stops on 16th Street.
Our neighbors represent the most important defense against crime. Keep an eye on the street and houses around you. Know your neighbors, their vehicles, their telephone numbers at home and at work, and their schedules. Then you’ll know—and be able to take action---when something is amiss.
Take an occasional walk or drive around your block and look around; potential criminals will avoid patrolled areas. If you see something suspicious, don't hesitate to call the police non emergency number, 311. If you see something threatening or a crime in progress, call 911. If you're not sure what it is you see—but it might be threatening—try the non emergency number…then be imaginative: report a specific, serious crime that you suspect may be in progress. That's usually enough to raise the priority of your call in the judgment of the dispatcher.
Crestwood is part of Police Service Area (PSA) 404, one of 83 city PSAs. Officers within our PSA often appear at Crestwood Citizens Association meetings, offering their individual phone numbers…and the Lieutenants in charge may be reached by e-mail through the police department section of the DC website.
Some additional tips:
- Lock your doors, including a deadbolt.
- Put security bars up in the rear and side.
- Arm your alarm systems.
- Don't leave your car running to warm up
- Don't have your purses or cash near the front door or in plain view.
- Don't leave valuables in your car and be wary when you exit.
- Don't leave your original car registration in your car.
- Have a Kill-Switch on your car, a steering wheel lock and lo-jack.
- Drive a stick shift (apparently the thieves prefer automatics & Toyotas).
- Park in your garage, if you can.
- Make sure you have good lighting around your home.
- Plant holly and other bushes with thorns near ground level burglars, but don't create hiding places in your yard. In one burglary, branches were pulled from a tree so that the thief could hide behind them and sneak by the residents, while they were distracted during yard work.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Many of the crimes are occuring when people are distracted or there is the noise from lawn mowers, construction or they are carrying packages or wearing head phones.
- Carry your cell phone. You may also want to consider having cameras on your property inside and out.
- Don't park your car near any car with a running motor and two or more people sitting in it. Drive around the block and park elsewhere.
- Do go walking or jogging in pairs. Be aware that muggings have happened while people are walking their dogs.
- Be leery of any car that you see waiting near a corner. The purse snatchings have occurred when a purse is snatched and the person disappears around the corner to a waiting car.
- Be wary of people telling you that they are looking for work, collecting for charity or need to get in to use the phone or money for their sick child. It's terrible that we have to be so suspicious, but these crimes are continuing because the people are able to blend in. In one case, the description fit a person who is known to go door-to-door asking for work..
- Be leery of people pushing a trash barrel down the street, or just pushing a lawn mower. Know who lives on your block and their children. Teach your children street-smarts.
- Have dogs.
- Be extra cautious when having parties or when there are distractions.
- Use companies that are known to you, with a permanent address and have bonded licensed workers.
- Keep track of your keys. Change your locks and passwords periodically.
- Check your credit card statements to make sure there are no extra charges.
- Let us know if you see any gang graffiti in the woods or on the streets.
- Get to know your neighbors and we should let each other know if we are expecting a moving truck to pull up.
- Label your computers and carve your initials on your items.
- Keep a list of your credit cards and an inventory of your belongings.
- Don't allow your personal information to be viewed by strangers (like inserting your pin number while holding your credit card people may be copying your entries if they are behind you in line).
- Trust your instincts. Report suspicious behavior. If the crime is in progress, call 911. If it is not an emergency, but you suspect something is wrong, call 311. The officers always give their badge numbers when they answer. If you don't get the response that is appropriate, you can call back and talk with a supervisor. You can also let Council Member Fenty know or your ANC commissioner.
- Be part of the neighborhood network and plan to attend at least one of the PSA (police community) meetings for our area.
- Check the woods, nearby trash barrels in the vicinity if you were robbed. The stolen items are sometimes stashed there or at the mail box. One resident recently received stolen items back from the post office.
- Look out for your neighbors. A number of the attempted burglaries and auto thefts were interrupted when the thieves were confronted, but be careful. No property is worth a life.
- Track the inforrmation provided to the community by the U.S. attorney's office on people under arrest.
- Be leery of someone asking you for the time and they are wearing a watch. In other words, be safe, not sorry.
- Finally, the Squeaky wheel gets the grease. We need to be reporting the activity. Our community organizations are also working with our neighboring communities and the Council Member to come up with a plan to drive the crime out of our Ward. Similarly, we will be working to address the issues like drug dependency, homelessness, poverty and gang activity that contribute to the crimes in DC.
There is no fence big enough and no army that could do as much as a well connected community that is working together for all of us.