Sep 19, 2014
Sheriff program helps seniors take precautions
By Alana Melanson, firstname.lastname@example.org
UPDATED: 08/21/2014 06:53:35 AM
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.
* 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.
Sep 19, 2014
Sep 19, 2014
7/19/2014 6:20:00 AM
News Staff Writer
REGION — Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis recently joined Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson on a trip to McAllen, Texas, to get a better look at the immigration issues that are currently facing the nation.
“This was really an opportunity for a fact-finding mission to see what was going on at the border,” Sheriff Evangelidis said while sitting in the airport waiting for his flight home. “People are being relocated up to Massachusetts. Now, we are a defacto border state and I feel that we should all know what is going on.”
Sheriff Evangelidis said he saw many flaws at the border as far as the United States policy is concerned.
“It was obvious that there is such a failed policy in this country that is driving the entire situation right now,” he said. “We have adopted a policy where if you get to American soil, you are essentially processed and then released.”
In speaking with local sheriffs, Texas safety patrol and customs and border patrol, the sheriff said the number of people coming in and being processed has already doubled last year’s numbers, and it is only July.
“Over 215,000 people are processed at this center we visited,” he said. “They basically volunteer themselves to be processed. They are then turned over to ICE — Immigration and Customs Enforcement — who bring them to airports, bus stations or train stations. They are given a form that says they have to appear in front of an officer in approximately 90 days and then released. They are basically given free ability to travel in the U.S.”
Local officials informed the sheriff that 99 percent of those people do not appear 90 days later.
Sheriff Evangelidis said that in conjunction with America’s failed policies, the Mexican drug cartel is adding fuel to the fire.
“The drug cartel is exploiting people and America’s failed policies to convince people to do work for them,” he said. “They are promoting America’s lack of enforcement to tell people that now is the time to come over the border. They are basically making billions of dollars and leaving the problems in our laps.”
Sheriff Evangelidis and Sheriff Hodgson were also brought on a tour of the border as part of their fact-finding trip.
“We got to experience it firsthand,” said Sheriff Evangelidis. “We saw it from the Rio Grande River and also an aerial view. We also met with border volunteers. I think they believe they are being unfairly blamed. The people we spoke to were working very hard and using all available resources. They just have no enforcement of existing laws behind them.”
The sheriff said the federal government needs to begin working on a solution to the illegal immigration issue.
“I think we need a multipronged approach,” he said. “First, we need to secure our borders. Second, we need to enforce our existing laws and third, we need to hold people accountable inside our country, such as employers that continue to promote working illegally.”
In Worcester County, the sheriff said he plans on informing the residents in his district about the ongoing issues facing both the state and the country as a whole.
“We’re going to speak with the Sheriff’s Association about what we learned,” he said. “We will also keep tabs on what is going on here to see if there is any increase related to the issue and come up with ways to combat that.”
Sep 19, 2014