Deerfield Township residents learn about crime prevention

MORLEY — Deerfield Township resident Bonnie Santos admits that she doesn’t always make a complete stop at four-way intersections because she’s afraid of being carjacked.

Her husband, Jose, said he felt pressured and intimidated when two men recently came to his door and tried to convince him they were carpet cleaners, asking to be let inside the house.

“We wanted to learn more about what kind of protection we can do for ourselves,” Bonnie said. “We live in the country, off the beaten path, and our land is real dark. The closest homes are up our driveway and it’s about a quarter mile long. … We just wanted to know what we can do for protection within the law.”

On Wednesday, Bonnie and Jose Santos were two of about 20 people who attended an anti-crime workshop at Deerfield Township Hall in Morley, where Mecosta County Sheriff’s Sgt. Scott Ruggles and retired officer Frank Socha gave citizens tips on how to prevent themselves from being crime victims and what steps to take if their best-laid plans fail.

Township supervisor Gordon Galloway said township officials decided to host the workshop after a recent rash of home invasions and larcenies, including incidents that targeted the Amish community.

Ruggles told the audience that the best defense is to be aware of your surroundings. He advised people to keep in close contact with their neighbors so they can share information on anything strange happening in their neighborhood. Calling police at the first sign of suspicious activity could prevent someone’s home from being broken into, he said.

“We’re starting to see more daytime break-ins than we did in past years,” he told the audience when asked about trends in home invasions. “We still get break-ins at night, but those tend to be seasonal (homes). The rest happen during the day, usually when we’re at work.”

Socha, who instructs concealed weapons permit courses in Mecosta County, talked about gun safety and how to prepare to use a weapon one keeps in their home for protection.

“The gun is the last step,” he said. “A fire arm should be the last resort when all else fails.”

Ruggles and Socha also gave the following tips on Wednesday:

  • Get the best possible description of a suspicious vehicle. Familiarize yourself with makes and models as well as model years. Describing a late-80s blue Buick LeSabre to an officer gives them more to go on than simply saying you saw a four-door sedan. Partial license plate numbers are better than nothing.
  •  Lock your doors. “This is not 30 years ago,” Ruggles said.
  • Let your neighbors know when you’ll be away on vacation and whether they should expect to see someone coming to your house during that time. Have them pick up your mail and packages to create the illusion that you’re home.
  • Don’t post Facebook statuses about going on vacation. Although you might trust your friends, you can’t trust who they might share that information with.
  • Set up a phone tree with four or five people in your neighborhood. If anything suspicious is happening near your house, you can call to see if someone else knows what’s going on or warn them about what you’ve seen.
  • If you own a handgun, practice shooting at realistic targets and add stress to your training to make the situation as real as possible.
  •  Train in all seasons while wearing all types of clothing, Socha said. It’s also good to get practice at night if you can do so in a safe environment.
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Posted by Whitney Gronski-Buffa

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