The Town of Westfield is statistically a very, very safe community. In fact, Westfield was named the 30th Safest City in America by Neighborhood Scout, an independent research firm, based on raw crime data provided by the FBI. Yet it is important to remind my fellow residents that thieves don’t look at statistics, nor do they honor municipal boundaries - they only care about opportunity.
In New Jersey, burglary is defined as entering a structure, including a motor vehicle, “with purpose to commit an offense therein." A suspect need not “break in” for the offense to qualify as a burglary, but need only enter a structure with intent to commit an offense.
Knowing that burglaries do occur even in statistically safe towns such as Westfield can be a frightening thought. I, therefore, thought that this would be an opportune time to remind everyone that for your own personal safety and that of your family, and to keep your belongings secure, the most fundamental and effective action you can take is to reduce or remove the opportunity for a crime to occur. With this in mind, I urge all residents to observe the following safety tips at all times:
- Lock your car doors and don’t keep valuables in plain view, or better yet, don’t keep valuables in the car at all when it is unattended.
- Keep all doors and windows to your home locked, even when you are home or in your yard. Don’t forget to keep the garage and shed doors locked as well.
- Minimize landscaping around doors and windows so that it can’t be used as cover for someone attempting to enter your home.
- Do not announce impending vacations or family events via social media or in any gathering where you cannot control who hears or views such information. (You can always report on such things after the fact.)
- Make sure your house looks lived in from the street. Put lights (and perhaps a radio) on timers. Don’t let mail or newspapers accumulate in view. Either stop delivery or ask a trusted neighbor to pick it up for you.
- Motion activated exterior lighting and/or alarm systems have been proven effective, and with the technology available today, there are many surveillance systems available that homeowners can manage remotely.
Remember, for the most part, thieves are opportunistic and look for quick and easy access. When access is denied or even just delayed, it is much less likely that your property will become a target.
While not every criminal act can be prevented, the officers of the Westfield Police Department care deeply about Westfield residents, businesses and visitors and are constantly on the alert for suspicious activities. In addition to the regular neighborhood patrols, the Police Department tracks any developing trends so they can respond accordingly. When warranted, unmarked vehicles operated by plainclothes officers may be employed to patrol or conduct surveillance. The Department also remains alert to activities in other towns (and vice versa) as, again, criminals tend to not recognize municipal boundaries. Law enforcement agencies share information in an effort to identify a trend, a suspect(s), and/or assist with the recovery of stolen property.
Again, I urge everyone to please follow these tips and never hesitate to call 9-1-1 should you see or hear anything out of the ordinary. The eyes and ears of our residents are instrumental in helping to keep our community safe.