September is always the month our kids go back to school, but in 2020 things are much different than ever before.
Our kids will mostly be learning online with computers, interacting remotely with teachers and students. These are challenging times for everyone trying to get back to “normal.” I usually write about back-to-school safety for my September column describing school bus stops, walking-to-school routes, educating your kids about not talking to strangers, etc.
There is a huge shift now and many people will be dealing with work and having their kids at home during school days.
We have noticed a shift in property crimes in recent months. Home burglaries are down from last year because people are staying home much more, but the jump in vehicle prowls shows that property crimes are still happening, just at different times.
Vehicle prowls at night outside of your home have increased over the last several months. Please be mindful of that and make sure you and your kids remove valuables and lock your cars both at night and during the day.
Now that your kids will be home during school hours, please talk with them about what might look suspicious in your neighborhood.
Many more eyes and ears will be home all fall, and knowing what to look for that is out of place is crucial to helping your local law enforcement stop crime in your neighborhood. Talk about unfamiliar cars driving slowly multiple times in the same area, noting details for a description or even taking a photo, with the license plate if possible.
Also be mindful of people that knock on your door and ask odd things like, “I heard there was a garage sale in your neighborhood.” People who are looking to break into your home or cars are hoping no one answers the door, but they have preplanned questions if someone does.
Get to know your neighbors. Find out if their kids will be home and what cars should be in their driveways. In-person meetings are discouraged now, and you should wear a mask if talking with neighbors outside. By safely working with neighbors, you are creating a form of neighborhood watch without doing it officially.
I have been fortunate to be part of several virtual Zoom meetings with homeowners associations and neighborhood watch groups in the last couple months. If your HOA or watch group is having their annual meeting or monthly meeting by Zoom, please reach out to me and I will be happy to attend. I will bring up-to-date statistics of crime and reported activities in your neighborhoods and offer crime prevention tips.
Have a great start to the new school year.
— Chad Clark is undersheriff of the Skagit County Sheriff's Department. Send him questions at firstname.lastname@example.org