Our Views: Residents, police can help each other and prevent crime

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

“I’ve always felt safe here, but after my purse was stolen, I did not feel as safe and secure as I had before.”

—Connie Ihrke, town of Milton

Consider the words of Connie Ihrke, whose purse was snatched last fall outside a store on Janesville’s east side.

As heroin spreads, turning more southern Wisconsin residents into addicts desperate for their next fixes, all of us become more vulnerable to crime.

Warm weather often brings a surge in property thefts. Common sense can reduce our risks of becoming victims. Too often, people are their own worst enemies. They get sloppy about protecting their homes and vehicles.

Don’t leave home without locking doors and windows. Install security or motion-sensor lights for your home and driveway.

Before leaving on vacation, contact the post office and newspaper to suspend deliveries. Leave a light on or set up a lamp with a timer. Ask a trusted neighbor to keep an eye on your home and collect anything left on your doorstep.

Don’t leave your car unlocked. Most thieves won’t risk drawing attention by breaking car windows. Park in a garage, if possible, and lock the car and garage doors. If you must leave your vehicle outside overnight, park in a well-lighted area. Don’t leave in it valuables such as a purse, wallet, compact discs, tools, cellphones or a leather jacket, especially in plain sight.

When shopping or attending a movie, park in a well-lighted spot. Don’t leave your purse in the trunk—thieves might be watching and could break in. Realize that identity theft could be a bigger problem than the cash and items stolen.

Residents can help police by staying observant and reporting suspicious activity. In turn, police are helping residents through an educational program. Ihrke was a graduate of the Janesville Police Department’s SAFE training. That stands for Self-defense, Awareness, Familiarization and Exchange. The class, for women only, emphasizes avoiding trouble.

Even that class, however, didn’t keep Ihrke from being a victim, as she told reporter Frank Schultz in Monday’s Gazette. She usually puts her purse in her car first after shopping. This time, however, she felt safer because a relative was with her. But as they unloaded groceries, they turned their backs for only a moment—long enough for a man to snatch Ihrke’s purse.

Still, SAFE training urges women to stay observant, and Ihrke had noticed two men hanging out near the store’s exit. That led police to a store video and an image that was distributed to media. Someone who knew the suspect called police. Sure enough, he was a heroin addict.

Ihrke got satisfaction out of that result, though none of her valuables were recovered. Gone were cash, credit cards, jewelry, her phone and irreplaceable family photos. She went to her bank the next day and found she couldn’t even get money because she had no ID. She had to rebuild her identity from scratch.

Don’t be a victim. Stay alert. Women and girls ages 15 and older should consider SAFE training, as well.

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