We are fast approaching the long, hot days of summer. The beginning of hurricane season is already here. All of the weather forecasters — misnomer? — have shared their thoughts on what the season will bring and what we should do to be prepared.

Quiet Saturday mornings have given way to the sound of lawn mowers and lawn tractors. I ride with pride as I cross the lawn etching a different pattern each time and proudly wave to neighbors driving by and those similarly occupied — and similarly dressed.

This is the one activity where I am allowed to go outside in grungy shorts, a tattered T-shirt and a hat that, by all rights, should have been buried long ago.

Neighbors down the street are trying to sell their house, and my wife declares that it will never sell if prospective buyers ride by and see me out there in my mowing outfit. Oh well. At least they would know what kind of neighborhood they were buying in to.

I had a vivid reminder of one of the most basic lessons of crime prevention while mowing the backyard. I was mowing — the garage door open and the back door fortunately locked — when I made a turn and saw a stranger standing directly in front of me.

I never saw him enter the backyard. I never saw what he was driving. I had no idea if he was alone or not. So much for being alert. As it turned out, he was a person a friend of mine had recommended to help build some raised garden beds. I was lucky this time.

Quick review — no matter how short a time you will be outside, lock the doors. Don’t leave the garage doors open so someone can shop while you are occupied. Do not leave lawn equipment in the yard unattended. Make sure to mark your equipment with unique numbers.

If someone approaches while you are working outside, do not invite them in for a drink. Talk outside in a neutral spot like the driveway and let someone inside know that there is a stranger with you.

Have your cellphone handy. If they are selling something, ask to see their permit. No permit? End the conversation. Don’t hire someone on the spot without checking references, the BBB or even with the local law enforcement agency.

Be wary of someone who demands the money upfront. Sometimes a drive-by lawn service can be legitimate and offer a good deal. Still check references and don’t be pressured into a today-and-today-only type of deal.

Finally, be alert to how many individuals are there. One might keep you occupied by walking through the services to give you a bid while another shops in your house, garage or vehicle.

Remember the advice from the mall parking lot — doors locked and valuables in the trunk or covered. Leave nothing out in the open.

When in doubt, always call your local law enforcement agency. They can check on someone very quickly.

Remember: Think, prepare and execute crime prevention designs. Don’t become a crime victim.


Walt Candelari is a police officer with Dickinson Police Department. He is writing a series of columns on creating an environment of safety from burglars.

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