Rape spurs police safety tips

Department offers free home surveys

Anne Arundel

January 10, 2001|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

As county police continue their search for the intruder who raped a 70-year-old woman last week in her Glen Burnie home, they are reminding the elderly and others of ways to reduce the risk of becoming a crime victim.

"We do home safety surveys," said Officer Joe Hatcher, a crime-prevention specialist for the Police Department. "They are free. An officer comes out to your home and makes suggestions and recommendations on how to make it safer."

Hatcher said his office has had several requests for safety surveys since the Glen Burnie home invasion and rape was reported in news accounts.

Although police are not saying how the rapist broke into the house the night of Jan. 3, they advise people to make sure that windows and doors are kept locked.

"Always check to see who is at your door before you open it," said Hatcher, a liaison to the county Department of Aging who regularly speaks to senior citizen groups about personal safety.

Although the rape victim was elderly, Hatcher said it could have been a younger victim.

The only crimes that seem to primarily target the elderly are telephone scams, a $40 billion problem nationally, Hatcher said.

"Maybe it's because they are a generation of polite, God-fearing people who often believe they are giving money to a charity," he said. "I give them a check-off list: Find out the name of the caller, the organization and a call-back number. Usually, the person just hangs up."

Hatcher says he encourages people living alone to make sure that someone always knows of their whereabouts and when they are going to be away.

There are ways to make the house appear to be occupied even when the resident is away on vacation, Hatcher said.

"Use timers for your television and lights. Make sure someone picks up the newspapers and mail," he said. "If you can, have a car parked in the driveway."

Residents who don't often use their cars should change the way they park, Hatcher said. "One day, back it into the driveway. The next day, go out and pull it in the other way," Hatcher said.

Changing routines is always a good idea, he said. "Leave your house at a different time each day. Don't always take the same route. Keep them guessing," he said.

Anyone who doesn't usually use a car at night can enroll in the county's Watch Your Car program, which registers the tag numbers of vehicles with police. The anti-theft program gives police permission to stop a car at night to ascertain whether the driver is someone other than the owner.

Police also recommend:

Knowing your neighbors. "Watch out for them, and they'll watch out for you," Hatcher said.

Keeping a phone nearby and having emergency numbers on speed dial if possible.

Using the "buddy system." Being in groups of two or more reduces the risk of theft, robberies and other violent crimes.

Making eye contact with strangers. "No bad guy wants you to notice the color of his hair or eyes," Hatcher said. "Criminals usually don't target someone who may remember them."

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