By Polly Keary, Editor
It’s not police who will prevent your home from being burglarized.
It’s you and your neighbors.
That’s what about 20 people learned Wednesday evening when they crowded into a meeting room at the Monroe Fire Department to meet with East County Precinct Commander Monte Beaton, a Lieutenant in the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, to see what might be done about crime in their neighborhoods.
“Neighbors looking out for neighbors is a powerful thing,” said Beaton, who is also the chief of the Sultan Police Department. “I’d be lying if I told you the answer to your problems is the Sheriff’s Department or the Police Department. We can’t hang out in front of your house. I want you to be able to help yourselves.”
The group was convened by a Monroe woman named Dawn Lindsay, who was tired of worrying about theft in her Van Brocklin Road neighborhood.
A number of her neighbors came to the meeting, as did people from other parts of town unsettled by reports of crime near their homes.
Beaton took about half an hour at the start of the meeting to explain what he could about how police are limited when it comes to property crime.
There aren’t enough officers to stake out every neighborhood to try to dissuade crooks, he said. That is especially true in the unincorporated parts of the county.
“You wonder why they can’t do something about it,” he said. “There are 95 deputies total in the county.”
Those deputies have to provide 24/7 policing to everyone from Everett’s city limits north to Arlington, out to Granite Falls and up the Sky Valley. Some of them, too, are dedicated to a single town, such as Sultan and Gold Bar, where they contract to serve as the town’s police force.
It’s pretty much impossible to predict where thieves will strike and to be lying in wait. What’s more discouraging, it’s hard to catch thieves after they have struck, too.
“People think we are going to dust for prints and do CSI, but it’s hard to get good prints,” said Beaton. “The FBI can lift a print off a human body, but it takes tens of thousands of dollars, and as important as your property is, a lot of what it comes down to is what it’s going to cost to try to recover stuff.”
Police often can’t even get right out to your house after you’ve been victimized. The top priority for police is crimes in progress, said Beaton.
If police can’t stake out your neighborhood, and they can’t easily catch a burglar who has broken in, what hope do residents have?
The two most powerful things people can do is discourage thieves from choosing their homes and make it easy for police to recover their stolen goods should the worst happen, said Beaton.
“We’ve arrested many a burglar and asked, ‘Why did you choose that house and not the other?’ And they say, ‘That guy had a dog. That guy had a gate,’” said Beaton.
Daytime burglars, he explained, knock on doors. If they don’t hear a dog and no one answers, they walk around back, knock again, try the door.
“They really don’t want to wake a guy up who has a gun,” explained Beaton.
If someone answers the door, they typically ask for someone who doesn’t live there, trying to make it seem as if they came to the wrong door.
If no one answers, and there’s no dog or no alarm system, they kick the door in and head straight for the master bedroom, rifling drawers, searching for safes, looking under the bed, in the closet and in other places people stash valuables.
“I have an alarm system and a gate,” said Beaton. “You might think you can’t afford to do that, but you can’t afford to have someone kick in the door and take everything.”
If a thief does get in, the best way to get justice is to know the serial numbers of what was taken, explained Beaton.
“People have no idea,” said Beaton. “You can catch a crook with a chainsaw in the back of the truck. You run the numbers, it comes up clear, and we can’t take it back. We see guys on brand new bikes and we know they live under a tarp by the river. And they have a brand new $400 bike. You run the numbers and it comes up clean, you can’t get it back.”
If you do know the serial numbers, police can report them to a system called Leads Online. All pawn shops have to check serial numbers with Leads Online, so if someone tries to hock your pressure washer, you can get it back and the guy can go to jail.
“If you would get serial numbers and model numbers, that would mean the world to us,” said Beaton.
One of the most powerful weapons against crime anyone has is a neighbor, said Beaton.
“It’s not a sign saying you have an alarm that is the answer,” he said. “The neighborhood watch is the answer.”
Make an agreement with your neighbors to watch for suspicious activity at each other’s homes, and make neighbors aware when someone is away, he said. And then follow through.
“Call 911,” he said. “If you’re wrong, it’s okay.”
Police will respond right away to a report of a possible crime in progress, he noted.
And they’ll be glad to do it.
“A lot of guys in the Sheriff’s Office, we were in the military,” he said. “We are looking for action, but we have to know what’s going on.”
He noted that calls to 911 from a cell phone typically are routed to the State Patrol and suggested that people specifically ask for the Sheriff’s Office dispatch.
Before he concluded his comments, he congratulated Monroe on a strong community interest.
“I’ve been in law enforcement for 24 years and this is the second largest crowd I’ve seen come together over community issues,” he said. “You don’t need to have armed guards pulling shifts. You just need to be cognizant.”
Members of the audience talked about what they have observed in their homes, about burglaries along Old Owen Road and in the Van Brocklin area.
Then they filled out sheets signing up for the Sheriff’s Neighborhood Watch Program.
Now, Dawn Lindsay said she plans to get a Neighborhood Watch sign for her neighborhood, and she plans to try organizing some community meetings.
Anyone interested in learning more about creating a neighborhood watch in their area can call (425) 388-7375.
Tips for safety in your neighborhood and at home
- Consider an alarm system, and post a sign alerting intruders that you have one.
- Consider getting a dog.
- Trim shrubs back from the house to reduce potential hiding places.
- Consider motion sensor lights.
- Consider a fence and/or a gate.
- Make an agreement with neighbors to watch for suspicious activity.
- Don’t hesitate to call 911. It’s okay to be wrong.
- If you are burglarized, report it. Even if you didn’t lose much, or are embarrassed because the car was unlocked, call. It helps police establish patterns.
- Don’t leave valuables in your car.
- Don’t leave your home or car unlocked while you aren’t present.
- Keep a journal of unusual activity. Note dates, times and events. Consider setting up a Facebook page or blog for neighbors to share information. One such existing site in Monroe is a Facebook page called Stop, Thief.
- Take pictures, if possible.
- And consider security cameras. Locate them at eye level, rather than over head, to make sure you can capture the face of the perpetrator.