By Danielle Dodder
“Perception is reality. If people don’t feel safe, then to them, it’s not safe.” Paul Keys is the Marco Island Police Department’s certified crime prevention officer. The department offers security surveys for your home or business, a service not loudly publicized but still in high demand, as Keys is working his way through a backlog.
Keys will arrive at a home or business with camera in hand and walk the property owner through everything that catches his eye and photograph what he finds. The resulting report has visual notes for the property owner to reference. All reports are confidential and not accessible via a public records request. “I listen to why individuals feel they have an issue and I try to address the concerns that arise.” His goal is twofold: make the property owners feel safe and then show them the ways they can create an uncomfortable environment for a potential intruder.
A security survey is a rather involved process and the stakes of the results can be high when insurance claims or liability issues are brought into play. CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design), is rapidly becoming part of standard building design throughout the construction industry. The city of Tampa, for example, requires CPTED standards be met before building permits are issued.
Keys is certified in both CPTED and as a Florida Crime Prevention Practitioner. He’s been covering crime prevention issues for the department for the past seven years.
“There’s a landmark lawsuit underway that everyone [in the industry] is watching. A young woman was attacked on a property and the architect is now being sued over the building’s design.” explains Keys. A survey can show a property’s weakness, but also a measure of due diligence if corrections are made.
Many of the solutions Keys offers are simple and cost effective. “The goal is to take away the opportunity for a crime to occur.” A few of the suggestions any homeowner can follow:
• Trim your shrubs to two feet to eliminate hiding spots and don’t let tree foliage hang below six feet.
• Test your outside lights and make sure none are obstructed by plants or objects.
• Bougainvillea makes for great landscaping around windows as long as it’s well trimmed. Its prickles make it a deterrent.
• Light bulbs that emit pure, white light are best for outside lighting.
• Lock your doors and keep your garage door closed.
“Nobody has proper house numbers. As emergency responders, we can find your house faster if we can see it.” Keys recommends numbers that are large and contrast to a home’s paint color. Florida is famous for doors that open outwards. This makes the structure sounder in storms but more vulnerable to home invasion as the hinges are on the outside. Keys recommends a quick fix: put a screw in the door and a corresponding hole in the frame, creating a pin that keeps the door in place.
In the final analysis, being proactive is the best path to preventing a threat to your property, says Keys. “If you see something in your neighborhood that doesn’t seem right, please call us. We [the police] would rather come out and find that it’s nothing than have a crime occur.”