With the arrival of spring and summer’s warm days not far behind, the Office of Research Services, Division of Police, Community Policing Office would like to remind the NIH community of several seasonal crime prevention tips that are important to remember.
During warm weather, many people are inclined to leave doors and windows open. Unfortunately, that can be an invitation to crime. Residential burglaries frequently occur by criminals gaining entrance through an unlocked or open door (including a garage door) or window. We encourage residents to lock doors and windows, especially when not at home, even if the homeowner is just outside doing yard work. In particular, an open garage door creates an opportunity for a low-risk crime to occur. In less than a minute, a thief can flee with an item such as a lawnmower or bicycle. If an inner door to the house is also unlocked, a thief could enter the residence and steal additional property. Unsecured vehicles are also easy targets for criminals.
Spring is also the time that transient criminals come into the metropolitan area. These groups are highly mobile, often live out of state, and travel up and down the east coast committing their crimes during the temperate months. They are made up of individual families who always travel together. They use several vehicles that typically display out-of-state license plates. They use their children as participants in their scams. Sometimes it is the actual children who are the ones stealing the valuables. Jewelry, silverware and cash are most often taken. These criminals will enter a home while a homeowner is just outside doing yard work. Or they may come up to a homeowner and request a glass of water for a child. While the homeowner is distracted by getting the water, another member of the group is stealing valuables from inside the home. The home is not ransacked, and many times the theft is not discovered until much later.
Homeowners should also be wary of home improvement scams. These occur when unsolicited workers knock on a homeowner’s door, claim they are in the area doing other work, and have noticed that your home "needs some attention." They will make general claims that you have a cracked driveway, a bad roof, or a damaged chimney. In most cases the work will be done in a substandard manner and was not work that was needed in the first place. Quite often, high pressure tactics are used to get the victim to accept the work and pay for it.
People are asked to call 911 to report any suspicious activity in progress and to call the police non-emergency number for your jurisdiction to report unusual people, vehicles, or activity in a neighborhood.
If you have any questions, please contact the NIH Police, Community Policing Coordinator, Corporal Matthew Catherwood at (301) 496-3020 or firstname.lastname@example.org.