We all want to believe that police officers are out patrolling our neighborhoods and businesses around the clock to keep us safe. But the reality is, most police officers in Orange County are busy responding to calls for service from the time they roll out of the station until the end of their watch.
These calls can be for a traffic accident, a lost child or loud disturbance – almost anything. In fact, about 80 percent of police calls for service are for very minor offenses or for providing routine services.
Residents have become essential to preventing crime. Because patrol officers can’t be everywhere, cops rely on the public to call and tell them what’s happening in their neighborhoods. The police communications center staff depends on the quality of information the public gives them so the officers can be dispatched with the accurate priority and the appropriate level of resources.
Criminals know police response may be very rapid so they want to avoid doing anything that could be viewed as suspicious and prompt a call to the police. It becomes incumbent on us all to know who belongs in our neighborhoods and to pay close attention when there is someone or a vehicle that we don’t recognize.
It doesn’t take much time to observe the people and the cars that are regularly in your neighborhood and to pay close attention when someone looks out of place. Reporting and recording information about vehicles and someone who is unusual can help police prevent and solve crimes. Smart phones, through photos and videos, can provide a digital record of information that can be critical to solving a case or identifying a suspect.
Another important way to contribute to keeping crime down is to have contact through your local police web site where you can sign up for email alerts about police activity and crime. Most departments are connected to social networking sites, and you can use these to your advantage to be aware of crime trends and get the latest police information.
Another idea is to host a neighborhood meeting with the officers who patrol your neighborhood. Knowing your neighborhood cops can yield an abundance of information. During the hot summer months, many people like to leave their windows open for their homes to cool down at night. But this can be an open invitation to burglars to enter your home while you are sleeping and take whatever they want undetected.
If you are aware of the ways that burglaries are occurring you can take steps to prevent the crimes before they occur and not become another victim.
It’s up to you to do your part to be a responsible community member and to stay informed. You and your neighborhood will be much safer and you will feel safer, too.
Walters retired as Santa Ana Police Chief last year. He now works as Executive Vice President of Evidence Based Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 949-216-6814