When I started in 1996, the economy was expanding faster than my waistline. As I walked quickly through my neighborhood, I stepped to the staccato beat of hammers, buzzing saws and humming machinery. Seemed like every other house was undergoing a makeover. I’d occasionally chat with a carpenter or contractor and got to know my local postal workers a bit.
By the time the economy started its death spiral in 2007 and 2008, there were very few construction projects and even fewer people on the street. Instinctively, I started taking some extra security precautions, like locking my back gate as I left the house. I’ve always locked all the doors. It’s just common sense. Plus, I had produced my share of TV features on crime and preventing it. I’ll never forget interviewing a Detroit cop who said, “you basically want to do anything you can to make it tougher for someone to break into your house.”
Most break-in artists want nothing to do with people, violence or trouble, he explained. They’re out for an easy score. When you lock your doors, turn on lights and bolt the gate, you’re making it a little tougher.
But it surprises me that my local PD hasn’t taken advantage of the Internet to up the ante with criminals. Recently, there’s been a rash of break ins in our Dearborn neighborhood. Apparently, the perpetrator is using landscaping blocks to bust in doors and windows. Curiously, the cops have found houses vandalized, but the homeowners aren’t reporting any missing valuables. Lots of damage, but the only thing reportedly taken has been a handgun, so far.
I first heard about it from my mom who had seen a TV news story. Then I read a Patch article.
My question is: why aren’t local police e-mailing and texting citizens reports about burglaries or other crime trends in the community?
At the Dearborn Police Web site, you can file an official police report for certain crimes. You can access information to start your own neighborhood watch. But I didn’t see any links to check out crime patterns. The department’s Facebook page is virtually dormant, with a handful of likes and well under 100 visits.
If law enforcement championed a communications campaign to acquire citizen contact information, e-mails and cell phone numbers, they could tap into a powerful source of security. A kind of electronic neighborhood watch. This tactic could be especially valuable when communities are pressed for funds and resources. Taxpayers can play an important role by supporting first responders and adding a level of vigilance that is impossible for police to deliver.
Public service announcements with McGruff the Crime Dog are nice public relations. But if we really want to improve results, communities should consider properly implemented, social media crime campaigns. They might actually save lives. Photos might include sketches of the perp. Postings could feature descriptions of the criminals and their MO as well as recommended security procedures. Of course, citizens could provide tips through the site or directly to the police.
Making people aware of threats and providing very rapid, helpful information could make the difference between a foiled B&E and a violence.
Let’s take a byte out of crime.