Are you safe? Police officer Larry Hesselgesser shares security tips with La Jolla community at Distinguished Speakers forum
By Susan DeMaggio
Lights! Camera! Action!
That’s what homeowners need to defend against crime, said San Diego Police Department Community Relations Officer Larry Hesselgesser to the group who gathered at the La Jolla Community Center Aug. 28 to hear his presentation on safety precautions.
Lights — to indicate someone’s home and illuminate entrances, yards and driveways; Cameras — to survey surroundings and record trespassers; Action — to take personal safety matters into their own hands.
“Think security!” he urged. “Role play! To deter burglars, walk your property, think, ‘how do I get in?’ and then make sure your doors and windows lock and you follow the two-inch rule: use a bar or pole to prevent them from opening more than two inches wide.”
Hesselgesser said Northern Division (Pacific Beach, La Jolla and Clairemont) is experiencing about six home burglaries a week. Most home burglaries happen during the day and car break-ins at night. The perpetrators are looking for guns, cash and jewelry — usually for drug money to buy their next fix, he said.
“They’ll look in your windows to see what you’ve got and what’s the perfect way to get in and out without being seen. So make it look like you’re home, that you’ve got a dog (put a big water dish out in the yard), leave the radio or TV on, keep your side gate locked, keep bushes trimmed. It’s also good to have a security screen barrier to your front door.”
Hessellgesser also said a trip to Home Depot, Costco or Lowes would yield inexpensive home security products that are easy to install, like motion lights, fake TVs that shoot out LED lights, alarm systems and surveillance cameras. (“Lowe’s ‘Iris’ is under $200,” he said. “The only catch is you need to have WiFi.)
Thieves break into cars for electronic devices and valuables in view, Hesselgesser reported. “To protect your vehicle, never leave packages, backpacks, cords and chargers in view — all suggest an iPad, iphone, laptop or other valuables are inside.”
Scams and Internet Issues
Hesselgesser said Phishing is the practice of using an e-mail to pry personal information from someone under the guise of “we need to verify your numbers.”
If this happens to you, do not respond to the sender (who may have a fake homepage set up so you think you’re on that company’s website), but instead call your bank or the business directly and ask if they were trying to contact you.
If the scams come by phone, “just hang up!” Hesselgesser said, relaying a con someone tried on his mother. “Be savvy. If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is,” he said.
Nextdoor.com & Neighborhood Watch
“We’re reaching out to citizens like we did back in the 1970s, when Neighborhood Watch programs were the eyes and ears working together with police,” Hesselgesser said. “Now, social media and smartphones are here, providing a great way to communicate messages to each other.
“Nextdoor.com is the evolution of Neighborhood Watch; it’s free, you register to verify you live there, then you can communicate with your neighbors by posting messages and pictures, and the police can post crime information and updates.”
He said the police department does not run the site, but San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne has endorsed its use.
Calling the police
Audience members questioned Hesselgesser about response times and police procedures. Citing the shortage of officers in San Diego, Hesselgesser explained that calls must be prioritized. “We get a lot of complaints about the homeless,” he said, as an example, “But for us to come out, they’ve got to be committing a crime. If the problem is consistent, call us with location, times, descriptions and then we have something to go on.”
He said after a burglary is reported, if it’s “cold” (the thieves were in and gone) an officer is dispatched to peruse the scene, dust for fingerprints and get any DNA samples. This data is then put into a database and detectives begin to investigate, looking for stolen property or fingerprint matches.
To Reach Larry Hesselgesser
SDPD Northern Division
• Phone: (858) 552-1631
• E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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