By Deputy Steve Cummings
Sonoma County Rural Crimes Task Force
As we leave last year behind and move into 2023, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office encourages the Sonoma County agricultural community to keep one very important “New Year’s Resolution” goal in mind. This new year provides us all with a resolution opportunity that often gets overlooked. As we begin this new year, take the time and opportunity to perform a new year’s security analysis of your property and resolve any areas of weakness that will help reduce one’s exposure to crime. Criminals targeting the agricultural community often target your operation or property due to ease of opportunity. Reducing a criminal’s opportunity by adopting the following crime prevention principles may have the largest impact on reducing agricultural crime in rural Sonoma County.
So how do rural Sonoma County residents within the agricultural community keep from being victimized? The primary responsibility for crime reduction starts with YOU.
The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office is here to assist, but agricultural crime prevention starts with the public taking the first step in reducing their chance of being victimized. Sometimes we become complacent and tell ourselves that, “I’m only going to be gone for a short time and don’t need to lock up” or, “I never have been burglarized and it’s never going to happen to me”. This type of complacency opens us up to becoming victimized. The following information serves as a good reminder of how we all can reduce our exposure to crime. Following these basic principles of crime prevention will help ensure you’re doing everything you can to help reduce agricultural crime in 2023.
As a reminder, report all suspicious activity by calling the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch at 707-565-2121. If you have any questions about the information in this article, call the Rural Crimes Task Force at (707) 565-3940.
PRINCIPLES OF CRIME PREVENTION
Refers to the idea of reducing criminal opportunity, generally through the use of physical barriers, architectural design, and enhanced security measures of a particular location. Target hardening is a crime-prevention technique that seeks to make it more difficult to commit a given crime, by better protecting one’s assets.
The National Crime Prevention Institute (NCPI) teaches a theory of prevention called the Four D’s. The Four D’s relay heavily on the idea of Target Hardening.
Deny – the use or access to the criminal.
Delay – methods used to slow down the criminal.
Detect – the bad guys before or after the crime has been committed.
Deter – the criminal from choosing one victim in favor of another.
Some examples include:
- Locking your property gates or valuables.
- Use a locking fuel cap on fuel tanks or equipment.
- Consider disabling machinery or vehicles by utilizing a battery cut off switch that is locked or hidden from view.
This is about removing property of value from the view of the public.
- Moving items of value and putting them out of public sight (out of sight out of mind).
- Parking equipment and vehicle away from the roadway.
- Place items of value into secure buildings if possible.
REMOVING THE MEANS (to Commit Crime)
Criminals often use “tools of opportunity” to commit crimes on your property. Tools of opportunity can be anything accessible that will help assist a criminal in committing a crime.
- Securing your tools, ladders, and vehicles so they can’t be used to help commit crime against you.
- Keep from leaving keys in vehicles, motorcycles, or other equipment.
- Securing firearms so intruders can’t locate and use them during a crime.
REDUCING THE PAY-OFF
This deals with reducing the profit the thief can make from the crime.
- Marking your property (Owner Applied Number Program) in such a way that others will not want to purchase the item from the thief. The Sheriffs Officer is offering free services to come out to your property and imprint your equipment with an OAN that is registered to you. For any help or assistance with getting an OAN, please reach out to the Sonoma County Sheriff Rural Crimes Task Force at (707) 565-3940.
- Mark (Owner Applied Number Program) or paint your property so its easily identifiable and deters others from wanting to purchase.
Access control is about preventing the criminal from gaining access to the target, which might be tools, equipment, or a building.
- Fence yard or property and keep it secure.
- Lock your doors, gates, vehicles, and equipment.
- Store property in barns, sheds, or other secured areas.
Criminals would rather not have their crimes witnessed and deterrence is key:
- Keeping shrubs and trees in your yard trimmed so there are no hiding places
- Installing security cameras or game cameras. You can register your security and trail cameras with the Sheriff’s Office (https://www.sonomasheriff.org/security-camera-registration). Registration is free and confidential and lets us know where cameras are located. You are not required to share your footage, nor does it grant us access to your camera system. It makes it easier for deputies to find footage of a suspect, which can help us solve crime more quickly.
- Join or form a neighborhood watch/farm watch group in your area. The neighborhood watch concept brings a community together working toward public safety and disaster preparedness.
Environmental change is about improving/modifying the condition of any property or location that would attract criminal behavior.
- Improving property lighting.
- Blocking non-designated turnouts or provide roadways with gates, large rocks or logs.
INCREASE THE CHANCES OF CRIMINALS BEING CAUGHT ON YOUR PROPERTY
Increasing the likelihood that an offender will be caught will help deter crime.
- Use solar security lighting.
- Using good quality video security or alarm systems, especially on commercial sites and public places.
- Use animals as deterrents. A good watch dog around the property with proper signage such as “Beware of Dog” is effective.