Free Security Surveys Can Deter Costly Crimes

Horizontal sliding windows help deter burglars because they’re harder to force open, said Gulfport’s Community Policing Officer Zack Mills while conducting a recent security survey Yummy’s on Beach Boulevard. Criminals can “use a crowbar to buckle up” vertical windows, he said. Hurricane proof windows don’t shatter as easily and small economical interior sill locking mechanisms add an extra level of security.

Horizontal sliding windows help deter burglars because they’re harder to force open, said Gulfport’s Community Policing Officer Zack Mills while conducting a recent security survey Yummy’s on Beach Boulevard. Criminals can “use a crowbar to buckle up” vertical windows, he said. Hurricane proof windows don’t shatter as easily and small economical interior sill locking mechanisms add an extra level of security.

Exactly how secure is your home or business? Find out when you ask for a free survey from your local police department.

The custom paper checklist provides recommendations for improvements regarding weaknesses and pinpoints strengths that may be present.

Officers are certified as Florida Crime Prevention Practitioners after completing several specific courses. In Gulfport, Community Policing Officer Zack Mills is the department’s specialist.

“Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) has been around for a while, but it’s now gaining ground,” said Mills.

The goal of practicing CPTED techniques is to make buildings “less attractive to people who are looking to violate the law,” said St. Petersburg Police Officer Mark Williams, one of several in the city who conduct surveys.

For residences, Mills suggests reviewing four categories that can increase the level of security:

First, landscaping. Follow the “two- to six-foot rule,” he said.

“You want to keep shrubs maintained so they are two feet high or lower and your tree branches trimmed to six feet and above to provide a clear line of sight,” Mills said. “This way, it’s very hard for criminals to hide while they’re trying to break into a door or window.”

Second, windows.

According to Mills and the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, first-floor low windows are common access points for criminals.

“Simple and economical screw locking mechanisms made of metal are available at [large home improvement] stores,” said Mills. “They look almost like a mini clamp and screw tight against your [interior] window sills. They make breaking in a lot harder. Jalousie windows, which are easy to break into, should be replaced with hurricane-proof models that don’t shatter. Horizontal sliders are harder to pry open with a crowbar than verticals.”

Third, dogs. “Most people in Gulfport love dogs,” he said. “You want a loud sounding dog. If a bad guy hears that you’ve got a something like a Great Dane or Rottweiler, they’re probably not going to want to go inside your house.”

Fourth, an alarm system. “I can only think of a couple of times where the alarm system was on and working properly where someone was burglarized,” said Mills. “It’s a big deterrent. I always recommend that you get all of the doors and windows done because if you have one point of entry, that’s a weakness.”

Statistics show that nearly 70 percent of burglaries are residential.

Methods for increasing security for businesses are similar except for dogs unless the location is like a warehouse with a fenced yard, Mills said.

Zack Mills, Gulfport’s community policing officer, reviews a security survey checklist with Yummy’s co-owner Richard Reale. The surveys, conducted by local police, are free to residents and business owners.

Zack Mills, Gulfport’s community policing officer, reviews a security survey checklist with Yummy’s co-owner Richard Reale. The surveys, conducted by local police, are free to residents and business owners.

The Gabber recently accompanied Mills as he surveyed Yummy’s on Beach Boulevard in Gulfport. Co-owner Richard Reale was pleased to find out his security cameras and motion detectors are well placed. He demonstrated for Mills that he has an app on his phone to control the system.

Mills also noted Reale is using window sill locks and proper deadbolts on the doors, but suggested he increase the exterior lighting at the back of the building.

“Lighting is paramount,” according to Williams. “We recommend white light sources like LEDs. They can be more expensive up front, but in the long run they are more economical. The quality of light will allow you to get a true and crisp color rendering when it comes to describing what people are wearing.

“You want people to feel safe so they frequent your establishment.”

To find out more or to schedule a free security survey in Gulfport, contact Mills at zmills@mygulfport.us or call 727-893-1693. If your home or business is in St. Petersburg, for more information, visit police.stpete.org/crime-prevention/cp-main.html or call 727-893-7128.

Don't be shy. Tell us what you think.