Earlier this month, communities across the nation celebrated National Night Out. National Night Out is an annual event promoting police-community partnerships. The event helps citizens bolster their defenses against crime by strengthening community bonds and educating people on how they can participate in creating safer neighborhoods.
Better Business Bureau has simple tips you can use year-round to stay secure and help make your community safer.
• Get to know your neighbors. National Night Out is the perfect way to meet people in your area. Just knowing who your neighbors are is valuable, but establishing relationships really makes a difference in keeping your neighborhood safe from crime.
• Neighborhood watch. Form a watch group in your area and report suspect activity. Alert neighbors and police if you see unfamiliar cars driving slowly or individuals acting suspiciously. Keep a list with names and phone numbers of homeowners on your block handy. Your local police department can assist you in setting up a successful neighborhood watch program.
• Monitor door-to-door sales. Although many legitimate companies solicit door-to-door, con artists use this technique as well. If a door-to-door sales person knocks on your door, know that you do not have to answer the door or allow the person into your home. If you choose to answer, do not commit to purchase any product or service until you have checked the company out with BBB by visiting bbb.org.
• Trash and recycling bins. Many people put their collection bins out the night before pick-up. Or they do so just before leaving for work in the morning. In either case, dumpster divers may have an opportunity to dig through your trash for personally identifiable information. Never put financial or personal information in your trash. If you see people going through your trash, call your local police. Do your best to collect your bins the same day sanitation crews have collected trash and recycling.
• Shred your documents! Destroy all documents with financial or personal information in a cross shredder. This includes things like bank and credit card statements, stock portfolios, tax returns, ATM and credit/debit card receipts, copies of birth, death, and marriage licenses, vehicle titles, deeds and mortgages, pay stubs and insurance policies.
• Mail boxes. Mail theft is one of the primary ways thieves get personal information to perpetrate identity theft. Collect mail as soon as it is delivered, or get a locking mailbox to give you more security. Be on the lookout for bills or financial statements that do not show up – this is a sign of possible identity theft. Be very cautious mailing payments from a curbside mailbox.
• Home security systems. Professional home security systems can be a deterrent to criminals. If you can’t afford a complete system, consider relatively inexpensive home security products like motion sensor lights, etched window glass film, tethered safes, patio door reinforcement bars, light timers and entry alarms. Also, never leave keys in your car – even when it is in your garage.
• Vacation safety. While on vacation, let police, trusted neighbors or friends and family know when you will be gone and where and how they can reach you. Having someone check on your home, bring in newspapers and mail, and turn lights on and off can help keep your home safe. If you’re going to be away for an extended period, consider a stop order for your newspapers and mail while you’re gone.
By working together with your neighbors, you can create a safe community. Participating in National Night Out is a great first step towards stamping out crime on the street where you live.
For more trustworthy tips, visit bbb.org.
Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving the Fall Line Corridor, serving 83 counties in East Alabama, West Georgia, Southwest Georgia, Central Georgia, East Georgia and Western South Carolina.