When ENW gets a call or email it almost always starts the same way: “I (or my neighbour, friend or relative) was a victim of a crime.” Rarely do people contact us proactively. That is because most of us are not ready to “do something” until after we or someone we know has been a victim.
At ENW it is our hope that more people can become aware of crime prevention strategies to avoid being that victim. Perhaps if those crime prevention tips become actions in our daily routine we can become harder targets before becoming angry victims. In previous issues of The ENW Dispatch, on our website and through social media we have covered those tips. This month I thought I would share a couple of stories of how crime can affect us personally.
The cost of a $20 snow-shovel
You might leave a shovel in the yard to make it easier to shovel your way to or from your door. But did you know it can be stolen in seconds? Although that doesn’t sound like a “big” crime, all crime has after-effects. You come home from work and there is no shovel. Now you probably can’t shovel the walk until you go buy another shovel. You are not only out the cost of the shovel but you probably need to make a special trip to the store to buy a new one. Whether the theft was big or small, you feel victimized. You may get angry and wonder how someone could come in to your yard and steal your property. The effects start to set in over the first few days. You may find it changes your perception and your sense of security. Every time you hear noise outside you go to the window to “catch them in the act” or find yourself looking at others in your neighbourhood to see if they are using your shovel. You find yourself spending a lot more of your time, effort and thoughts on that “little” crime.
An unlocked vehicle can be many things
Have you heard people tell you they leave their vehicles unlocked so thieves don’t break a window? That philosophy is flawed because most thefts from vehicles are not as a result of a broken window. Breaking a window is loud and it draws attention – not something thieves want. If your car is locked and ALL the valuables are removed you are less likely to be a victim of theft. However if you leave something of value visible, your chances increase significantly. For a lap-top, GPS, sunglasses or even loose-change, a thief may be willing to break your window. Leaving the items in an unlocked vehicle is not only creating an opportunity for you to be a victim of crime but it makes your neighbourhood more vulnerable to future crimes. Easy target neighbourhoods have repeat crimes.
If you leave your vehicle unlocked you may have been a victim already and not know it. An unlocked vehicle is in a secluded area can be temporary shelter for someone. They will probably be gone before you return in the morning – and you might never know they were there. If two people find an open vehicle they can engage in all kinds of activities. It can provide privacy for an amorous interlude or just a safe place to partake in illegal drug-use or a business transaction.
For those who think they have nothing to steal, what about the vehicle itself? The time you will spend reporting the car stolen so that you can start the insurance claim likely results in using most of your coffee and lunch breaks to sort it all out. Endless calls with insurance and the difficulty you may have finding alternate transportation. The return of what you may get back, will never be worth what losing the vehicle actually cost you.
There is also something that thieves are targeting that you may not realize is missing. Imagine your vehicle registration is stolen. With that piece of paper and a stolen vehicle similar to yours, a thief can sell the stolen car to an unsuspecting victim using the back of your registration. Your registration and VIN# will be used by the new “owner” to register your vehicle in their name. The actual stolen car will not appear stolen when the police run their plate, but your plates will be invalid. You may be lucky enough not to be pulled over by police but you certainly won’t get passed your next registration renewal because you are no longer the legal owner of the car. The time and effort needed to fix that problem is extensive for both you and the other victim.
These types of crime may not seem likely, but they are. Until it happens to you, you cannot fully realize how much it will affect your quality of life.
As is with many people a new year is a time to look forward and resolve to make positive changes for the future. Often those resolutions are related to a healthier lifestyle revolving around better eating, exercising and healthier activities. I would like to encourage you to resolve to have a safer lifestyle and to help create a safer neighbourhood where you live.
Have safe and happy 2016.
Until next time…
Debbie Sellers, ENW
Edmonton Neighbourhood Watch (ENW) is a not-for-profit, charitable, volunteer passive crime prevention organization.