Community Safety Tips

Neighborhood Watch SignWith all the travel, hustle and bustle, and distractions of the holidays, it’s easy to forget about the simple steps we can take to keep ourselves and our community safer. The following tips are offered by Larry Pierson, Deputy Sheriff in the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office Crime Prevention Unit. Pierson is also Deputy Chief of the Swannanoa Fire Department.

The best crime prevention advice keeps coming back to two key points: “Own your 360” and “Situational Awareness”. “Owning your 360” refers to a 360 degree circle around your home, car, personal space, identity and activities. When we give up 1 degree and only own 359 degrees, criminals may use that 1 degree angle for a way to scam, steal or cause harm. The greater angle we give up, the more we’re at risk.

A case in point: When fueling at a gas station, we become very involved in the selection and payment process — debit or credit, PIN numbers, enter a zip code, do I want a car wash, and so on. We’re focused on a narrow 5-10 degree angle and the criminal owns the other 355 degrees. This opportunity has led to criminals sneaking to passenger doors and stealing purses from front seats without being noticed. Look around constantly.

“Situational Awareness” is very closely related, but encompasses an entire philosophy and state of mind. Be aware of what you’re seeing and hearing, and what your gut is telling you about a situation. This awareness should be a part of your life at home, at gas stations and restaurants, on the highway or a hiking trail, and everywhere else you go. Actions as simple as not having both earbuds in while jogging or walking will greatly increase your awareness.

By combining “Owning your 360” and “Situational Awareness,” we can maximize overall safety. Improving your security lighting, installing cameras and trimming bushes are just a few of the steps you can take. Form a Community Watch program and now you have other people joining together to overlap their 360s, and the entire community becomes more “Situationally Aware”.

Call the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office Crime Prevention unit at 828-250-4427 for more information about improving personal and community safety.