Increase in crime warrants increasing importance of safety

March 2, 2011 — by Anika Jhalani, Paul Jung, Priyanka Nookala, and Will Edman

The thieves had left her house in such appalling disarray that the junior girl still cannot erase the memory from her mind two years later. All the drawers and closets were open and almost nothing was undisturbed. Some jewelry along with hundreds of dollars of electronics, were missing—leaving their house feeling empty.

The girl, who asked to remain anonymous, said, “Everything was open and just lying everywhere all over the house. They stole some of our electronics like laptops, cameras, video cameras, and my mom’s earrings.”

Occurrences like this have sparked an interest in safety in the community, but many people are unaware of how to best prevent crimes like these.

According to the Sheriff’s Department, creating a Neighborhood Watch program is one of the most effective ways to stay safe. The Neighborhood Watch is a crime prevention program in which neighbors work together for “mutual assistance.” Citizens are trained to detect and report suspicious activity within their neighborhood to prevent crimes before they occur.

Families, who have heeded the sheriff’s advice to form watch groups, have found them immensely useful in staying informed about crime in the neighborhood.

Like a Usenet group, members of neighborhood watches promptly e-mail each other about incidents occurring in the neighborhood and nearby areas. They also bring any pressing safety concerns to the attention of the police and watch over each others’ homes.

Freshman Nina Jayashankar has found her Neighborhood Watch to be very beneficial. “It’s nice to know that the Neighborhood Watch Program is there [and] just that we’re looking out for each other.”

The Sheriff’s Department also offers general safety precautions to help citizens avoid being the victims of burglary and other crimes. Due to Saratoga’s reputation as a safe city, students are under the illusion that locking their doors and windows is not imperative. However, deputies emphasize the need to take such cautionary actions, regardless of location.

“There haven’t been any crimes that I know of where I live, but my family has still started taking more precautions like making sure at least one light is on during the night because of the recent burglaries,” said senior Brian Vo.

Vo and his family are among the many Saratogans have tried to follow these guidelines. Senior Emily Hsia, who lives in the Bellgrove neighborhood that was was victim to mulitiple robberies in November, said that her family is more careful when they leave home.

“We never go out without turning on the alarm now. The neighborhood also forced us to get new locked mailboxes, and they might install video cameras along the street,” Hsia said.

Bolstering the efforts of individual neighborhoods, the Sheriff’s Department has been working harder than ever to ensure the security of its constituents. But the Sheriff’s Department is quick to note that the job of staying safe is a collaborative effort—requiring citizens to take precautions in addition to the responsibilities of the sheriff.

If faced with a dangerous situation, the Sherriff’s deputy Steve Gricenti advises citizens to react calmly and examine the situation. If safety is an immediate concern, he strongly recommends calling “911” as soon as possible.

Grisenti said he often makes calls to report anything “out of the norm,” but people should make sure they are aware of potential dangers.

“Saratoga is a safe city, but crime rates have escalated,” Gricenti said. “Students should be aware of how to stay safe both in their neighborhoods and in the communities.”

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