Delaware State Police Master Cpl. and Community Liaison Jorge Camacho spoke to the Millville Volunteers last week regarding community safety.
Camacho noted that in recent years Sussex County has experienced a population growth, with a rise in the number of senior citizens.
“We do have a lot of senior citizens… so what happens with folks, a lot of times they bring their ailments with them,” he explained, noting that such ailments add to the prescription drug troubles in the area. “The drugs are so good that now the illegal drug folks are taking notice of that. They’re starting to see there’s a lot of money in that because folks are starting to get addicted to it.”
Camacho noted that, in such difficult economic times, people are taking note of how lucrative the drug business can be, with a single oxycodone pill going for $100. Recently, the DSP has been receiving frequent calls reporting vehicle break-ins in which prescription drugs were stolen. Camacho said that, in reality, the drugs were not stolen, but reported as such to get additional medication.
He added that a recent call was placed to the DSP to report a 65-year-old man selling pills out of his car in the Giant parking lot.
“It’s almost an epidemic as far as how bad it is,” he said.
Camacho added that residents should be cautious when they have service professionals entering their home.
“Do your research. Make sure they’re established people. Do an interview; you’re inviting these people into your house.”
He said that residents should close doors in the home that lead to areas the servicers will not be accessing.
“Close doors so they’re not looking to see what you have.”
He added that consumers are not obligated to allow servicepersons use their bathrooms.
“You are not obligated to let them use your bathroom. As far as I’m concerned, they should never use the bathroom in your house. Why? Your medicine cabinet is in your bathroom,” he said. “We’re too trusting. You can’t trust these folks. You don’t know who they are unless you’ve done some sort of criminal background check.”
Camacho emphasized that he and the DSP do not think that every service professional is a criminal, but their suggested conduct is a safety precaution that should be followed.
Camacho also suggested that residents view their homes through the eyes of a criminal. He also said that it is important to be aware that the easy access to technology and information helps criminals “shop” for homes.
“Criminals use Google Earth, real estate photos of homes to case it out… They have all these tools that they’re using. They’re not really smart people, but they’re not stupid either. They’re savvy when it comes to this technical stuff.”
He said that some key safety features that will help homes be a less attractive target to criminals includes flood-lighting at every corner of a home, maintained landscaping that does not hide the home or windows from those outside, and barriers, such as fences.
“You want to remove the opportunity, the attractiveness of someone committing a crime in your house.”
He suggested residents be cognizant of how they dispose the boxes of recent purchases, so as to not advertise valuables in the home. He also told residents to be wary of leaving doors, windows and garages open.
“Leaving the garage door open – you’re basically showcasing your place to these criminals.”
He noted that, although a police presence can help to deter criminal activity, it’s unrealistic to expect an officer on every corner 24/7.
“More police officers is great, but it’s not the cure to the problem… The cure is taking control of your communities.”
Camacho suggested that anytime residents are outside of their homes they consider themselves on duty for neighborhood watch. If residents should see a suspicious person, or someone who is unfamiliar, take the time to really look at them.
“Let the criminals know they aren’t going to get away with anything. There’s going to be eyes on them. Do not shy away from looking at them. If they aren’t legit, you just scared them. Criminals don’t like to be observed. They don’t like to be seen.”
He added that if, for some reason, a resident decides to approach the person in question, they should use a nonthreatening manner.
“When you confront folks, don’t confront them in an authoritative way.”
Acknowledging that the area has a large number of seasonal residents, Camacho stated that residents should be proactive in keeping second-home properties safe from criminals, as well.
“Permanent residents have to find a way of taking care of our seasonal residents. It’s very important that you do that,” he said, adding that seasonal residents should be convinced that neighborhood safety is important even though they don’t live here year-round. “It’s a sell. You have to sell it. You have to make these folks convince them they have stock in the community or the town.”
He suggested that, even if permanent residents help their out-of-town neighbors by rolling out trashcans or taking in the mail to suggest the home is occupied, they should be sure to make an added effort to show occupancy.
“If you roll out empty trashcans, you’re telling people who see the cans the house is empty.” Dropping a bag of one’s own trash in the cans can indicate that someone might be home.
Camacho added that community safety is a group effort, and everyone should be proactive in keeping their own community safe for residents and visitors alike.
“You can do everything right, but neighbors have to do the same in order for it to be effective,” he said. “One of the things that we have to do, as Sussex County folks, we have to recognize that that is what’s going on and start taking some measures to protect ourselves, protect our property and make it attractive to other people.”