July Column: Vacation safety tips

Summertime, Summertime, Summer-Summer Summertime: Having a safe (summer) vacation

This month our contribution was prepared by Kathy Macdonald, who is a Security Consultant, Retired Police Officer, and a current ACCPA Board Member.

As this article points out, summer time is a time to “get away from it all.” Unfortunately, no matter where you might go, there is no vacation spot that is 100% safe from potential criminal activities. For example, as exotic and interesting as some destinations might be, they all carry a certain risk. South Africa which hosted the 2010 World Cup Football/soccer championships is ranked by many sources as one of the most violent countries. It is ranked first in the world for assaults and second for the number of murders. Therefore, with a little awareness about the crime prevention measures that you can incorporate into your daily routine, you can reduce your risk of ‘spoiling’ what should be a ‘great’ time.

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The beginning of summer brings a break from school, hot weather, possible travel and the opportunity to take some well-deserved holidays. Summertime can be a magical time of the year for the entire family and/or loved ones. Please consider a few of these simple precautions to help reduce your risk of becoming a victim of crime over the upcoming summer holidays.

Leaving your home while on holidays?

Have a friend or neighbour visit your home to check on things, mow your lawn, and pick-up your mail.  Better yet, why not cancel your mail delivery all together while you are away. Remember, it’s not wise to advertise your vacation plans, in advance, in social media, or post holiday photos on websites like Facebook and Twitter. Turn off the ‘Location Services’ on your camera to ensure that you are not publicizing your geographical location when you do post your holiday photos to the Internet.

Taking a driving holiday?

Always wear a seatbelt and have properly installed car seats for your children. Advise your friends or family of your travel route and the approximate times you plan to arrive at your destination. Lock valuables in your trunk and never leave an animal in the car alone, even for a short time. Stick to well-travelled roads whenever possible and take a charged cell phone in case of emergencies. If you need to use your GPS or your cell phone while you are driving, pull over to the side of the road or to a texting rest area when it’s safe so as not to engage in distracted driving.

Protecting your personal identifying information while on holidays.

Before you leave home, make copies of your current passport, birth certificate and any other important identification and leave these copies with someone at home, or a trusted friend or family member.  Slim down your wallet and take only the necessary identification needed for the trip. Some hotels require your passport overnight; try to give them a certified copy instead of your original passport. If you are traveling internationally record the contact information for the closest Canadian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate.

What about your credit card and debit card?

When traveling contact your credit card company to set up a spending alert. You can advise them where you are traveling and how long you will be away. Perhaps arrange for a low credit limit temporary credit card. Try not to carry large amounts of cash and be wary of private ATM machines on side streets, hotel lobbies, strip bars and food courts. These machines can be targeted by organized crime for skimming, money laundering, and robbery. Always cover the keypad while entering your PIN information, use mainstream commercial banks whenever possible and obtain a transaction record to help monitor and detect unauthorized transactions. Report suspicious activity promptly to your bank.

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An example of a street ATM machine that is tucked behind a wall and not very well maintained. Photo by Kathy Macdonald June 2014

Should you worry about theft theft and pickpocketers?

Yes, crowded places and popular tourist destinations tend to be common locations for pickpocketing and distraction theft. Watch for deliberate distractions, keep a safe distance from people and watch your mobile devices, laptop computers and luggage in places like airports, hotel lobbies, and food courts. Carry your camera and wallet in a safe place in front of you rather than in a backpack. Maintain a higher sense of security awareness in congested locations. Don’t pick up hitchhikers or accept rides from strangers.

What if you get sick while on holidays?

Be aware of health risks in certain countries. Research government and travel websites regarding the area you are traveling in case of health concerns and follow general precautions relating to immunization and preventive medication against insects, and local disease outbreaks.

Are you safe in a hotel? 

Check your stored luggage at the claim desk whenever possible and avoid leaving luggage unattended for any length of time. Look for the emergency exit closest to your hotel room and keep shoes, keys, wallet, passport in the same location for easy exit in case of fire or alarms.  Ask the concierge about safe locations to go jogging, swimming, walking, and hiking. If you are traveling alone advise the hotel of your expected return time. Tell your kids to verify visitors to the room before they open the hotel door and use the door chain or the secondary door lock when you are inside your hotel room.

What about my computer and mobile device security while traveling?

People are reliant on access to the Internet while traveling but be wary of free public Wi-Fi. These locations are typically unencrypted and even if they are encrypted, they may compromise the security of your social networking, email, or financial accounts. Also, just because you pay an access fee to a Wi-Fi network it doesn’t mean that the network is secure. Turn off Wi-Fi when you’re not using it to prevent from automatically connecting to networks and this will also extend your device’s battery life. Sign out of your website accounts after accessing them and change your passwords on a regular basis. Enable the settings on your mobile device to wipe the data if someone tries to access it after several unsuccessful attempts. Enable self-location and anti-theft software. Whenver possible keep the device with you, if not possible, remove the battery, memory and SIM card and keep these separate from the device. Avoid charging your device using a USB of an unknown or untrusted source and keep your antivirus, firewall and all software enabled and up to date. Use lost phone apps and if your device is lost or stolen or there’s been a security breach, quickly and remotely perform a factory reset from any computer connected to the Internet. This will wipe out all of the device’s data and lock it indefinitely.

On behalf of all of us at ACCPA, have a wonderful summer with many safe and fun adventures.

Save the date!

SheldonKennedy

ACCPA will be hosting a conference on November 25th, 2014!

Time and location are still to be determined, but we are honoured to announce that Sheldon Kennedy, from the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre, is going to be our keynote speaker! This conference will focus on Youth Resilience.

Stay tuned for more details!

June Column: Bike Safety

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How To Avoid Bicycle Theft

This month our contribution was prepared Sarah Moore, Online Content and Community Specialist with Specialized Canada.

At the time of receiving this submission, I was doing some work in London, England and was very impressed how many people now commute by bicycles in the heart of London. Even 5-10 years ago when I’d come over, you’d be lucky if you saw a handful of riders and now whether going to work or returning home at the end of the day, you can witness a steady stream of cyclists. The point is that like in the England, cycling has become a popular recreational and preferred option for commuting to work or school for many Canadians.

According to official source, bicycle theft in Canada is a multi-million dollars business. For example, according to a 2013 report from Vancouver, an estimated 2000+ bikes were stolen that year.

However, with the increase number of bicycles comes the increased risk bike theft. Aside from the growing number of bikes, the price tag for bikes can range from a reasonably affordable cost to price tags that rival some small compact cars. Therefore, we thought a crime prevention article that focuses on bicycle theft would be timely for our pending summer.

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“Bike Thief” is a short video by filmmaker Casey Neistat, where he shows how easy it is to steal a bike in New York City. He removes his own bike from the locks he has put on it repeatedly, at first covertly and then using everything from a crowbar to power tools, without the police or onlookers intervening. Viewers will be astounded at how easy it was to get away with the crime.

Not only is it easy to steal bikes from open spaces but we’ve heard a lot of reports of theft in hallways, and outside spaces of apartments where owners thought they didn’t need to lock up their bikes. Do not assume anything.

Due to the strength and portability of power tools these days, we can make no guarantees for bikes left out on the streets, and especially for long periods of time. Your best bet is due diligence, make thieves think you’ve done a good effort in locking and hopefully they will move on to another bike who didn’t take our advice.

But, here are some basic tips to help make your bike as secure as possible. Starting off with a good lock is your best line of defense. We call these primary locks.

How to lock a bike:

  1. Use primary locks to secure wheel and frame to a permanent structure, such as a street-sign post or designated bicycle rack. Make sure the chain goes through the frame. You would be surprised how often this is overlooked.
  2. Use a secondary lock on the opposite wheel. Remember, back wheels are more expensive than front due to the gear(s).
  3. To eliminate transporting heavy chains, some cyclists rely on u-locks for their convenience. Use two of them, one for the frame and front wheel to a pole and a second for the back wheel. For maximum security, add a cable lock through the frame and both u-locks, total weight will still be less than a chain-lock. Be aware of the size of the U, a mini won’t fit around one wheel the frame and a standard street sign post.
  4. Seat posts and seats are often stolen. Take them in or lock them with a cable. Some cyclists use a bicycle chain and permanently attach it through the seat to the frame. Wrap them in a 700c inner tube or have your local bike shop install it.
  5. Take in everything you don’t want to lose. Lights, water bottles and clip on fenders are easy targets.
  6. Do not assume bikes are secure if you’re just running in somewhere for a minute. Thieves pray upon this behaviour.

Where to lock a bike:

  1. Make sure street signs and bike racks are permanently installed. Often they can become loose in their mooring and bikes can be slipped off. Also make sure street poles have signs attached at the top for the same reason.
  2. Avoid close proximity to movie theatres and college campuses because thieves assume you will be gone for a while and therefore will have time to work on your bike.
  3. Avoid locking to scaffolding. Crossbeams can easily be removed with a standard wrench.
  4. Avoid locking to private property such as MTA subway railing and brass poles of doorman buildings.
  5. Seek out areas that have a lot of foot traffic and are in close proximity to other bikes.

How to carry locks:

  1. We don’t recommend carrying chain locks on your person because they can be dangerous in the event of a collision. If you want to wear chains, carry them around your waist instead of slung over your head and shoulder like a messenger bag. Keep a spare key in a safe place. Otherwise carry locks in bags, affixed to the bike itself, on bike racks or in front baskets.
  2. U-locks can be carried in back pockets, under belts or in special hip holsters.

Basically, if you truly love your ride and could not bear the thought of losing it, take it inside as much as possible and try and frequent establishments that allow you to bring your bike with you.

Finally, another fairly recent crime prevention initiative that you can take advantage of is the first national bike registry where you can register your bikes serial number: www.BikeRegistryCanada.com and CAA has just launched their new Bike Assistance Program designed to help ensure that your bike can receive the basic support it needs to remain roadworthy.

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In the meantime, happy and safe cycling!

REACH Edmonton’s 4th Annual General Meeting

Our friends at REACH Edmonton have their Annual General Meeting and a Showcase Celebration scheduled for Thursday, June 5th, 2014, from 4:00 p.m. until 8:30 p.m.

Adam Kahane, an internationally acclaimed organizer, facilitator, and author, will be the keynote speaker for the event.

To learn more about the event and/or to register, check out their website here!

Crime Prevention Week

Alberta’s Crime Prevention Week is underway!

Here is an example of a crime prevention initiative put on this week by the John Howard Association in Calgary.

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The Calgary John Howard Society and Alberta Criminal Justice Association teamed up to raise awareness about restorative justice in Calgary on May 14th during Alberta’s Crime Prevention Week.

For this event the Hillhurst United Church in Kensington screened the movie “Fambol Tok”, which is a powerful portrayal about post-war reconciliation happening in Sierra Leone. Afterwards, they discussed how restorative justice principles can be applied to crimes in our own community.

If you know of other events put on in support of Crime Prevention Week, please let us know by emailing connect@albertacrimeprevention.com.

May Column – It Takes A Village: Crime Prevention

Welcome to our May column! 

May 12-18 is Crime Prevention Week in Canada and in this month’s column was prepared by Ruth Steele and Constable Carter Duchesney of the Calgary Police Service (CPS).  Aside from maintaining law and order in the city, their article showcases some of the crime prevention initiatives that CPS engages in to help prevent and reduce crime.  Although CPS has a very active crime prevention agenda, it is clear that their initiatives depend on working with its citizens and community partners to enhance public safety for all.

Thank you for reading this months’ column and should you have any comments please feel free to forward them to Lillian at: connect@albertacrimeprevention.com

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Crime Prevention can be described as any measure taken to reduce or prevent a crime from occurring.  As is the case with almost every police agency in Alberta, the Calgary Police Service (CPS) is as dedicated in trying to prevent future crime as it is in dealing with crime as it is happening.  At CPS, we work toward crime prevention by designing projects from a number of different prevention/intervention approaches to: 1) deal specifically with people at risk of being involved in crime, 2) by helping to affect change in the places crime often occurs and, 3) by trying to change situations that can often lead to crime.

The people oriented strategies we use involve crime prevention through social development—long-term, integrated approaches that deal with the root causes of crime.  Our aim is to reduce risk factors, particularly in children, who are on the path to crime by building protective factors that can mitigate those risks.  Some examples of crime prevention through social development programs currently utilized by the Calgary Police Service are the Multi Agency School Support Team (MASST), the Start Smart, Stay Safe Program (S4), and the Youth At Risk Development (YARD).  YARD utilizes teams of police officers, social workers, and in some cases mental health workers to identify children and youth at risk, and intervene in meaningful ways by working with the youth and the families in a holistic and coordinated manner.  MASST works with at risk youth by providing one-on-one mentorship in the hopes of promoting healthy lifestyle choices.  Meanwhile, S4 is an educational program designed by the CPS and the Calgary Board of Education to build a positive relationship between youth and police by using a positive skills development model.

Another crime prevention approach used by the CPS is place oriented crime prevention strategies which is known as Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED).  These strategies focus on the proper design and effective use of the built environment to reduce crime by utilizing three overlapping approaches: natural access control, natural surveillance, and territorial reinforcement.  When crime prevention through social development strategies are combined with CPTED and situational approaches, we have a more complete and well-rounded crime prevention package that can help make our communities safer and healthier.

The CPS is also involved in initiatives such as the Alberta Community Crime Prevention Association.  This brings various stakeholders together to share information and deliver public education about the importance of crime prevention.

So, you might ask yourself, what can I do to as an Albertan to help create a safer province when I am not a social worker in a position to intervene with at-risk youth or a CPTED specialist in a position to influence public policy?  Since the police simply cannot be everywhere all the time, keeping our communities safe requires a collaborative effort.  Communities across Alberta benefit greatly when people work together to prevent crime from occurring.  We are the eyes and ears of our neighbourhoods and as such we must always be vigilant and aware of what is happening around us.  We also need to learn how to be good witnesses.  Being a good witness is an active process that requires us to continually monitor our surroundings.  Doing this effectively might require us to challenge some of our assumptions or preconceived notions.  Being a good witness means being alert to possible suspicious persons, vehicles, or activity.  If you see something suspicious you should always try to make note of age, gender, ethnicity, build, height, weight, hair colour and length, facial hair, and clothing type and colour.  With vehicles, always make note of the year, make, model, colour, licence plate, number of occupants, body damage and any unique markers such as bumper stickers or decals.  Remember to observe, record, and report to the police whenever something doesn’t seem right.  It is also important to remember that partial observations can be very helpful in establishing time and location, especially when corroborated with other witness observations.

Even though we often think of the police as being responsible for crime prevention it should be a concern for everyone.  We all share in the collective responsibility of keeping our cities safe.  The more informed we are the more engaged we tend to be; the more engaged we are, the more invested we are in building and sustaining safe and vibrant communities.

Newsletters to check out!

Our friends at the Alberta Citizens On Patrol Association (ACOPA), the Association of Alberta Sexual Assault Services (AASAS), and the Action Coalition on Human Trafficking (ACT Alberta) have published new newsletters. Check them out!

ACOPA’s May newsletter. Click here to read it.

AASAS’s May newsletter. Click here to read it.

ACT Alberta’s newsletter. We have posted it for your convenience on the “Action Coalition on Human Trafficking” page on our site.