By: Kim Ring
TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
MILLBURY — When Worcester County Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis heard an inmate say he uses sticks of wood in his windows to prevent break-ins, he went home and used sticks of wood to secure his windows.
The sheriff also made a few other changes at home based on what the “experts” at the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction told him about their criminal careers.
He also filmed two inmates talking about their tips on how senior citizens can avoid becoming crime victims and has taken the show on the road with planned stops at area senior centers, assisted living facilities and senior housing.
The seminar, “Serving Time, Preventing Crimes: Inmates in Their Own Words and Understanding Your Health Care” helps senior citizens learn easy safety tips that can keep them from being robbed or having their homes burglarized. The program is sponsored by The Senior Focus with Attorney Nick Kaltsas, a program on Charter TV 3.
“Part of our job is to use our office to promote public safety,” the sheriff told seniors at Millbury Health Care Center on Thursday. “And who better to tell you how to stay safe than the inmates who have committed these crimes themselves.”
During the video the inmates, their faces blurred to protect their identity, talk about how something as simple as a barking dog might deter them from entering a house.
Noise, they said, will send them running. But they also warned that they’re not afraid to enter homes even when residents are inside. A purse near an open window is easy prey, and they’ll risk climbing inside to snatch it and run.
The sheriff said larcenies and robberies are usually the result of people looking for quick cash they can use to buy drugs. With heroin use on the rise, addicts will often turn to theft as a way to feed their habits.
The inmates said they often break into cars, especially those left unlocked or those with items like cellphones, GPS devices and wallets in plain view. And, they warned, tossing valuables into the trunk isn’t a way to protect them because thieves will smash a window, pop the trunk and be gone with the items in seconds.
They’ll steal tools, wallets, and “anything I can sell quick,” the inmates said.
They’re also not afraid to approach an elderly person, steal a purse or wallet or packages they’re carrying but they’re less likely to approach an undistracted senior who walks confidently, makes brief eye contact and is aware of his or her surroundings.
They urged the elders to look around, make note of people who may be lurking in parking lots or are dressed in dark clothes.
“Your body will tell you (if something’s not right),” they said.
It was clear that some of the seniors who attended on Thursday have been paying attention to safety for a while. A few offered tips of their own, such as being careful scratching lottery tickets and reacting to a win inside a convenience store where someone might see and take advantage after the ticket is cashed in.
Another woman said using a car alarm can be a deterrent and setting it off if there’s a situation can send a would-be thief running. Keeping the car keys near the bed and using that alarm in case someone breaks in was also recommended.
The program includes information about estate planning, health care and preparing for the future financially, as well.
The sheriff is traveling through Worcester County delivering the message and will be at the West Boylston Senior Center at 10:30 a.m. April 7, at Leominster Life Care at 6 p.m. April 9, at KT Senior Housing in Auburn at 1:30 p.m. April 10, and at Upton Senior Center at 1 p.m. April 15.