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Safe Houses : Looking Out for One Another in War On Crime

March 14, 1991|BRIAN ALEXANDER

North County is a pleasant place to live, and thousands of people every year prove the point by moving here. But even the Garden of Eden had a snake.

We have crime, crime statistics and the grief that goes with them. It is an unwelcome fact of life that some people will lie, cheat, steal and injure other people to get what they want.

But individuals can do much to limit the reach of criminals, police say. The single most important step doesn't cost a cent: Get to know your neighbors.

It also pays to examine with the eye of a crook your habits and surroundings. Are you making yourself an unnecessarily attractive target? Do you make it easy for someone to walk off with valuables?

Although North County also has its share of homicides and violent assaults, a far greater number of people are affected by crimes against property--car thefts and home burglaries.

Individuals can and should become activists in the fight against crime, police say. It can drastically reduce the chances of becoming a victim. Alert behavior is more important than technology.

Here are some things--obvious and maybe not so obvious--to think about as you make your corner of the world as safe as possible.

KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS

In the old days everybody knew who lived next door and down the street, and sometimes who was on the other side of town. Now, many of us don't know who lives in the apartment upstairs or the house across the street.

All crime prevention professionals say the same thing: The better you know your neighbor, the better able you will be to tell when trouble may be knocking at your door.

This doesn't mean becoming a busybody. But it does help to know who is likely to be home in case of an emergency, whether the people living around you work during the day or the night, what their cars look like, and what their telephone numbers are.

KNOW YOUR POLICE

North County is a maze of cities, towns and unincorporated areas served by several different police forces. Know who protects you.

All of these agencies can be reached in an emergency by dialing 911.

The San Diego County Sheriff's Department patrols much of North County. In all, there are about 212 working deputies in these districts, although that number can vary.

The region is divided into several service areas:

* Encinitas command (Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas and unincorporated areas), 753-1252;

* Vista command (Vista, San Marcos and unincorporated areas), 940-4551;

* Poway command (Poway and unincorporated areas), 748-7400;

* Fallbrook substation (Fallbrook, Bonsall and Rainbow), 728-1115;

* Ramona substation (Ramona and surrounding areas), 789-1200.

Three cities have their own police forces, which operate within their city limits.

* Oceanside, with 191 officers, 966-4900.

* Escondido, with 133 sworn officers, 741-4721

* Carlsbad, with 79 officers, 931-2197

Parts of North County fall within the city of San Diego police jurisdiction.

* Rancho Bernardo/Rancho Penasquitos area, 743-8981;

* Mira Mesa/Scripps Ranch area, 695-8422.

State highways in North County are patrolled by the California Highway Patrol.

* Oceanside office, 757-1675.

SECURE YOUR HOME

The Sheriff's Department says there were 3,071 residential burglaries in its North County patrol area last year. Cities were also hard hit. In Oceanside, for example, 577 residences were burgled.

According to Patty Drain, crime prevention specialist at the sheriff's Encinitas command, alarms and lights are big deterrents to home crime.

She advises homeowners to install lights timed to go on at dusk and off at dawn or motion-sensitive lights that will switch on when movement is detected.

In addition, all windows should be fitted with locks, doors should have a deadbolt, and all windows and doors should remain locked, even when you are at home.

When leaving the house, even for overnight stays, be sure the house looks lived in. That means hooking the lights to a timer, leaving a radio on and not closing the blinds all the way.

Everyone in the household should be familiar with how the house functions--such as where the circuit box is, how windows and doors operate, how to open locks. If only one person knows those things, other members of the family may find themselves stranded.

Drain said homeowners and apartment renters should feel free to call the department for a free home security evaluation that will specify safety measures each resident can take.

VALUABLES

You can protect your valuables even if a thief manages to enter your home. According to sheriff's Detective Sgt. Jerry Lewis, a good home safe can prevent a thief in a hurry from bothering with its contents.

In general, he said, the more hidden the valuables, the less time a thief will have to look for them.

But it's tough to hide televisions, VCRs and stereos, other favorite targets of burglars. However, engraving an identification number--such as a Social Security or driver's license number--on your property will help police identify recovered goods.

KNOW WHO'S KNOCKING

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