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Stay alert to stay safe, police say



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At the security seminar, Henry Woloson, left, displays a door lock reinforcer, which can increase security without costing too much, while Dep. Dave Stewart watches. Photo by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
September 14, 2011 - Use common sense. Watch out for each other. Trust your gut.

That was the advice for about 40 local residents at the Neighborhood Security Seminar, Sept. 8 at Independence Township Hall.

Oakland County Sheriff's Dep. Dave Stewart and Dep. Luke Decker, directed patrol officers assigned to Independence Township, advised residents to keep their property secured.

"The main thing is to always lock your doors don't give them the opportunity," Stewart said. "This isn't Little House on the Prairie anymore."

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"This is unfortunately a sign of the times," Decker said. "Don't leave anything out you don't want to get stolen."

Theft from vehicles, businesses, and homes is a serious problem in Independence Township.

"Laptops, GPS, anything they can pawn, they take," Decker said.

"Even my small neighborhood experienced a number of car break-ins in the past year," said Rick Gutowski of Citizens Cable Committee, which hosted the event.

While investigating break-ins, deputies have found everything from organized rings based out of Flint, Lapeer, and Detroit to local residents looking to fund a drug habit.

"It's a mix of everything," Decker said. "Be aware of who's who in the neighborhood."

One case involved a carload of young people dropped off in neighborhoods with walkie talkies, walking down the street looking into cars and taking items, then getting picked up and taken to other neighborhoods.

When found, the car was filled with electronics and other stolen property.

In another case, in Springfield Township, the arrest of one couple cleared about 40 breaking-and-enterings.

"It goes in waves," Decker said. "I don't think there's a huge spike in it."

A problem related to thefts is solicitation without a permit, Stewart said.

"They come in from out of states, and they have arrest warrants," he said. "If something about them scares you, call us listen to your gut feelings."

Solicitation is a way thieves use to case houses for future break-ins, he said.

"Just because they're clean cut or in a suit, they're not necessarily legit," Decker said. "Expect the unexpected."

To secure the home, use deadbolt locks and as many outdoor lights as possible, Stewart said.

"If it's completely dark, it's hard to see people creeping around," he said.

Break-ins are also common during the day when everyone's at work.

Cameras and security systems help, he said.

"Don't put cameras up high, where you only see the top of the head that doesn't help," he said. "Put them at eye level, so we can see what they look like."

Get together with neighbors to watch out for each other. When on vacation, neighbors can help keep each other's houses looking occupied by picking up flyers left on front doors and leaving tracks in the driveway in winter, he said.

Call 911 to report break-ins in progress and other emergencies. To report something suspicious, like a strange noise at the neighbor's, call the sheriff's non-emergency line, 248-858-4950 or 248-858-4952.

"Don't get into the middle of something it's not worth it," Stewart said. "Get a description, plate number of the car. The more information, the better."

Call Independence Township Substation, 6560 Citation Drive, at 248-620-4970. The station is unmanned after business hours.

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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