Tuesday, 5 October 2010

A case of prevention being better than cure

Burglary: a shattering experience for the homeowner
Picture source: http://www.warwickshire.police.uk/

"There's not too much crime in East Devon, says Nick Farrell. "But not as many people as I'd like have consulted me."

Nick has worked as our local Crime Prevention Officer for nine out of the 15 years that he's been with Devon & Cornwall Police. Before that he was with the military police and was employed to offer close protection and security for VIPs including royalty. So there's not much that his eagle eyes don't spot when it comes to offering advice on protection for the home.

"There's no need to spend a fortune on home security or turn your house into Colditz," he says. "But technology is moving on all the time, and there are plenty of worthwhile ways to update systems."

Security lighting, multi-lever locks for exterior doors and attention to items like garden gates are all routine matters on which the Crime Prevention Officer can give advice. Invite Nick to check your property and you do run the risk of becoming red-faced as he points out basic blunders like leaving items lying around in the garden which could be used by opportunistic criminals to climb over fences, or even worse, leaving keys in locks.

A chat about crime over coffee with Exmouth police officer Nick Farrell

But he's a friendly chap with a mine of fascinating information about his line of work. I didn't know, for example, that glass has its own DNA, so that the tiniest fragment on a criminal's clothing can be matched to the scene of wrongdoing. And talking of DNA, it seems that the traditional method of marking one's property with a UV pen has been superseded by a smart system of microdot marking with a DNA code, allowing recovered property to be traced back to its rightful owner after analysis. For more details see http://www.selectamark.co.uk/

And then there's the clever MA80 alarm system, a relatively low-cost simple motion detector device which automatically dials out a pre-set phone number if movement in the home is detected when it shouldn't be. Such gadgets are sold online at many outlets including JNE Marketing http://www.personalalarms.com/

Some of the ideas that Nick came up with are based on common sense. It's a good idea to keep photos of valuable items on your computer for insurance purposes for example, but even better to keep a copy on disk in a safe place.

Apparently not all police forces offer such a service, and cutbacks will certainly not help in the fight against burglary. "We could potentially see a reduction in police officer numbers of anything up to 40,000 in the lifetime of this coalition government," the Police Federation warned last month. And that could be bad news for relatively crime-free towns like Budleigh, where it might be felt that police jobs could be safely axed.

But crime prevention is an area where educating the householder is a worthwhile investment. "An area where most residents are security aware, with updated systems, is less likely to attract opportunistic criminals," Nick pointed out. And that makes the job of the police easier as well as reducing the inevitable costs of crime investigation.

Crime Prevention Officer Nick Farrell can be contacted at:
Devon & Cornwall Constabulary
Exmouth Police Station
North Street
Exmouth Devon
Tel: 01395 226163

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