Rural communities have their own unique crime problems — theft of crops, timber, livestock and expensive farm equipment.
People who vandalize do more than break mailboxes. They can destroy crops and fields as well. Crimes such as burglary, rape, assault and auto theft also happen in our rural areas.
I would ask that you keep an eye out for things that seem unusual as well as follow these helpful tips:
Check doors and locks
• Make sure outside doors — in your home and outbuildings — are solid wood or metal and have dead bolt locks.
• Use the locks!
• Secure sliding glass doors with commercially available locks or with a broomstick or wooden dowel in the track to jam the door in case someone tries to pry it open. Insert screws in the upper track going into the fixed frame, to prevent anyone from lifting the door from its track.
• Secure double-hung windows by sliding bolt or nail through a hole drilled at a downward angle in each top corner of the inside sash and part way through the outside sash. Secure basement windows well.
Check the outside
• Keep your house, driveway, barns and other buildings well-lighted at night. Use timers that automatically turn on outside lights when it gets dark.
• Consider motion sensors that set off lights or alarms.
• Prune back shrubbery that hides doors, windows, lights and would-be burglars.
• Keep your fences in good repair. Secure all access roads with gates or cables stretched between posts cemented in the ground. Make them visible with flags or streamers.
• Warn thieves that you’re on the alert with “No Trespassing,” “No Hunting” and other signs around your property.
Mark equipment and livestock
• Operation Identification — marking tools, guns and equipment with a permanent identification number. This has helped reduce theft in many rural areas.
• Although this may seem routine, please take regular counts of all livestock.
Protect your equipment
• Secure gas pumps, gas tanks, storage bins and grain elevators with sturdy padlocks or dead bolts. Keep small equipment — like mowers, bikes, snowmobiles — locked in a barn or garage.
• Never leave keys in vehicles or farm equipment.
• Always lock your trucks and other vehicles when they’re not in use. And don’t leave tools in the open back of a pick-up truck or in an unsecured truck bed toolbox.
• Don’t leave major equipment in a field overnight. Lock it in a barn or shed near the house, or park where it can be seen from your house or a neighbor’s.
• If machines must be left out for long periods of time, disable them by removing the rotor, distributor, or battery.
Guard your crops
• Store harvested crops in protected and locked locations.
• Theft of valuable timber is on the rise. Please make sure you keep an eye out for unwanted visitors and they are aware of property lines.
• Keep storage areas neat and well-organized so that any theft will be noticed immediately. This also warns potential thieves that the owner is watchful.
• Although this may be hard at times, check employee references. A little effort on your end could prevent things on the long end.
Help your neighbors
• Cell phones are great to keep in touch and I would ask that you continue to report suspicious activities to law enforcement. You are not bothering us! It is our job to come out and to prove that they have permission to be there.
• When you go away, stop delivery of your mail or newspapers or ask a neighbor to pick them up. You want to create the illusion that someone’s at home and following everyday routines. Have neighbors check your property, and return the favor when they leave on business or vacation trips.
Take a stand
• Check out recreational opportunities for teens — work with schools, 4-H, or Future Farmers to fill the gaps, both after school and on weekends.
• Educate young people about the hazards of operating farm machinery and being around livestock. For example, tractors are involved in 69 percent of farm machinery deaths, and young people raised on farms often operate these machines at early ages.
Always remember, by working together we can help eliminate these things from happening. Stay safe!