Crime Prevention Tips
An informed person is a safer person.  Use these tips to
safeguard yourself and your family against crime.

How To Report A Crime

Don't Be Conned

Burglary Prevention Checklist

Auto Thefts & Break-Ins

Vacation Security Checklist

Neighborhood Watch

Robbery & ATM Safety

Suspicious Activity Checklist

Child Safety Skills

Preventing Assaults

Glossary of Criminal Terminology

How to Report A Crime

  1. Identify yourself – first and last name, address, telephone number – even if you are using 911.
  2. Tell the dispatcher the type of crime or emergency you are reporting.
  3. Let the dispatcher know if the crime is “in progress” or “has already occurred.”
  4. Where is/did the crime take place?  Be as specific as possible.
  5. Give descriptions of the suspect(s).  The more specific the better
  6. Describe the vehicle

          Is it a car, truck, van or motorcycle?
          What make and model is the vehicle?
          What color is it?
          What is the tag number?
          What state issued the tag?
          Are there any dents or marks that make it distinctive?
          What direction did it go?

  7. Stay on the line until you are told to hang up.

Emergency Phone   Fire – Police – Ambulance……9-1-1
Non-Emergency Phone……………………(479) 474-1234

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Burglary Prevention Checklist
Thieves can be creative when breaking into your home.  Some things we may forget about are the area thieves will target.  Use this checklist to ensure that you are safe against home burglary.

Doors and Entry Areas

  • Doors are solid core construction
  • Entry door has a wide angle viewer (peep hole)
  • Locks are secure from being opened if a burglar breaks a panel of glass or wood
  • All of my doors can be securely locked
  • Lock strike plates have at least 3 inch screws screwed into the house framing
  • Do all of your out-swinging doors have the hinges pinned or have non-removable pins?
  • All entry areas are unobstructed by shrubbery and other décor to permit maximum visibility
  • All sliding doors have an auxiliary lock that locks both the door and panels together
  • My sliding glass door does not lift out of the track
  • The garage door is secured with a lock, hasp or similar lock and not just the garage door opener
  • I lock my vehicle and remove my keys and valuables even if it is parked inside the garage


  • All windows are equipped with auxiliary key locks
  • Louvered windows have been secured or replaced
  • Window locks are properly secured and mounted
  • The windows are locked when shut
  • Windows have locks that allow you to lock the window when it is partially open
  • In high crime areas, bars or ornamental grilles block the windows
  • Garage windows are properly locked and secured
  • Second floor windows are as secure as first floor windows

Safe Practices
  • Keep a list, pictures or videos of all your valuable property
  • Keep a list of all serial numbers and identifying numbers to valuable property, including bicycles
  • Avoid unnecessary display of your valuables
  • Do not “hide” a key outside of your home
  • Outside lighting around the home is a safe practice
  • Is your ladder secured and out of sight?
  • Keep a list of emergency numbers by every phone
  • Discuss a plan with your family if you were to ever find a burglar in your home

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Vacation Security Checklist
Thieves thrive on opportunity so use these tips to safeguard yourself and your home especially when you plan on being away for an extended period of time. Staging your home to make it appear that there is in fact someone there is a strong safe guard against intruders.

  • Arrange for the Van Buren Police Department to add your home to our extra patrol
  • Double check second floor, garage and basement windows, areas often forgotten, and secure them
  • Arrange for someone you trust to pick up your mail or any deliveries
  • Leave a car in the driveway and have outside lights on a timer so that they turn on and off
  • Arrange to have the yard cut and the bushes trimmed
  • Have several lights attached to various timers throughout the house and set them randomly
  • Ask neighbors to keep an eye on your home and leave a number where you can be reached
  • Ask neighbors to use your garbage can
  • Don’t tell everyone about your vacation plans
  • Don’t leave notes on the door for friends, deliveries, etc.
  • If you return home and find a break-in, do not enter the house.  If you have entered the house, leave the house immediately being careful to touch as little as possible.  Intruders could have left fingerprints that would otherwise be destroyed if you touch them.  Use your cell phone or a neighbor’s phone and immediately call the police.
  • Make an inventory of your property.  Mark your valuables with an engraver.  Use your driver’s license number (and State) as identification your property.
  • Make sure your doors and windows are locked with auxiliary locks as well as dead bolts.

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Robbery and ATM Safety
Statistics show that most muggers are young – between the ages of 14 and 29. These young criminals can instantly turn violent during the commission of their crime.  Robberies often occur in isolated places or places not readily visible to the public.  They often occur at or near parking lots, alleys, parks and retail locations. Keep these tips in the forefront of your mind at all times to help protect yourself from these crimes.

  • When walking into a bank or any store, take a moment to look at what is going on.  If anything looks at all suspicious, do not go into that location.  
  • Avoid exposing your money in public.  Avoid counting your money in front of others and refrain from showing large bills.  Pay with a credit or debit card if at all possible.
  • Avoid wearing expensive looking jewelry.  It can mark you as a profitable target to a would-be robber.
  • Be aware of trouble locations and always be alert to your surroundings.  If your gut tells you something is wrong, then something is probably wrong.
  • Avoid carrying packages that advertise expensive contents.  Have it packaged in plain packaging.
  • Keep $20 on you at all times.  Keeping $20 may satisfy a would-be robber’s need for drug money.  If you have no money, he or she may get angry enough to hurt you.
  • Never expose or disclose any amount of money you are going to deposit at an ATM.
  • As you approach the ATM, check your surroundings for anyone or anything suspicious or uncomfortable
  • Have your ATM card ready and in your hand when you approach the ATM.  Be discreet when entering your PIN.  Use your body as a shield against prying eyes.
  • Always keep a safe distance between you and others.
  • If you do find yourself confronted by a robber – Remain Calm – Do Not Resist – Give Up Your Money, Jewelry, Etc. – Cooperate With the Robber – Give Him/Her Time To Get Away – Call 911 and Report the Crime.
  • Losing money or personal possessions is far better than losing your life to an angry mugger.  

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Child Safety Skills
Thought most kids make it through childhood without ever experiencing physical harm, some are in fact frightened or hurt by crime.  Adults can make a difference in a child’s life by listening to what the child has to say concerning people around him/her and about his/her surroundings.  Adults must teach children how to protect themselves in threatening situations.  Use these Child Safety Skills to protect your children.

  • Rehearse their name, address and phone number (including the area code)
  • Teach them how to make an emergency phone call from the home phone, the cell phone and from a pay phone.
  • Help them become aware of danger areas around them such as vacant
    homes, wooded areas, poorly lit areas, busy streets, streets with no sidewalks, etc.
  • Show them safe places in the neighborhood they can go for help in an
  • Make sure they know to find a store employee or security guard if they ever get lost in a store.  Make sure they know to never go outside if they get lost.
    Teach them that no one should ever ask to touch them anywhere that their bathing suit covers and that no one should ever ask them to touch anyone else there, either.
  • Teach them that it’s not okay if someone asks them to keep special secrets from you
  • Teach them to walk confidently and to always be alert to their surroundings
  • Ask them to watch out for the smaller children and to tell you about anyone who lurks around parks, bathrooms, schools, etc.
  • Teach them how to write down a license plate number
  • Make sure they can reach you by phone if they must be home alone
  • Post phone numbers for emergency services, your work, a neighbor and family members near the phone.
  • Have them check in with you when they get home or when they leave to go to a friend’s house
  • Establish rules for having friends over when no adult is present
  • Remind them never to open the door to anyone including a repairman, a salesman or an unexpected guest.  Teach them that they’re not being rude but that they’re being safe.
  • Teach them to never tell anyone that they are home alone, whether it be at the door or over the phone.  They should always say that their parents are busy.
  • Children associate strangers as people with unusual or sloppy appearances.  Teach your children that strangers look and act like many things, including nice, clean people.  Children are harmed not only by strangers, but also by people that have some sort of familiarity with them.  Teach your children to talk about any strange situations or actions with you that may involve strangers or anyone that you know.

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Don’t Be Conned
Many of us are not familiar with making decisions about home repairs, insurance policies or investments.  We are swamped by calls with people claiming to represent charitable organizations, or pushy salespeople that use high-pressure tactics to sell an item.  We have to be careful not to reveal personal facts that may enable con artists to clear out our bank accounts and use our credit card numbers. Protect yourself from these con artists by following these tips:

  • Don’t do business with someone that has to go door to door to solicit business.
  • Get recommendations from friends and family and then get several estimates from several different companies and compare the terms and estimates.  When hiring the contractor, obtain a written guarantee.  NEVER pay for a job in advance!  Make installment arrangements and then only pay for the amount of work completed.
  • Be suspicious of high-pressure sales tactics
  • Never purchase property sight unseen
  • Never trust anyone who states,  “Purchase now or the deal is off.”
  • Be cautious of anyone that wants you to invest in a promising company.  Often the company quietly closes and you lose.
  • Make any donations you make are to charitable organizations that you have researched and verified.  Often swindlers come up with false names that resemble names of legitimate organizations.  Don’t let their guilt tactics work on you.
  • Beware of anyone that befriends you and then asks you to put up “good faith” money in order to share in unexpectedly found money or valuables.
  • NEVER give out social security or credit card numbers over the phone.
  • Look out for someone claiming to be an FBI agent, bank examiner, police officer, or bank employee wanting you to withdraw money to assist in an investigation.  IT IS A CON!

If you believe you are being or have been conned, contact the police immediately. Do not be embarrassed.  Your misfortune could prevent others from having the same fate.

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Auto Thefts and Break-Ins
Stolen and vandalized vehicles cost victims time and money and increase everyone’s insurance premiums.  Often stolen vehicles are also used in the commission of other crimes as well.  

  • Never leave your vehicle running or your keys in it while you’re away, even if it's just for a minute.
  • Always roll up the windows and lock the doors, even if it’s in front of your home.
  • Never leave valuables in plain view.  Lock them up in the trunk or at least out of sight.  Purses, electronics, packages, etc. should be left home or taken with you when you leave your vehicle.
  • Always park your car in a well-lit area or where it is in plain view of others.  This is a strong deterrent to most criminals.  

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Neighborhood Watch

  • You can keep an eye out for crime by joining your “Neighborhood Watch”
  • Neighborhood watch programs belong to and are run by the people in the neighborhood, not the police.
  • They have been proven to prevent neighborhood crime by as much as 60% but are equally as effective in neighborhoods with no or low crime rates.
  • The “Watch” group usually has a Coordinator and Block Captains who are responsible for organizing meetings and relaying information to members.
  • Everyone is a Block Watcher who keeps an eye out for suspicious activity and calls police if need be.
  • Effective Watches build a sense of community by having regular meetings, which give neighbors a chance to know each other.  Some even publish a newsletter with crime prevention and neighborhood highlights.

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Suspicious Activity Checklist
9 out of every 10 arrests are made because of a neighborhood tip.  The following list highlights only a small amount of suspicious activities criminals carry out every day.  You will not be in trouble if you call the police regarding any suspicious activity.  It’s better to be safe than sorry!

  • Anyone looking into a car or home
  • Anyone forcibly entering a car or home
  • Someone running from a home or business
  • Someone carrying a weapon
  • Someone screaming
  • An unknown adult talking to children, offering them candy or gifts or asking them for help
  • Someone who does not belong in the area
  • A person walking in the neighborhood with items which could be stolen
  • Anyone ringing your doorbell or knocking on your door without a reasonable explanation
  • Persons loitering around a schoolyard or park
  • Strange vehicles parked in your area for several hours
  • A clean automobile with dirty or damaged tags
  • Groups of people loitering or walking through your neighborhood

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Preventing Assaults
Assaults can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime.  Here are some tips to reduce your chances of being attacked.

At Home

  • Keep your home securely locked and well lighted
  • Install a peephole in your door and use it
  • Beware of unexpected sales or service calls
  • Check identification before letting someone you don’t know inside of your house
  • Offer to make a phone call for a stranger if he or she wants to use your phone
  • If you come home and see signs of forced entry do not enter your house.  Instead go to a neighbor’s and immediately call the police.

While Walking
  • Be alert to your surroundings and to people around you
  • Stay in well-lighted areas as much as possible.
  • Walk confidently and at a steady pace
  • Walk close to the curb.  Avoid bushes, doorways and alleys
  • Try not to walk alone, especially at night.  Avoid areas where there are few people.  The more people that see you walking, the less likely an assailant will attack you.
  • Be careful when people stop to ask you for directions.  Always reply from a distance and never approach the vehicle.
  • If you are in trouble, gain attention in any way you can.  Scream “FIRE” or “HELP” to attract attention.

While Driving
  • Keep your car in good working order and keep the gas tank at least half full.
  • Park in well-lit areas and lock the doors, no matter how long you will be away
  • Have your key ready before you get into your vehicle and check the front and rear seats before you get in
  • Drive with your doors locked no matter what area you are in
  • Keep valuables such as purses, electronics, money, packages, etc., out of sight.
  • If you think you are being followed DO NOT DRIVE HOME.  Drive to a well-lit open gas station or business and call the police.  If it is safe to do so, get a tag number and description of the vehicle following you.
  • If an unmarked police vehicle attempts to stop you, signal to the officer that you see him/her and proceed to the nearest open business where there will be other people to watch.  An assailant will usually move along when you involve witnesses.

If You Are Attacked
  • Keep your head.  Stay as calm as possible, think rationally and evaluate your resources and options.
  • Keep assessing your situation as it is happening.  If one strategy does not work, try another.  Possible options are negotiating, stalling for time, distracting the assailant, and fleeing to a safe place.

Do You Need A Weapon?
  • Beware that weapons that are intended to hurt an assailant such as mace, pepper spray, electronic stun guns, or handguns (special permits required) are often taken away and used against you.
  • Carry a personal body alarm that makes a piercing noise and draws attention to your situation

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Glossary of Criminal Terminology

Aggravated Assault
– Purposely doing something that creates a substantial danger of death or serious injury to someone else.

Assault – Threatening by word or act to do violence to someone

Battery – Intentionally causing an injury to someone

Breaking or Entering – Entering into a car, outbuilding, or coin operated machine with the intent of taking valuables or committing a serious crime.

Burglary – Entering into a home or business undetected with the intent of taking valuables or committing a serious crime.

Criminal Mischief the knowing and intentional damage or destruction of property owned by another

Criminal Trespass – Remaining unlawfully in or on a car or the property of another person

Robbery – Using force or at least threatening to use force against someone with the purpose of getting valuables.

Theft – Taking the property of another with the intent of denying the owner the use of the property.

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Sources used :  
Fort Smith Police Department Website, Crime Prevention