Don't make it easy for thieves
February 26, 2010
FORT SILL, Okla. - Opportunity can be a great thing when it comes knocking. Unfortunately, criminals know this as well and seem to have no problems walking through that door.
According to the physical security department more than 300 property crimes were committed last year on Fort Sill. Of those cases of theft, more than 70 percent of property stolen was left unsecured by owners.
Fortunately for Soldiers and civilians working on post there is a simple way to fight this kind of crime: secure your belongings. The department does regular checks to see just how well this is being practiced.
What they've found is one out of every six vehicles is unsecured at any given time. Those are great odds for criminals, but they're not so good for the people who want to keep their goods. Even more shocking is what's found left inside vehicles.
"We've found all kinds of crazy stuff," said Patrick Prather, physical security specialist. "We've even found weapons left in cars."
It doesn't take a lot of common sense to know weapons are dangerous when put in the wrong hands, but sometimes even harmless items can lead to other crimes like identity theft.
"We have found registration in the vehicle which tells me your address. Credit card bills tell me your account number on all of your stuff," said Prather.
The regular checks the department does are also meant as a wake-up call before anyone on post actually feels the sting of stolen property.
"Whenever we find an unsecured vehicle we'll just look inside. We won't move anything in the car and we don't secure the car. Once we're finished we just make a note of some of the items that we did see inside and we'll leave a note on the driver's seat to get their attention," said Mike Williams, physical security specialist.
If a vehicle does get broken into Prather explains why time is of the essence.
"If you move your car or think no I'll call the police tomorrow and don't report it until the next day, then the signs of forced entry like broken glass where it happened are gone. If they report it quickly when they notice it then it can lead to some kind of good resolution."
Right now the hot ticket items for thieves seem to be laptops, global positioning systems and game systems. The officers said they're looking for anything that can be grabbed quickly and sold easily. And vehicles are not the only places thieves are finding their property of choice.
"A big problem in the Soldiers' barracks is the community bathrooms that link both rooms together. So you may trust the Soldier who is in your unit and leave your side of that bathroom door unlocked but he or she may have guests over that you don't know. The guests go to use the bathroom and find this and the Soldier who invited them might not even know that the guest is stealing. That happens a lot," said Prather.
What's even worse is if victims can't show forced entry they are almost guaranteed not to get any kind of compensation for their stolen goods.
"We tell people things you want to see on a police report are: A) a serial number marked, B) the area was secured and forced entry was visible. If you don't see that in a police report and you try to take that to claims to get something for it they're going to show you the door."
Some may take this information as being overly cautious or distrusting but Williams said as long as people take normal precautions their property should be fine.
"A lot of people get on a military installation and they get relaxed. They say, 'Hey this won't happen to me,' but this is just like any community outside."
<b>Tips to protect you</b>
Here are some tips from the physical security department:
Secure your personal property; that's half the battle.
Keep your valuables out of site. Leaving valuable property in plain view either in your garage or personally owned vehicle creates an inviting target for a thief.
Report suspicious people in your neighborhood and work areas to law enforcement.
Keep an updated list of your property. Record serial numbers, mark with an engraver and/or photograph your property so that it can be identified if recovered by law enforcement.
The physical security department can even help Soldiers and civilians with the last tip. It's called Operation Mark Your Property. They offer a free engraving service to mark any valuables. For this free service, call the physical security office at 442-2612/4967.
If Soldiers who live on post are going on leave another way to keep their property safe is by taking advantage of the Fort Sill Quarters Check Program.
Police will check their home twice a day for security. If there are any signs of theft or damage the designated point of contact will be notified immediately.
To receive this free service, pick up a request at the post police station at Building 1649 or call the numbers above.