Newspaper

Aug 22, 2014

Crime-Prevention Tips — From Ones Who Know

Sheriff program helps seniors take precautions

By Alana Melanson, amelanson@sentinelandenterprise.com

UPDATED:   08/21/2014 06:53:35 AM EDT

FITCHBURG — A Worcester County Sheriff’s Office program is teaching seniors how to protect themselves from thieves and scam artists — by learning safety tips directly from those who commit the crimes.

“Serving Time, Preventing Crime — Inmates in Their Own Words” incorporates video interviews with inmates into a seminar, presented by Sheriff’s Office community outreach workers, that is designed to open their eyes to potential weak spots in their homes and vehicles that could open them to thefts or worse. Inmates’ faces are blurred in the videos.

“These are from the inmates themselves,” said Community Outreach Coordinator Shawn McKenna, as he presented the seminar at the Fitchburg Senior Center Wednesday morning.

“This is like seeing the opposing team’s playbook.”

One inmate said a thief can slip in and out of a home in under two minutes, making off with anywhere between $1,000 and as much as $30,000 in valuables that are easy to carry and run with.

Bedrooms are often the first spot a thief will go, the inmate said, because that’s where most valuables are kept. Thieves will tear rooms apart, going for the usual hiding spots like dresser drawers and underneath mattresses, he said, recommending a bolted-down safe as the best option to prevent loss of valuables.

 In the summertime, don’t forget to secure the front of your home when you’re preoccupied in the backyard, McKenna said.

“People are having barbecues, there are graduation parties — there’s a lot of stuff that goes on the back, people forget about what’s going in the front of the house, especially if you have a lot of people over,” he said. “There are cars all over the neighborhood, there are cars in the driveway, people are coming and going. It’s very easy for somebody to blend in, just step right into the house, grab something quickly and walk right out the front door, while everyone’s in the backyard having a good time.”

“If someone comes for an unscheduled appointment, call the company first,” an inmate recommended. “It only takes one quick phone call to prevent something real bad from happening–especially if someone’s going to go to that point of coming into your house while you’re home, obviously they’re willing to do anything.”

“If you live alone, don’t advertise it,” McKenna said.

He gave the example of one woman at a seminar in another town who said she puts very large men’s work boots on her front porch, to give the impression that somebody who fits into them lives there.

“That way, anybody that walks by the house or comes to the front door, they’re going to think somebody inside has a size 16 foot,” McKenna said, drawing laughs from the seniors.

In terms of cars, trunks can give a false sense of security, he said, so it’s best to lock all of the doors.

“Pretty much every car these days has a trunk release button,” McKenna said. “If they can get into your passenger compartment, they can get into your trunk.”

Senior Kristine Reynolds said she always locks all of her car doors, but was surprised nonetheless that only locking the trunk would mean a purse or gifts inside would not be safe.

“I was also surprised that a yappy dog would not be very good protection, because they’re not afraid of them,” she said. “I always heard they were good protection because they were noisy.”

Other home tips

* Air conditioners can be an easy access point for thieves. Screwing them into the windowsill can prevent break-ins.

* A broken broomstick handle or piece of wood in the track of a sliding door or window can prevent them from being fully opened even if a lock is broken.

* Keep bushes trimmed, especially those by windows. They can be a great place for criminals to hide and break in unseen.

* Place alarm company stickers and placards in highly visible areas. Even if you don’t have an alarm system, ask a neighbor to share, or use stickers and magnets from mailers.

* Don’t leave ladders or equipment such as barrels or buckets out in plain sight. These items can be used to access unlocked windows that are higher up in the home.

* Outside sensor lights are a good idea, as long as they’re not easily reachable. If within reach, a thief can unscrew it to turn it off.

* Dogs are a deterrent, and the bigger and louder the better. Fake out thieves by putting out larger dog dishes or playing recordings of a dog barking.

* If your home is broken into while you’re there, hide and call for help. Don’t investigate because you never know what kind of weapons an intruder may have. The bathroom is the best place to hide, because items like shower and towel rods can be used as weapons if necessary.

* Don’t leave mail in your mailbox, especially checks that would have a routing number for your account.

* When cashing a check or withdrawing money at a bank, don’t walk out of the building counting your money. Count it at the teller counter.

* Carefully monitor debit and credit card transactions.

* Senior housing communities can give a false sense of security. Just because the front door to your building is locked doesn’t mean you shouldn’t lock your apartment door. Verify all visitors–don’t just let anyone in.

Car tips

* Lock all of your doors when parking somewhere.

* Don’t leave any valuables or identifying information in plain sight.

* Park close to other vehicles.

* When leaving somewhere at night, have your keys ready to enter your vehicle.

* Never feel compelled to walk right to your vehicle if something doesn’t seem right. If you’re at a store or restaurant, go back in and ask for assistance, or wait for a large group of people to leave and walk with them.

* Invest in car alarms if possible.

Jul 2, 2014

Evangelidis Heads Back to School with Lesson on Making Smart Choices

By Sandy Quadros Bowles

Worcester County Sherriff Lewis Evangelidis returned to the middle school he attended to deliver a sobering message to the seventh and eighth graders.
Statistically, not all of them will survive to graduate from high school.

 

Eight teens die every day in an accident involving drunken driving, he told them. One in four deaths in the U.S. involves substance abuse, specifically alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs.

 

“Once you get high, it changes everything,’’ he said to the assembly June 12 at Mountview Middle School. “You hang out with different people, do different drugs, start doing dumb things. You can go to prison because of choices you made.’’

 

He said that 90 percent of the 1,100 inmates at the Worcester County House of Correction in West Boylston, which Evangelidis supervises, landed there because of issues with drugs or alcohol.

 

 Worcester County Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis shows Mountview Middle School students the durable but less than comfortable uniforms the inmates wear at the Worcester County House of Correction.  Joyce Roberts photo  
Worcester County Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis shows Mountview Middle School students the durable but less than comfortable uniforms the inmates wear at the Worcester County House of Correction. Joyce Roberts photo.

 

Many inmates tell him they wish someone had warned them while they were in middle school about the results of drugs and alcohol. They often offer to share their stories with young people in hopes they don’t make the same mistake.

 

Inmates have told him “I wish I could go out and tell them, but I can’t, because I’m in jail,’’ he said.

 

And that is not an easy experience, Evangelidis said. Inmates have no privacy, even when they are using the toilet. The toilets have no seats, because they could be used as weapons. Towels are also forbidden, he said, because inmates could use them to choke themselves or others. The uniforms are selected for durability rather than comfort, which students learned by touching the fabric of a uniform he brought to the assembly.

 

Just one experience with drugs can start a downhill cycle, he said. And today’s young people face even more potential hazards, he said. They have been called “Generation Rx,’’ he said.

 

Prescription drugs have become a major problem, he said. Nearly as many people used prescription drugs as they did marijuana in 2010, according to the DEA. “And the problem is worse now,’’ four years later, he said.

 

Young people today have been known to host “Skittles parties,’’ when young people empty their parents’ medicine cabinets, place the contents in a bowl and encourage guests to take a random handful.

 

These pills can be harmful, even fatal, he said. He quoted an addict who described Oxycontin as “worse than crack … the worst drug out there.’’

 

He also expressed concerns about “Molly,’’ a drug often associated with clubs and partying. In an incident that happened after Evangelidis’ talk, more than 30 people were hospitalized with symptoms linked to the use of Molly after a Boston concert by the electronic dance artist Avicci.

 

The drug can also cause a rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, blood vessel constriction and sweating, and can prevent the body from regulating temperature. Some of the chemicals have been reported to cause intense, prolonged panic attacks, psychosis and seizures.

 

Singer Miley Cyrus, whose music is popular with teens and young adults, references the drug in her song “We Can’t Stop,” which includes a line about “dancing with molly.”

 

Glamorizing such drugs can lull young people into a false sense of security, he said.

 

If talking about the problem did not work, Evangelidis also showed the effects that drugs can take on people’s looks. He showed before-and-after pictures of addicts, depicting when they started their addictions and then about two years later, when their often scarred, pockmarked faces seemed to age by decades.

 

The students even saw a familiar face among the examples: Science teacher Wayne Boisselle volunteered to have his face digitally altered to show the ravages of substance abuse.

 

 The image of Mountview Middle School science teacher Wayne Boisselle is digitally altered to demonstrate the toll that drug use can take on a person’s appearance.  Joyce Roberts photo

 

The image of Mountview Middle School science teacher Wayne Boisselle is digitally altered to demonstrate the toll that drug use can take on a person’s appearance. Joyce Roberts photo

 

Evangelidis hopes through this program that young people can learn early about the dangers and will make the right decisions going forward.

 

“Your choices matter,’’ he said.

Jun 24, 2014

Heroin: From Prescription To Addiction

June 23, 2014

BOSTON (CBS) – Efforts to tackle the state’s drug addiction epidemic are being made on several fronts.

“No one will tell you when they offer you a prescription painkiller that it can so easily turn into a needle in your arm in six months or less. No one will tell you that,” said Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis.

But Evangelidis says he hears that story every single day and can recite it in 15 seconds which he does during his face to face outreach program at Worcester County Public Schools.

Evangelidis says, “Nobody believes me and then I say to them: ‘I was in the middle of high school, started doing drugs, got addicted so my family kicked me out because I was stealing from them. So I went to my friend’s house, stealing from my friends so he kicked me out. So I went down the street, robbed my neighbor, got arrested and went to prison.’”

Tommy Lee Goddard is 26, doing 18 months for restaurant B and E’s to support his drug habit. Sober now, he says the demons linger. “Something that’s always there like I dream about it and I wake up and I’m like “oh God.” Honestly, I don’t want to do it. It’s just something that follows me,” Goddard says.

Worcester County’s community service program is helping him transition to a drug free life. On a recent rainy afternoon, he was blazing a new trail for the Mass Audubon’s Broad Meadow Brook Sanctuary.

And even sopping wet. Tommy Lee was very upbeat.

“I love this program,” Goddard says. “It gives me time to think about what I’ve done. It gives me improvement on my skill set. It gives me time to pay back to the community for everything I took from them.”

Sheriff Evangelidis calls the community service program a win-win.

“Every time you visit a site like you just did you, you see incredible work being done, such appreciation from the community and then you see at the same time the inmates benefit—never seen a program that saves millions of dollars and turns people’s lives around,” Evangelidis says.

Jun 23, 2014

‘The Eyes Don’t Lie’: Worcester County Sheriff Implements Iris Scan at Nelson Place School to Safeguard Children

Lew<br />
 Evangelidis

Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis scans the iris of Nelson Place School student Liam McGinn. (Sam Bonacci, MassLive.com)

 

WORCESTER — The Worcester County Sheriff’s Department brought its iris scan program to Worcester’s Nelson Place School with hundreds of students being added to a national registry.

“The iris is ten times more identifiable than a finger print … it is the next wave of identification. It is extraordinarily identifiable. Your iris can never be compromised,” said Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis who explained the scans can be used to identify lost or kidnapped children easily. He added, “The eyes don’t lie.”

The department has been using the iris scanning program for years among the county’s seniors where thousands of adults with Alzheimer’s or dementia have been scanned. The program has been used among children at fairs and community events, but for the first time the sheriff brought the program to a Worcester public school. The program is free to those who sign up and can be used to quickly identify children who are either lost or may have been abducted.

Iris Scan

“We try to see in what ways we can improve the safety for the community and this seemed like a no-brainer. We have the technology and have been using it for seniors and why not extend it to children,” said Evangelidis who has joined 1,300 other sheriff’s departments implementing this technology with children. “In the end, it’s another tool for public safety.”

The eyes are ten times more identifiable than a finger print and can be used to help identify missing or abducted children. Sam Bonacci, MassLive.com 

The Child Project national registry is maintained by the Missing Children Organization, a non-profit based in Phoenix. Once digital photos of the children’s eyes are made, the data is analyzed and a 688 byte code is created and put into the database. Any law enforcement agency with the proper equipment – which is now prevalent, according to Evangelidis – can easily scan a child’s eyes and get an identification along with contact information for the child’s parents.

The process requires children to have two pictures taken, one of their eyes and one regular digital photo for identification purposes. Parents must sign off on the program, according to the sheriff’s department, and the iris information is erased from the system once the child turns 18.

Iris Scan

Catherine Taylor has her eyes scanned at the Nelson Place School by members of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Department. Sam Bonacci, MassLive.com 

For more information about the program, to sign a child or senior up or inquire about getting the program into a school, people may contact the Sheriff’s Community Outreach Coordinator Shawn McKenna at (508) 723-4582 or smckenna@sdw.state.ma.us.

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