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Sheriff provides holiday safety info
12/03/2020

Brown County Sheriff John Merchant

With Christmas fast approaching, I would like to provide  our county residents with some basic safety information. This year has been like no other, we are currently in the midst of a global pandemic that has affected all of us. Remember, a little compassion and understanding will go a long ways, specially now.  Hospital personnel, nursing home employees, hospice workers, emergency responders, and our military all have added burdens added to their work load.

SCAMS

Unfortunately with the holiday season we see a definite increase in people who are trying to scam others. In order to make this season more enjoyable  and productive I would like to pass on a few tips to make the public a little more prepared and keep from becoming a victim. The main focus is to never give our personal information over the phone or computer. Many scammers are very smooth and convincing. There are so many different scams these days it is virtually impossible to keep track of them all. They range from individuals claiming to be relatives of county residents and are in desperate need of money to residents being notified that they have won huge amounts of money overseas and all that is needed is bank account information so the funds can be transferred. I am asking folks to remember this key point–IF SOMETHING SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE—IT IS MOST LIKELY A SCAM! No one is going to randomly give away cash or vehicles. These scammers make their living by convincing a very small percentage of people to send them money or provide personal information and the longer they can keep you on the phone the easier it is for them to gather your personal information. New scams are evolving all the time, so as a rule of thumb---NEVER GIVE OUT YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION OVER THE PHONE OR COMPUTER.   There are IRS scams, SOCIAL SECURITY scams, PUBLISHERS CLEARING HOUSE scams, UNEMPLOYMENT scams, HOME REPAIR scams, COMPUTER scams, CAR WARRANTY scams, INHERITANCE  scams just to name a few.

Remember, never give out personal information over the phone or internet. If you are unsure about an issue that may be a scam, contact your local law enforcement at once. Scammers who call repeatedly can sometimes be deterred by simply telling them to contact local law enforcement and provide them with our number and then hang up. If a scammer knows law enforcement is involved, they usually move on to an easier target.

 AT HOME TIPS

Interior lighting can make a big difference when burglars are looking for a place to break in to.  A dark home at regular hours indicate that no one is home and sets up a routine for burglars. From this they can figure out what schedules a family has, one way to alter this is to purchase inexpensive timers for lamps which indicate activity in the home and simulates occupancy.  Radios and TV’s can also be put on timers.  It is also a way you can have a lighted home when you arrive after dark. Trusted family or friends can also turn lights/radios or TV's  on or off throughout the day or night to give the appearance that the home is inhabited.  

Exterior lighting itself deters burglars.  It also gives the family a well-lighted path to their home and illuminates a possible threat. Most potential burglars will not choose a well light residence to break in to for fear of being identified.  There are several lighting choices available.  Motion detection and heat-motion detection are top of the list followed by dusk to dawn “eye” lights and then those controlled by a switch in the home.  Some homeowners use security cameras with exterior lighting in the perimeter of their home.  Placebo security cameras are also
available that look realistic to potential home invaders but are just a decoy.  When porch lights are left on all day so the area will be lit at night is a clue that a family is not home, also an accumulation of mail and newspapers. Trail cameras are becoming more popular and there are models on the market now that have a  “black flash” which means they are almost undetectable at night.

Home safes are also a plus as families can store valuables in them with a greater peace of mind knowing they will be secured.  The better quality home safes are a good investment if they are properly anchored within the home.  Make sure to anchor these safes as recommended by the manufacturer or intruders can carry them out of the home. Never keep the key or combination to these safes where an intruder can readily find them.

Alarm systems are an ideal form of protection but in rural areas response time is a factor.  Alarm company signs and decals in windows help deter criminals. Most burglars will not attempt home invasions where alarms systems are in place.  One tip is NOT to write your alarm security code on or near the keypad of the system. A loud audible alarm is very effective when the secured area of the home is breeched.  This usually sends the burglar running and the louder the better in rural areas as neighbors can be few and far between.  Making sure your alarm call list is current is also a big plus.  Many people are using security cameras that they can monitor offsite when they are not at home, these are very good options.

Other things that burglars are not fond of are fences with gates that have to be manipulated for entrance or exit.  Families that have either an inside or outside dog that alerts the family or neighbors by barking is also a good deterrent.  Driveway alarms that sound when vehicles drive over them are a good investment, also.

Good trustable neighbors are a definite benefit.  This is the original version of “neighborhood watch”—neighbors helping neighbors.  They look out for each other and are able to watch out for your home when you are away. Neighbors can help in many different ways such as picking up mail, mowing yards or shoveling snow to give the appearance the home is occupied, doing a walk around the out side of the home to check for damage or break in or to park in the unoccupied driveway to give the appearance someone is home. It is always a good idea to get to know your neighbors and build a network of friends to help each other in any emergency.  Neighbors know what is usual in their neighborhoods whether it is rural or city, if strange or
unusual vehicles or people are driving or walking around your neighborhood and you become suspicious, call your local law enforcement and gain as much
information as possible.

If you have a vacant house or property in a remote area, make sure to check on it often or have trusted relatives or friends look after the area.  A lot of scrappers are searching for locations “off the grid” where they can sneak in a steal items such as copper wire, metal, antiques or anything of value.  Several suggestions to keep properties such as these safer are guard dogs, security or trail cameras, fence off  the area and lock gates
to help keep intruders out, routine  visits to the property  at different times of the day or night so a pattern is not established.

*If you’re ordering your gifts online, keep in mind that if you are not home that the boxes sitting outside your home or apartment can easily be stolen. Consider being home when they are slated for delivery or asking a friend or relative to pick your packages up to keep them safe until your return.

*Did you purchase a big ticket item that came in a large box like a brand new HD television? Be sure to break down the box when you throw it away otherwise you could be tempting potential thieves to come on in and steal it (and your other expensive items) away.

*If you’re going away from the holidays, be sure not to mention this on your voicemail or on social media until after you return!

Finally, engraving your name or other positive identifier  on your valuable property such as TV’s, computers, electronics, etc. will be a positive way to identify if property or valuables are stolen. DO NOT ENGRAVE YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER ON YOUR PROPERTY.  VIN’s of all vehicles, ATV’s etc and serial numbers, make, model #’s of ALL guns, property etc. should be recorded and put in a safe place for identification purposes. Photographs
or using a video camera should also be used to document anything of value. These records should be kept in a safe place at the home and also at another location in case of fire or misplacement.  Receipts of larger or more valuable items should be kept for insurance purposes and identification.  If you leave your wallet, purse or credit card information this should also be recorded in case of theft etc.   This can also come in handy if your wallet or purse is ever stolen.

While nothing is ever a sure bet, these tips or pointers are meant to give families an edge in securing their home against intrusion and helping identify their property if it would be recovered.  Contact you sheriff’s office or local law enforcement if you have any questions or concerns. I hope there are some things that families can use from this article to improve their home security and help from becoming a victim of burglary or home intrusion.

If residents see anything out of the ordinary such as vehicles out late at night or in areas that seem strange.  People walking in  rural areas at odd hours, etc. Try to safely obtain any information and call local law enforcement at once.  Any identifiers such as license plate numbers, color or type of vehicle, number of occupants, person descriptors,  etc. will help us in locating the individuals in question.  We are very fortunate to have 24 hour patrol in Brown County and have the assistance of Tribal and City police departments, but we cannot be everywhere at once so we rely onthe public to assist when they can.  Please contact your local law enforcement with any questions or concerns.

HOLIDAY DRIVING TIPS

 
If you plan on traveling during the holidays or at any time during the winter months, check your entire vehicle routinely to make sure everything is in good working order. The most neglected part on the vehicle are the windshield wipers and the wiper fluid. This is one of the most important items to check on your vehicle to make sure you have a clear field of vision while driving. Always try to keep your gas tank at least 1/2 full at all times during the winter months. Create an emergency kit to carry in your vehicle. It should consist of a battery powered radio, blanket, jumper cables, small fire extinguisher, first aid kit, bottled water, non-perishable food items , maps, tire repair kit, road flares or reflectors, matches, candles, kitty litter, etc. It is very important to listen to weather forecasts and road conditions before traveling. If needed, take alternate routes and stay on well traveled roads. It is imperative that you contact friends or relatives and let them know the route you are taking and the approximate time you expect to arrive at your location. Become familiar with your route and know where the turn offs and exits are at. In this day and age, we rely a lot on the modern technology of cell phones, the down side to this is that many areas do not have service or we forget to bring along a charger. If this happens we have to rely to what we have on hand so it is always best to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. We are also asking motorists to drive defensively. With the added holiday traffic, people are in more of a hurry to get places and they are more likely to make mistakes while driving. Always be on the lookout for the other person. Also allow plenty of time to get to your location and take breaks often to stay refreshed and alert. ALWAYS BUCKLE UP!! By simply using your seat belt you are reducing the chance of fatal injuries should you be involved in a crash by more than 45% and it is one of the easiest ways to increase road safety. Seat belt usage is a state law and receiving a citation for not wearing your seat belt is no fun, especially during the holidays. We know everyone likes to enjoy the holiday festivities but if you are consuming alcohol, it is always advisable to have a designated driver . During the holidays, DUI’s and alcohol related accidents skyrocket and by using s designated driver this decreases accidents and promotes traffic safety.


THE ELDERLY

We would also like to remind residents who have elderly neighbors, friends, relatives, or those with disabilities to periodically check on them to make sure they have heat, are eating and drinking as they should and are not in need of medical attention. There are some folks who make it a point to regularly visit or call and deliver groceries and/or medications. This is one of the benefits of living in a close knit community. 

PETS


Make provisions for your outside pets during the winter months. Sometimes with all of the festivities they can become neglected. Make sure they have shelter and plenty of food and fresh water. With freezing temperatures, water becomes frozen in a short period of time and animals have to have access to water.

HOLIDAY SHOPPING---SHOP SAFELY


*Keep your wallet in a tight location like a pants pocket or somewhere more secure in your purse rather than a loose location like your jacket pocket. It’s much more difficult for thieves to steal your wallet if it’s in a tighter location.


*If you’re using a purse, use one with one strap and keep it in front of you so that you may see it at all times. Never leave it on the ground or in the cart unattended.


*Cover your password if you use a public ATM in the mall so that potential thieves won’t be able to see any of your information.


*Carrying cash itself isn’t bad, but be sure not to carry too much in case it is misplaced or stolen.

Remember, when  you are out and about shopping this holiday season, crooks are always on the lookout for an easy target.  Lock valuables in your trunk and never leave items in plain view such as cell phones, purses, major purchases etc.  It only takes a minute for thieves to break in to your vehicle and steal these items.  Always take advantage of well lit areas and think twice before parking your vehicle  somewhere you do not feel comfortable  at.  Always keep track of your purse, wallet etc.  Thieves are always on the look for these unattended items placed in the shopping cart. ALWAYS BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS.


SUSPICIOUS VEHICLES OR PEOPLE

If you are concerned about suspicious vehicles or people, contact your local law enforcement at once, try to obtain as much information as you safely can. A tag number is ideal.

We here  at the Sheriffs office would like to wish everyone a safe, happy and healthy holiday season!!  I would like to remind you all that we are constantly patrolling the county and will be there when you need us.

John Merchant
Brown County Sheriff
 

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