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Neighborhoods Where People Care Are the Safest – a Summary of the Crime Prevention Discussion

September 30, 2013

Fort Wayne Police Chief Rusty York said tonight that “neighborhoods where people care are the safest”.  If that is true, then Southwood Park is very safe.  More than 200 residents turned out in force to a Crime Prevention Discussion held at Bishop Luers High School.

We asked for a show of hands to see where people in attendance lived.  About three quarters of the crowd came from Southwood Park.  Other contingents came from Oakdale, Harrison Hill, and Fairmont; in short, a wide variety of neighborhoods were represented.

Here are some facts presented by Deputy Chief Steve Haffner:

  • In the entire Southwest Quadrant of FWPD, there are 63,000 residents spread over 35 square miles.  In the target areas near Southwood Park and Fairmont, there are 2600 residents.  To cover this area, there are typically 9 FWPD officers, 3 sergeants, and a captain on duty per shift.  The neighborhood response team has been stationed in our area lately.
  • In August, property crimes were exclusively targeted on detached garages – lawn equipment, tools, and bikes.  In September, property crimes moved to houses.
  • Since September 1st in Southwood Park, there have been 19 calls regarding burglaries or attempted burglaries.  3 suffered losses.  2 were from garages. 10 homes have had screens cut to try to gain access through windows.  2 calls ended up being realtors and contractors changing locks.
  • Since September 1st in Harrison Hill, there have been 12 calls regarding burglaries.  Most were this past weekend of the 28th.  There were 4 losses.  7 cut screens and 1 window broken.
  • Since September 1st in Fairmont, there have been 6 calls.  There were 3 with losses.

FWPD is concerned by recent posts of persons “patrolling” the neighborhood while armed.  FWPD has officers in plain clothes on duty.  We don’t want Southwood Park, Fort Wayne, or Indiana to be the next site of a Trayvon Martin incident.

Detective Casey Furge shared that the crime lab is busy getting prints from more than one crime scene.

When is this occurring?  11PM to 5AM is prime time.  Saturday and Thursday have been the most common nights.

Who is doing it?  There have been several different descriptions, but all have been wearing hoodies.  We don’t know if it is an individual or a group.  There are several persons of interest, but no suspects.

What should all of us be doing to prevent more crimes?

  • Call FWPD about anything suspicious!  If you know it’s just not right, call.  Calling 911 is never a fault, but you should ideally have the non-emergency number, 427-1222, as well.
  • Be a good witness!  Notice things like direction of travel (north, east, etc.) and know your street names and hundred-blocks.  Notice the vehicle type, color and license.
  • Get to know your neighbors!  Not just next door, but two doors down, behind you, and down the street.  Good communication is a key!  Block phone trees are good.
  • Phone burned out street and alley lights to 311.  Each pole has a unique number.
  • Keep lights on!  Front porch, back porch, some key lights indoors.  Keeping a TV or radio on can help deter crime.
  • Motion detector lights are great, and can be bought cheaply at local stores or online.  Be a nosy neighbor and find out WHY those motion lights are going off.  Is your neighbor working?  Is it an animal?
  • Keep windows and doors locked.  Windows with screens only are in open invitation for trouble.  Keep your storm windows down, and windows locked.  Repair your broken or missing locks, or use a dowel to keep a window closed.  Secure your window AC units.
  • Some victimized homes have had dogs.  Owners are encouraged to teach their dogs to alert them when something isn’t right.  Make it a game for your dog.
  • Record serial numbers to items in your home.  Consider a safe deposit box or a floor safe secured to the floor for other valuables and heirlooms.
  • Keep shrubs trimmed to no more than 3 feet high, and trees next to the home trimmed to refuse access to upper windows.
  • Secure items like trash carts and outdoor furniture that can be used to gain access to upper windows.
  • Considering an alarm system?  If you have questions, call Officer Joyner at 427-1207.  He can help you ask the right questions for your needs.
  • Officer Michael Joyner told the crowd that an updated list of crime prevention tips is available at FWPD.org.  On the left side of the page, there is a link for “crime prevention tips”.  Read them!

There were more questions in the 90 minute session than can be effectively covered here, but some residents questioned the responses they have received from dispatchers.  They said there seems to be a disconnect between FWPD wanting to know about anything suspicious and civilian dispatchers trying to weed out less serious calls.  Chief York stated that normally “suspicious” persons are a lower priority run.  However, in this area, those calls will be made a higher priority.  If you have any concerns about the conduct of dispatchers, call Chief York directly at 427-1188.  Leave him a voice mail if you don’t reach him.

Important numbers:

  • Emergencies: 911
  • Non-emergency: 427-1222
  • Deputy Chief Steve Haffner: 427-1331
  • Captain Derrick Westfield: 427-1419
  • Concerned Citizens Watch (for those associations or groups interested in starting a watch): 704-7344

Thank you to FWPD for coming out to talk with us.  Thank you to Bishop Luers HS for providing a room, chairs, and microphone on short notice when it became apparent the meeting room at Shawnee Branch Library would be too small.  Thanks to Pamela Martin-Diaz at Shawnee for making calls to secure the room this afternoon.  And thanks to all of the residents who came to the event.  Be sure to share what you learned with your neighbors.

To close, here are a few good notes about living in Southwood Park…  Officer Joyner says that neighbors are the best defense.  Unlike the new suburbs on the outskirts of Fort Wayne, places like Southwood Park make it difficult to avoid your neighbors.  We have front porches, there is no driving into the garage, shutting it behind you, and retreating to the back yard enclosed by the 6 foot privacy fence.

In Southwood Park, we enjoy seeing our neighbors come and go.  We’re keeping our eyes out for each other and these people are going to get caught.

— Steve McCord

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