School vacation was officially supposed to begin on May 29 when school let out for the year. Kids haven’t been to in school since March 12. Traffic has been lighter than usual, tourists have been gone and businesses have been closed, as the country works to fully re-open and bring things back to as normal as possible. (Remember this article is written about three weeks ahead of time, so hopefully things are going well). This year has been a bit different, but as we may have been accustomed to lighter than usual traffic and shortages on toilet paper, one element is still out there and hasn’t been in short supply, lurking and waiting for an opportunity to pounce. No, I’m not referring to the Tiger King. I am talking about criminals. Throughout this COVID 19 mess, crimes have still been occurring. I want to make sure you all remember that summer is a unique time of year that tends to lead to an increase in many crimes. I do not want you to let your guard down. Seasonal crimes are typically committed by young men or teens with idle minds and hands who are in search of an easy opportunity. There are easy and often inexpensive ways, to help prevent you from being a victim of a property crime, such as a burglary or theft.
Statistically, most property crimes (burglaries and thefts) occur due to an opportunity presenting itself. This especially includes Celebration. Did you know that many past vehicle burglaries reported in Celebration occurred because the doors were left unlocked? Others have happened because purses or other items of value were left in plain view which resulted in car windows being broken. Many bikes are also left unlocked or unattended. The criminal desire and ability to commit crimes can’t be changed, but you certainly can remove many of their opportunities to do so. Please lock your cars and do not leave things in view. Purses, computers, loose change, charging cords, sunglasses, tools or any electronic items are tempting items for criminals.
Some homes are empty as the owners travel north until colder weather returns. Other homes are empty due to being away on vacation. Vehicles are often left with windows down and doors unlocked as people go to outdoor events. Bikes and other property are also left lying about. Unfortunately, yes even in Celebration, an open car window, unlocked door, things left lying around in yards or on patios and porches, are often taken by thieves who spot the easy opportunity. I helped catch a bike thief a while back and he stated that he knew to come to Celebration because the rich people wouldn’t miss a bike.
When investigating burglaries and thefts, deputies and detectives have watched video surveillance and found the crimes were completed in literally only seconds. “I only went inside for a minute” or “But this is Celebration” is a common phrase we also hear when investigating crimes here.
Remember to learn who your neighbors are and what is normal for your street. If you see someone or something suspicious or unfamiliar, immediately, call our office at either 407-348-2222 for non-emergencies or 911. Do not take matters in your own hands and let deputies come check on the matter and ascertain what is occurring. If it proves to be unfounded, that’s a good thing. We would rather check out an occurrence that turns out to be nothing, than launch an investigation into a crime such as a burglary. That one immediate call to law enforcement could stop a single or series of criminal acts, prevent someone from getting hurt, or even save a life. Please call us first, then post on social media if you desire.
Additional Crime Prevention Tips
What can you do to lessen the chances of being a victim of a property crime? In a short and easy answer, lock your stuff up and be aware of your surroundings. Please call the Sheriff’s Office and let the deputy decide if suspicious activity is happening or if the persons are breaking a law.
Do not leave property lying around. If something is left unattended and you’re not physically touching it, it is easily taken.
A bicycle or other property, if they really need to be left outside, should be locked through the frame and wheels with a heavy duty steel cable or u-shaped lock made of metal. The safest place would be inside a closed and secured garage. Photograph your bikes, skateboards, garden gnomes or other items. Write down the make, model and serial numbers. Serial numbers on bike are usually found underneath the bike where the pedals enter the frame.
ALL cars should always be left locked with the windows rolled up and without any valuable items in sight, even if only leaving it for a short time. Set the alarm, if you have one. If nothing is visible and the vehicle is locked, a criminal is less likely to target you. Trust me. Bad guys know what to look for in your cars and know where you usually hide things.
Homes should always be locked with the alarms set, even if only going out for a short errand. A loud alarm siren installed facing outdoors can help alert the neighborhood and will draw attention to the area. Most criminals won’t stick around long with a loud siren blaring. Garage doors, unless you are working in sight of them, should be closed. Many garage doors are left open daily and invite inquisitiveness. I regularly observe garages left open and bet the “bad guys” also take note of them being open too.
Don’t “provide” a hiding spot for bad guys. Keep trees and shrubs trimmed to a proper height to keep visibility clear around your home. Consider planting thorny shrubs, from the approved plant list, to discourage someone from using them to hide in.
Install motion lights, timer activated or dusk to dawn lights to also discourage hiding. With LED bulbs, each light may only cost a few dollars a year to run.
Be alert to your surroundings. It’s a good idea to learn which vehicles or persons belong in your neighborhood. You can contact the Sheriff’s Office non-emergency number at 407-348-2222 to report any suspicious activity, people or vehicles. Please dial 911 to report any in-progress crimes or emergencies.
If going away for any length of time. Do not announce it on social media before or during your absence.
Have a trusted neighbor check your home and pick up any deliveries or newspapers. Stop mail and paper deliveries.
The old saying “An idle mind is the devils workshop,” is really kind of true for all ages. However, many criminal mischief, thefts and other antics in Celebration are pre-teen and teen related. Parents should know where their kids are and who many of their friends are. Parents should also have other parents’ phone numbers. Tracking devices from car insurance companies help you watch their driving habits and whereabouts and may save you money. Phone apps could installed to also know their whereabouts. These have been helpful to find runaway kids, missing or suicidal persons and also those with medical disorders. These are minors we are talking about and you are the parent. Remember the permanent record generated by law enforcement due to your teens antics will harm chances of good jobs and colleges.
These are very basic crime prevention techniques, but can be cost effective and easy to implement. As I have stated before, crime prevention is everybody’s job. The first line of defense in crime prevention is YOU! Help us at the Sheriff’s Office, help you, by securing your belongings and preventing crime. With the nice weather here and kids out of school, many more people will be out and about. Tourists hopefully will be returning with sightseeing trips through Celebration. What should be more important and more concerning, are those persons who will be here looking for an easy opportunity. Please be safe, lock it up and have a great summer!
By Deputy Jerry Weiland
Osceola County Sheriff’s Office
The above article appears in the June 2020 edition of the Celebration News