BERLIN — Protecting homes and property from crime is something the Berlin Police Department has done well but in response to burglaries around town over the last six weeks Chief Arnold Downing cautions residents on what they can do to help prevent and deter these kinds of crimes.
“We think [the burglaries] are all related,” Downing said. “But we thing these are crimes of opportunity.”
A crime of opportunity is when someone takes advantage of an unlocked door or open window to grab something that’s in the open. These crimes are not so much planned — houses are not likely “staked out” for example — as occur where a lapse in vigilance meets chance.
In order to begin to reverse this trend, Downing asks residents to call the police if they’re unsure of a person on a neighbor’s property. He was clear that the Berlin Police maintain a low-profile approach when it comes to strangers in a neighborhood.
“Call if there is something suspicious,” he said. “It’s not always adversarial.”
Downing and his officers realize it isn’t possible for one neighbor to know all of another visitors and take that into account when they have to approach someone.
As a small town, though, it is reasonable to expect that someone in the neighborhood can be relied upon to keep an eye out while another neighbor is on vacation, which is one of the several recommendations Downing made to try and better reduce crime in Berlin.
“Keep an eye out for your neighbors,” he said. “Make the house look attended to.”
When people go on vacation they should ask a neighbor to park in their driveway, occasionally turn the lights on or off and generally give the impression that the house may be occupied. Crimes of opportunity are based in the supposition of an empty home. The more a person does to make their home look occupied, the better protection they have agains this kind of crime.
People leaving on vacation can also ask the police to look in on their house by way of a property check request. Although the Police Department form is available online and the police happy to receive it via fax or scanned into an e-mail, Downing said dropping by the station is the easiest way. Residents can get help in filling out the form and ask questions on the spot to better put themselves at ease.
Downing also said that it is important to remember to lock all doors.
“Even if you’re going out for only a minute,” he said.
Many of these crimes of opportunity occur when someone notices the house emptying out and checks a door or window to see if it is open.
Downing wants residents to make sure thy use the Berlin Police Department as the community-oriented resource that it is. He said the department takes care to have the blotter on their Website updated daily but also recommends people check www.crimereports.com where customized maps can give people an idea of the kinds and types of crimes committed by address, area code or neighborhood.