Sgt. Tyler Wilson of the Houston Police Department works double-duty as a lead officer in HPD’s Burglary & Theft Division and an officer of the Westchase District Patrol. He addressed a recent meeting of the Westchase District Public Safety Alliance with some common sense tactics to avoid becoming a victim of burglary or theft.
Wilson acknowledged that his tips are already known to most people. “But we’re all busy and we’re all forgetful. We just have to be more deliberate and more conscious of what we’re doing,” said Sgt. Wilson.
- Pay attention to your surroundings. This is especially true when you’re in unfamiliar territory or are out at night. Don’t be looking at your phone. Keep your head up and observe people and activity around you.
- Know your neighbors; they’ll recognize unfamiliar activity at your house and could stop a crime in action by calling police.
- Don’t leave empty electronics boxes out on your curb after purchasing a new TV or laptop. Break the boxes down and take them to be recycled or cut them up and throw it away a little bit at a time.
- Don’t advertise that you’ll be out of town on social media.
Maintain Your Home or Office Environment
- Lock your doors and windows. Be sure to check the windows occasionally. If you’ve ever opened them, they may be closed but not locked.
- Make sure the exterior of your home, office or apartment is well-lit. If you live in an apartment, speak with your community management if lights bulbs are out or fixtures are non-functioning.
- Also, keep your landscaping neatly trimmed. Don’t give potential burglars a place to hide in dark areas or behind overgrown landscaping.
- Don’t let a second floor apartment give you a false sense of security. Burglars have been known to scale a balcony to steal a bicycle or other items stored on the balcony. If they find your balcony door unlocked, they’ll consider it an invitation to come inside.
- Never hide a key under a door mat or a fake rock. Leave it with a trusted friend or neighbor.
- Leave your blinds closed. Criminals go window shopping.
- Consider using a secondary locking device.
Other Ways to be Prepared
- Purchase renter’s insurance and take pictures of your valuables, especially jewelry. Record serial numbers and brand names/models of your electronics. Email the list to yourself, rather than saving it at home.
- Consider purchasing an alarm system. Make sure it has an audible alarm. Cameras enhance your system and could actually provide a photo of the thief. Make sure your system is permitted by the City of Houston. The alarm system sign or window sticker is a deterrent to would-be thieves.
- Report any theft that occurs. Make sure to maintain any security camera video to share with investigators.
- Know how to operate your security system. Don’t expect the investigating officer to know how to download video from your security company’s app.
- Point out any points of entry, blood evidence and fingerprints to the investigating officer.
“My investigators get four new cases every Monday,” said Wilson. “I work cases. We prioritize those with workable leads, so if you have any evidence – a witness, video or blood evidence – that can help us do our jobs, it’s more likely that your case will be assigned to an investigator.”
Wilson explained the difference between robbery and burglary, which is often misconstrued by the general public. “Robbery is when there is an element of force. The criminal pulls a gun or pushes you down to steal from you. Burglary and theft is a property crime,” he said.
Burglary of a Motor Vehicle, commonly referred to as a BMV, is handled by the auto theft division of HPD, rather than Wilson’s burglary and theft division. Despite the fact that BMVs are not Wilson’s area of expertise, he offered a humorous suggestion to his audience. “If you’re going to leave something valuable in your car, leave it on the hood so the criminal doesn’t break your glass to steal it,” said Wilson.
All kidding aside, BMVs are the number one property crime in Westchase District and most victims either leave valuables in their car that are visible to anyone or they leave their vehicle unlocked. “It’s incumbent on all of us to take those extra steps to deter crime,” Wilson concluded.
The Public Safety Alliance meets quarterly under the leadership of Don McKinney, Westchase District’s vice president of public safety. Building managers, apartment managers and other facilities professionals who are responsible for the health and safety of their property and employees are invited to participate.