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Last week, I participated in a ‘Neighbourhood Safety Walk‘, with a community liaison officer from the Toronto Police and our City Councillor Sarah Doucette (Ward 13). Our street has recently been victim to some vandalism and graffiti – including some teenage angst that was taken out on our very own Little Free Library:
Not only was the Safety Walk a great way to meet the neighbours, but I learned some important ways all Torontonians can keep their homes safe. Below, a few of my takeaways:
- You/your kids are alone in the house and someone knocks on the door. If your first inclination is to stand still and pretend you aren’t home (that’s mine), you could be putting yourself in danger. The ‘door knock’ is a common way for thieves to check to see if you’re home before they break in. A better plan? Turn on/off a light, move a curtain, turn on some music or stand at the door and loudly tell them you aren’t interested. It’s a win/win: you don’t have to deal with a creepy person at the door (sorry door-knocking realtors) and you don’t signal that you aren’t home.
- If your garage backs onto a laneway (like mine does), make sure that your house number is clearly indicated on the back fence. If there’s trouble in the laneway, you’ll want observant neighbours to be able to alert the police to your house! If graffiti artists are active in your laneway, consider getting a mural painted on your garage door – it’ll detract the ‘artists’!
- Make sure the entry and sides of your house are well-lit and not concealed by landscaping. Use motion-sensor lighting so you don’t need to remember to turn the lights on and off.
- Keep your curtains closed…there’s no need to give a preview of your big screen TV and iPads to would-be robbers.
- Don’t tempt thieves by leaving sunglasses, cell phones and other valuables in your car…it’s just an invitation to break-in. Roll up the windows and lock your car doors (unless you live in a neighbourhood that regularly gets car break-ins, in which case make sure your car is empty and leave your cars doors unlocked to avoid the window smash – we got that advice a few years ago from the police.)
- Start a street or neighbourhood Facebook group to help keep everyone safe and informed. Many streets have their own private Facebook groups and it’s a great way to stay on top of what’s happening in the neighbourhood and to get to know your neighbours.
- If you’ve just bought a new house, CHANGE THE LOCKS! You never know who the previous owner gave a set of keys to.
- If you’re going on vacation: let your neighbours know; cancel your mail and have your neighbour collect the flyers (apologies on behalf of real estate agents everywhere); arrange to have your yard maintained; use timers to activate lights at various intervals. Don’t advertise on social media that your house is going to be vacant!
- If you see a group of trouble-making kids, consider authoritatively saying: ‘Hey, I know your mother!’ That’ll scare them off most of the time.
- If your home or vehicle gets broken into or vandalised, always call the police (but not 911). It’s important for police to be able to keep track of what’s happening in our neighbourhoods and if we don’t report crime they’ll never be able to spot trends or send police cars on extra drive-bys.
And maybe most importantly…don’t let the scoundrels win! We repaired our Little Free Library and it’s been keeping our street supplied with books once again.
Want to get your neighbours together and find out what you can do? Reach out your local police division or City Counsellor.