With the chance to "Ask a Cop" anything about crime in Rancho Bernardo, dozens of residents turned out to a local council meeting on Thursday seeking guidance in warding off solicitors, preventing fraud and keeping burglars out of their homes.
"Be your own burglar," San Diego police Officer Susan Steffen said at Thursday's Rancho Bernardo Community Council meeting.
Steffen, the community relations officer for the San Diego Police Department's Northeastern Division, said locals should step back and see what security vulnerabilities their homes have—high bushes by windows, loose screens and doors—and fix them before burglars have a chance to exploit them.
The advise came as part of the council's "Ask a Cop" session, which paired Steffen with 22-year SDPD veteran Officer Mitch Hudgins, to field questions and hear crime accounts from RB residents.
One woman shared a story of spraying a stranger at her home with wasp spray after he wouldn't go away, which elicited chuckles from the audience but a gentle, measured rebuke from Hudgins.
"You may get yourself in trouble," the officer said, adding he understands the frustration but urging the woman—and all residents—to let the police do their jobs.
Sometimes the people who are going through neighborhoods are transients or not in their right minds, Hudgins said.
Other tips from the officers:
- Get a dog. "Dogs are the best things on Earth," Hudgins said. "He's going to come when you call—hopefully. ...Even a little dog is good protection."
- Don't stop newspaper delivery when you're on vacation. Some people may be watching and notice that it has stopped. Instead, have a neighbor pick it up for you.
- Security signs are effective. Even without an alarm backing them up, the signs are an effective deterrent, Hudgins said.
- Be careful about leaving windows open. Burglars often come in through open windows, the officers said. One way to keep your home cool but safe is to put screws through the frame where the window slides to keep the window locked in place but unable to be lifted up and out, Hudgins said.
- Let the senior volunteers watch your home while you're away. The Rancho Bernardo Retired Senior Volunteer Patrol (RSVP) does free vacation checks on homes for residents. Steffen said she hasn't seen a home that was under their watch get burglarized. Residents can sign up by stopping by the RB Library (17110 Bernardo Center Dr.) and visiting the RSVP office.