By Amy Schweitzer
September 11, 2013
There is no way to guarantee you will not become the victim of a crime, but there are some pretty simple things you can do to avoid becoming a target for a criminal.
"My whole goal is to try to get crime down in Grand Island," said Grand Island Police crime prevention officer Butch Hurst when he spoke to a group at the YWCA's Lunch and Learn on Tuesday.
He said simple things that should be common sense, such as locking your house, garage and car, are the first things you should do.
"You may be amazed that there are still people in Grand Island who do not lock their house," Hurst said, adding that the flat screen television is the No. 1 stolen item because it is generally light to carry, has good resale value and owners rarely know the serial number.
"If you can't prove it, it isn't yours," he said.
Hurst suggested making a list of the most valuable items in your home, especially electronics, jewelry and guns. On the list include a detailed description of the item and, if possible, a serial number and a photo.
This will help police prove any recovered items are yours. Hurst said a site called reportit.leadsonline.com allows you to make a list of items to hand over to police in case they are stolen. The list is accessible from any computer but only to the user.
But Hurst said your TV or iPhone isn't necessarily what criminals want most.
"The No. 1 thing older people worry about the most is being robbed or abused," he said, "when in fact they should worry most about their mail and phone."
Hurst said most elderly people lose the most money by getting "suckered" into giving a scam artist money, whether it be the one calling claiming to be a grandchild or friend in a foreign country, a computer repair person telling them something is wrong with their computer and they must go to a certain website, or the old Nigerian prince who wants their help to move his fortune out of the country.
"Once you answer one of those, you are on the 'suckers list' and it is very hard to get off of that list," he said, adding that if they ask you to send money to anyone, it's likely a scam.
Hurst also said a woman should be sure she knows where her purse is at all times and should never leave it unattended in a car.
"In your purse you keep your money, credit cards, identification ... yet some women leave it on the front seat of their car," he said, reminding the women in the audience that a thief in Grand Island even tried to take a woman's purse from the front seat when she was at a stop light.
Hurst also noted that credit cards are safer than debit cards because there are more federal regulations about how much the owner is liable for if a credit card is stolen. It also is a good idea to write down the phone number to call if a credit card is stolen because it is usually on the back of the card itself.
"And report it right away. Otherwise, you are on the hook for anything before you report it stolen," he said, adding that you should never carry your Social Security card in your purse or wallet and don't use it as an identification because that is one of the fastest ways a thief can steal your identity.
A free annual credit report can be one way to give you a clue that someone has stolen your identity and is using it to gain fraudulent credit.
"Doing this will let you know if there is anything going on," Hurst said.
He said storage units are a big place where items are stolen in Grand Island.
"People put all their valuables in a storage shed and put a $7 lock on it," he said, shaking his head. A shrouded lock, which can't be cut with bolt cutters, is just $3 more, he said. He noted that most thieves will go down the line snipping off any lock that is easy to get to. "They go for the path of least resistance."
Thieves are always looking for ways they can get your money or valuables, Hurst said. If anyone believes they may have been a victim of a theft or scam, the best thing to do is contact the police, he added.