BY NICK DIAMANTIDES
(Part 3 in a series)
The Marshall Place-Brayton Avenue Neighborhood Watch Group had its third meeting recently. Residents learned about a wide range of precautions that can enhance personal safety. “We have to combine the information we would normally present in two meetings,” Ben Offill, police services specialist, told the residents who attended the meeting. “We don’t know exactly how the city’s budget cutbacks are going to affect the neighborhood watch program, so we want to get this group certified before that happens.”
Normally, neighborhood watch groups in Long Beach must conduct four “core meetings” before they are officially recognized by the Long Beach Police Department. The most recent gathering of the Marshall-Brayton Group combined meetings three and four.
During the meeting, Offill played an approximately 20-minute video that depicted “crimes against persons.” After each crime scene, precautionary measures that could have prevented it were explained. The video narrator said, “This program will show you how to incorporate safety precautions into your life.” He noted that putting those precautions in practice will decrease the odds of becoming a victim.
The video featured actors and actresses portraying victims of crimes and telling their stories. One was a teenaged girl who had her bike, purse and backpack stolen at knifepoint. “It happened so fast,” she said. “I was afraid he might hurt me.” After her description of the incident, the actress and the man playing the role of her father described safety precautions that could help prevent such a crime.
Those precautions include: varying the route you take to your most frequent activities to make it harder for someone to plan a crime; when possible, have a friend accompany you on bike or pedestrian trails; when traveling anywhere, make sure you know the route you are taking because getting lost can make you vulnerable to people with evil intentions; whenever you are going somewhere, let someone know where you are going, the route you are taking and when you plan to return- that way if you don’t show up, your friend will know something is wrong and notify the police; and when going for a drive, make sure your car is in good working condition– breakdowns far from home can leave you vulnerable to crime.
“Your home can’t always protect you from crime, but by using a little caution, you can keep a criminal out of your home,” the narrator said. Next, an actress portraying the victim of a home-invasion robbery spoke. “I live in a quiet neighborhood where the word ‘neighbor’ still means something,” she said. “Two months ago, a guy came to my door with a large package and said he was from a delivery service.” She explained that he asked if he could come in and put the package down and she gave him permission. Once inside, he pulled a gun and aimed it at her head. “He told me not to scream or he would kill me. He stole all of my jewelry and my wallet.”
The “victim” added that home-invasion robberies are becoming more common, but everyone can reduce the odds of such a thing happening to them by taking a few simple safety measures. These include: not opening your door to strangers; asking deliverymen, technicians and salespeople to show you their company identification; looking for a company vehicle parked near your house; using your initials instead of your full name on your mailbox and in the telephone directory so that criminals cannot call you by your first and last name when they knock on your door; and installing approved locks on your windows and doors.
“In today’s workplace it is especially important to think about personal safety,” the narrator said. “Planning ahead is just one important step.” The video described several personal safety measures that can help prevent assaults and robberies: when working late, have someone scheduled to work with you; be sure to lock all the doors of your place of employment when working at night; park in well-lit areas as close to your exit door as possible; have someone meet you outside when you get off work or have a coworker or security guard walk with you to your car; have your keys ready before you get into your car so that you can get in without delay; while still a distance from your car, look underneath it and before you get in check the back seat– criminals could be hiding in either place waiting for you; and if you see any suspicious characters loitering in your parking lot or parking structure, go back into your workplace, lock the doors and call the police.
“The key in all these things is to be alert to your surroundings and to have habits that will make it harder for a criminal to rob you or assault you,” Offill said. “Just do what it takes to reduce the odds of you becoming a victim.”
Because so much information was presented at the meeting, the Signal Tribune will publish the remainder of it in the next two issues.
To form a neighborhood watch group in Long Beach, phone (562) 570-7229. In Signal Hill, phone (562) 989-7206.