Forget Batman. A nosy neighbor is your neighborhood's most effective crime fighter, DeKalb Police told a Northlake crowd Thursday night.
Nosy neighbors, trimming shrubbery, recordings of barking dogs were among the unusual crime prevention tips offered by members of the DeKalb County Police Department at a town hall meeting held at that was hosted by the Northlake Community Alliance and state Rep. Scott Holcomb.
Captain Sonia Porter, the assistant commander of the central precinct, did most of the talking to a crowd populated mainly by older residents.
“If you see something, you’ve got to call us,” Porter told the crowd. “Too often we hear people say, “I didn’t want to call 911 for that.’ It’s okay to be nosy.”
If you witness a crime, not only should you call 911, but you should remain on the phone to give police a description of the criminal. Did he go into a car and drive off?
“A lot of times, witnesses don’t want to meet with us,” after they phone in crime, Porter complained. “If you won’t answer your cell phone or call me back, there’s not much I can do.”
Car break-ins and burglaries are common in the area, Porter said, but police have made many recent arrests to clear burglaries. She reported that police cleared 20 burglaries in June, 17 in July, and 13 in August.
Landscaping, lighting and locks, are important facets of preventing burglaries, Porter said. Dense shrubbery and tall trees offer plenty of hiding spaces, making a home more attractive to burglars, she said.
“A house that doesn’t want to cut the light on outside will be a higher target for a burglar than the house that will have a light on,” Porter said.
Lock your doors, even when you’re just working in the yard, Porter said, and take a cell or cordless phone with you.
When shopping, especially in the many malls in Northlake, hang up your cell phone and observe your surroundings. People absorbed in a cell phone conversation may not notice a suspicious person.
“When you leave the building put the cell phone up, have your keys ready, be observant,” Porter advised. “When you see other people, give eye contact. You see me, but I also see you.”
Carry your purse in front of your body, not dangling at your back where a purse snatcher can easily grab it, Porter said.
Car break-ins are a common crime in the Northlake area, Porter said, but “every police agency has those a lot.” To avoid this crime, don’t allow your car to be an attractive shopping venue for would-be thieves.
Thieves will walk past cars looking inside “to see what you have,” Porter said. “They love your GPS, your cell phone, laptops. Any personal items such as that should not be left out.”
Shoppers should think twice about loading armloads of packages into a car trunk and then returning to shop. Anybody watching the parking lot knows that you’ve just loaded the trunk with goodies. Once a thief breaks into a car, all the criminal has to do is push a little trunk release to get into the trunk.
“After you take the bags to the trunk, get in your car and go and park on the other side of the mall,” suggested Porter. “It gives the illusion you’ve already left.”
During the meeting, one resident got up and reported that at a Wednesday funeral in Gwinnett, three cars were broken into during the funeral. The message: don’t leave pocketbooks or purses in sight even at a funeral parlor. “People have no respect for a funeral and church,” grumbled the man.
Lindmoor Woods Neighborhood Watch Chairman Chuck Maxwell said he had noticed a young man of 19 or 20 tattooed with a gang symbol, a five-pointed star, going through his neighborhood trying to sell candy bars. Maxwell said when he stopped the young man, he told him he’d been a member of the Bloods gang and was living inside Motel 6.
Maxwell said he warned the young man that he was looking out for him and to be careful.
He also announced that DeKalb Police Gang Unit would be giving a presentation on gangs on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Rehoboth Presbyterian Church.
Grant Knox of the Volunteer In Police Services program, says his group voluntarily patrols neighborhoods to keep an eye out for suspicious activity.
“I don’t get involved, but if something happens, I’m fixing to call,” said Knox. “I know of at least a dozen opportunities that would probably end up being pretty bad, but by calling 911, they sent out guys and gals and stopped the crime.”
Police answers to other questions asked by crowd members:
What’s the safest way to use an ATM?
Do it in the daytime; if you have to use an ATM at night, have someone with you to look out for strangers. Don’t put your car in park; keep it ready to drive off. Pull your car very close to ATM machines, pull in your mirror. You don’t want to leave room for a thief to slip into the space between your car and the ATM.
What about dogs?
A dog is a big responsibility, Porter said. Dogs can deter crime, but they can’t help you if they’re caged or tied up in back. Porter said devices that trigger barking dogs could be effective deterrents without the responsibility of a pet.
Are crimes and gang activity up because of the economy?
Porter said it’s hard to tell because criminals don’t explain their motives after arrest. But foreclosed homes can provide a place for gang members and other of the “less nice of society” somewhere they can hide, Porter said. She advised calling zoning to insure that abandoned homes don’t become breeding grounds for crime.