Keeping Your Home and Neighborhood Safe

By: Melody Worsham

Summertime. The kids are out of school and daylight hours extend well into the night. Your home and your neighborhood is buzzing with outdoor activities. But did you know that summertime has the highest rates of burglaries, and residential neighborhoods are the most often targeted?

There are a few things you can do to keep your home and neighborhood safer this summer. To start, keep your hedges trimmed and the outside of your home well lit. Motion-activated lights are ideal because they can alert you immediately when someone walks on to your property. Put away temptation by keeping valuable lawn and home repair equipment out of sight.

Take a walk and visit your neighbors. People are more likely to help someone they know. Get to know the people who live on your street. Talk to them about your concerns about crime in your neighborhood. If you are new to the area, this would be a good time to find out how your neighbors feel about the safety of their homes. Just moved in? Immediately change all the locks.

If you have children at home while you work, talk to your kids about personal safety plans and have them check in at regular intervals during the day. Be sure to program Grandma’s or other emergency contacts in your teen’s cell phone directory. Even better, sign the kids up for one of the many summer programs that are offered by local churches, museums and schools. Having your kids involved in adult-supervised activities not only keeps them safe, but can also prevent them from slipping into trouble out of boredom.

One of the biggest challenges for many people is knowing when to call the police. When witnessing suspicious activity, many people don’t want to get involved, or feel they would be embarrassed to report someone doing something completely innocent by mistake. If you are one of those, ask yourself, “Would I want someone to call if my own family appeared to be in danger?” Remember, your call could save a life.

There are programs on the Gulf Coast that can help you improve the safety of your family and neighbors. The Mississippi Coast Crime Stoppers program has been revived. The organization oversees neighborhood watch programs, and they will work with you and your neighbors to assess the safety of your homes and streets. According to their website, “Crime Stoppers is comprised of diverse, active and dedicated community representatives.” Law enforcement can’t be everywhere at once. Through community participation in neighborhood watch programs, officers of the law can increase safety by responding to your anonymous tips about criminal activity. “If you aren’t sure that what you saw or heard is really a crime,” the website reads, “call anyway. Let the police decide if it’s worth investigating. It may be a piece of a clue to a big crime.” Crime Stoppers’ website is full of useful tips on how to keep your home and community safer. The site features wanted suspects in your area, as well as news reports about local crime, arrests and convictions. Crime Stoppers can help you talk to your kids about safety too and what to do if they see something happening.

Another program began in January of this year in the city of Gulfport. The Gulf Coast Women’s Center for Nonviolence has partnered with Gulfport law enforcement to form an alliance called the Coordinated Community Response (CCR). Coordination of the responses of those in the community who come into contact with domestic violence issues can significantly increase victim protection and batterer accountability. The primary goal of coordination is increased safety for all community members. Domestic violence is a community issue, not a private family matter. It is a violent crime and should be responded to as such.

Like Crime Stoppers, CCR is a partnership of individuals from diverse community sectors committed to the purpose of creating an effective community response to domestic violence. While Gulfport is committed to fighting the crime of domestic abuse, the CCR Team works toward social changes necessary to make it easier for a victim to get help and find safety. They discuss police policies and procedures, and share ideas about how to improve or enhance the effectiveness of those practices. Like any good neighborhood watch program, CCR team members are committed to knowing everything they can about domestic violence in their neighborhoods and reporting criminal behavior when they see it.

Your involvement and awareness in your neighborhood can increase the effectiveness of law enforcement to put criminals behind bars and away from your family. The legal system is a critical part of fighting crime, but you and your neighbors have a more powerful impact on the safety of your homes when you play an active part.

You can get involved in the Mississippi Coast Crime Stoppers program by visiting their website at http://www.mscoastcrimestoppers.com. To know more about Gulfport’s Coordinated Community Response to Domestic Violence, contact the Women’s Center for Nonviolence at 228-868-9324. Have a safe summer!

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