Crimewatch with Walt Candelari
WATCHING the news on television one night, I saw two men hold up a store at gunpoint, pistol whip the clerk and flee. The store camera was working and provided an excellent shot of both robbers. The newscaster ended the story with the standard “if you know anything about this incident or recognize the individuals, you need to contact the police – a reward is offered” plea.
End of story.
In far too many incidents, that really is the end of the story. There are people watching who know the individuals involved but remain silent. The perpetrators themselves will watch and see their actions broadcast across the area. Obviously they, too, will remain silent.
Despite prevention techniques like “target hardening” and increased electronic surveillance, crimes continue. The obvious questions are always what can be done to increase either crime prevention itself or the public’s response.
In a lengthy article, Center For Problem-Oriented Policing offers 25 techniques of situation-specific prevention under five major topics – increase the effort, increase the risks, reduce the rewards, reduce provocation and reduce excuses.
Increasing the criminals’ effort includes target hardening, controlling access to facilities, screening exits, deflecting offenders and control of tools and weapons. None of these topics holds any surprises. We have looked at increasing the quality of locks and lighting, using key pads and electronic cards to limit access, businesses using electronic merchandise tags, planning neighborhoods and businesses to control entry and traffic flow.
Likewise, increasing the risks of criminal action contains suggestions that encompass the use of a Neighborhood Watch type of program, effective use of lighting, neighbors supporting each other when identifying criminals and using burglar alarms.
Reducing the rewards of crime is centered on activities like locking car doors, marking your property, quick removal of graffiti and, where possible, not parking vehicles on the street.
Reducing provocation ranges from reducing peer pressure to quickly addressing repairs of acts of vandalism. Suggestions of using positive peer pressure and positive community reinforcement – for example, “you drink, you drive, you go to jail” – are noted as being important.
The final component – remove excuses – has suggestions from using set rules to remove the “I didn’t know …” gambit to the use of electronic displays such as flashing radar speed signs to ensure that drivers are aware of speed restrictions. They also mention the increased use of signage such as “No parking” and “Private property – keep out”.
All in all, the center’s article focuses on a broader spectrum of issues that apply to communities outside the continental USA but many of its items are universal in their application.
Despite all of the suggestions and recommendations, effective crime prevention rests on the individual and the community’s commitment to act. As in so many other ventures, standing together presents a much stronger front than acting alone.
The final line in the sand? We have to act. We must support each other in addressing all aspects of crime in our communities.
Remember: Think, plan and execute crime-prevention design. Don’t be a crime victim.
Walt Candelari is a crime-prevention specialist and community-policing officer with Dickinson police department.