Guest Column: Crime Prevention Month

October is Crime Prevention Month, and crime prevention is an essential function at the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office; we have specially trained deputies and certified Crime Prevention Practitioners dedicated to the mission of crime prevention.

One of the most important components of crime prevention is your willingness to extend the eyes and ears of law enforcement to report suspicious activity. You will find an entire section dedicated to helping strengthen this important partnership on our website at www.sjso.org.

The mission of crime prevention is to encourage citizens to protect their homes and businesses against burglaries; to encourage citizen involvement in the reporting of crime; to develop appropriate programming for various interested groups; to distribute materials about crime prevention; and to serve as a liaison with community organizations and other interested community groups.

Some of the programs our Crime Prevention Unit offers include Computer and Fraud Crimes, Crimes against the Elderly, Financial Crimes, Home and Business Security Survey’s, Identity Theft and establishing an effective Neighborhood Watch Program. The Crime Prevention section of our website has the contact information you need to arrange for a program or to interact with our specialists.

Burglary is likely to be the crime that affects the most law-abiding citizens. If you become a victim, there are things you can do to assist us. Write down the name brand, model, and serial number of all electronic devices, appliances, and tools. Take photos of every room in your home to include all furniture and appliances that could also be of use should you have an insurance claim. Be sure to photograph your valuable jewelry as well.

Here is another excellent tip from the National Crime Prevention Council. If you have a printer or scanner take all of the important cards and documents, you carry in your wallet or purse, such as licenses, credit cards, insurance cards, and membership cards. Arrange them on the glass then scan and print both sides on a single sheet of paper. Keep these copies in a safe place such as in a zip lock bag in a secure area. Scanners and printers are available for a very nominal fee at all branches of the St. Johns County Public Library.

On a lighter note, law enforcement agencies are also celebrating an important birthday of one of our best-known partners in Crime Prevention. McGruff, the Crime Dog, turns 30 years old. When McGruff was created by the Ad Council in 1980, the goal was to reach children with crime prevention messages but he quickly became popular with everyone. During the first two years, even though he did not have a name, he had his famous tag line “Take a bite out of crime.” A nationwide contest was launched to give the well-dressed bloodhound some personal identity. Among the most popular suggestions were Sherlock Bones, Sarge-dog, Keystone Cop Dog, and J. Edgar Dog. The winning name “McGruff” was submitted by a New Orleans police officer. McGruff remains so popular he even has his own web page at www.McGruff.org. I suggest you log on with your children for an excellent presentation on dealing with a current and serious topic of bullying.

I would like to close this month with some Halloween safety tips:

• Accompany your kids if you do not think they are old enough to trick-or-treat on their own. If they are old enough to trick-or-treat without an adult, be sure to tell your kids to stay in a group.

• Designate a route before your kids begin trick-or-treating, and emphasize the importance that they stick to it. They should also avoid taking short cuts through alleys and parking lots.

• Have your children trick-or-treat in areas where there are many people around.

• Ensure your kids only visit houses with lights on, and you might suggest that the houses they visit have some sort of Halloween decoration on the porch.

• Make sure your children do not go inside someone’s house. They can get their candy from the porch.

• Dress kids in a bright costume so others can see them. Also, have them wear reflective strips or carry a glow stick or flashlight. Ensure your kids’ costumes are not so long that they can trip over them.

• Instead of masks, have your children wear make-up so they can see well.

• Most importantly, check your kids’ candy before they eat it. Throw out any candy that is not in its original wrapper or looks like it has been tampered with. If you should find candy that appears to have been tampered with, call your local law enforcement agency immediately.

I hope we have another safe year for a fun celebration of Halloween in St. Johns County.

As always, I appreciate your input and feedback. You can contact me at dshoar@sjso.org.

David B. Shoar, Sheriff
St. Johns County Florida

Photo credits: © 2011 Historic City News staff photographer

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