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Increase your crime prevention awareness

Updated December 23, 2009

Criminal conduct can often be difficult for a citizen to detect. The Cerritos Sheriff’s Station/Community Safety Center offers the following tips on how to detect behavior that could indicate that a crime is about to occur or is in progress.

Residential burglars | Vehicle burglaries/auto thieves

Residential burglars

The majority of residential burglaries occur during daytime hours. Burglars are aware that residents are usually away from home during this time. Anyone other than a resident observed in the yard, on the porch or around any home in your neighborhood warrants your attention.

Generally, burglars will attempt to ensure that there is nobody inside a residence before entering. This can be accomplished by knocking on the door, calling out a name or peering into a window. Solicitors and pedestrians should be watched. The backyard provides concealment that is appealing to burglars to facilitate an entry. This is where most residential burglars will enter the home.

Cars driving slowly through your neighborhood or those that are parked on your street that you have not seen before are also important to be aware of, especially if there is only one occupant such as the driver. This could be the "lookout" for a burglar already inside of a home, and the person responsible for transporting the burglar and any valuables away from the scene. Another person to be aware of is a stranger talking on a cell phone, as this could be the method he or she is using to contact a driver in the area and tell him or her that it is safe to pick them up.

Be aware of what people have in their hands. Any types of bags or containers such as trash bags, pillowcases, boxes, backpacks and gym bags can be used to carry and conceal stolen property. Burglars also like to place as much property as possible in their pockets to avoid suspicion.

If you are not sure that a person belongs in your neighborhood, call the Cerritos Sheriff’s Station at once. Write down a description and the license plate number of any car(s) in question, along with the race, age, clothing and physical descriptions of any people. This will assist deputies in spotting the suspicious persons as they attempt to leave your neighborhood.

Vehicle burglars/auto thieves

In a residential area, the chances of vehicle burglaries and auto thefts occurring greatly increase at night. A common method of selecting a victim, or "casing," is to slowly drive the streets. Suspect vehicles may also travel without headlights to avoid being noticed. Much like residential burglaries, usually one person will drive a car while one or more will attempt to enter a parked car to steal it or remove property. It is not uncommon for a lone vehicle burglar to walk or ride a bicycle as he or she seeks a target.

Signs of a vehicle burglary or auto theft occurring at night include hearing a vehicle stop and the engine "idling" for a brief period of time. Dogs barking in the neighborhood, any unusual noises, a car burglar alarm or movement outside of your home should alert you to look and, if appropriate, call the Cerritos Sheriff’s Station. Look outside through a window to observe what you can, then turn on an exterior light. This will help scare the thief away, while also providing you with an opportunity to see something that can be reported to the Sheriff’s Station. Follow the same steps that were described for identifying a residential burglar by getting as much information as possible about the suspect(s) and their vehicle.

Parking lots offer a wide selection of targets for a car thief and vehicle burglar. Always be wary of anybody standing in one position and looking around. This could be an individual "casing" or acting as a lookout for another suspect already inside a nearby vehicle. People walking between cars parallel to the stores in a shopping center may be looking in each car to locate items to steal. Another suspicious activity is a driver passing up numerous empty parking stalls and going from aisle to aisle, or stopping in an aisle where there are no available stalls. The occupants could be circling to pick up another vehicle burglar. The driver could also be waiting for his or her partner to start up a stolen car and drive away.

The best way to ensure that the City’s neighborhoods and businesses are safe is to report suspicious activity to the Cerritos Sheriff’s Station. Your call could make the difference in preventing a crime or facilitating the arrest of a suspect.

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