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James Neuenfeldt Viewpoint: Make this summer a safe one

Hopefully, the summer season is finally here. This means you can open your windows, let some fresh air in, do some yard work, enjoy walks, bike riding, and enjoy many other outdoor activities.

The kids are out of school which means more outside activities and more free time for them too. However, from a criminal's viewpoint summer can be an open door of opportunities.

With just a little attention paid to a few things around the home and while traveling, hopefully we can all have a crime-free summer. The following safety tips can help us achieve that.

At home:

n If you are out doing yard work and no one is in the house, lock the door to the opposite side of the house from where you are working. If you are in the back yard, lock the front door and vice versa. It only takes seconds for someone to enter your home and remove valuables.

n Do not leave keys in hiding places. Thieves will find them.

n Screens do not keep intruders out. At night and when you are away, close and lock the windows on the first floor.

n At night, close and lock your garage and shed doors. It only takes seconds for someone to enter and remove items.

n Have a well-lit yard. Light up the areas an intruder might hide.

n If applicable, have an alarm system installed.

n Chain bicycles to stationary objects when unattended. Many bikes are taken from yards and garages each year.

The car:

n Park your vehicle in a well-lit area.

n Keep valuables out of plain sight. Remove credit cards, cell phones, computers, cameras, purses, etc. If you cannot replace an item, do not leave it anywhere in your vehicle.

n Don't leave spare keys in or on the vehicle. A good thief will know the hiding places. Keep a spare key in your wallet or purse.

Suspicious people:

n Insist on seeing identification from sales and service people.

n Avoid confrontations with criminals. It is better to get their physical description, vehicle description and/or license plate number and contact the police.

n If you see something or someone suspicious, call the police while it's happening. Try to obtain and give police as much information as possible.

Tips for parents:

n Know where your children are.

n Know their friends and keep a list of their phone numbers. Ask your child what they are going to do and if they will be supervised. If unsure, call the friends parents. Be careful with sleepovers. Many kids have told their parents they will be sleeping over at "Johnny's" and the truth is, nobody is at "Johnny's," including "Johnny."

n Discuss and set limits with your children as to where they can go, who they can be with and their curfew. Check with your local police for curfew times.

n Choose a safe house in your neighborhood. Pick a neighbor or safe place where your children can go if they need help and discuss this with your child.

It's important to remember that no community is immune from crime. However, you can reduce your chances of becoming a victim of a crime if you follow these safety rules. Report suspicious people and activity as it is happening. Become involved in the Neighborhood Watch program. We're lucky in Cottage Grove to have a Neighborhood Watch program. If you are interested in learning more about it, contact Community Affairs Officer Gail Griffith at or 651-458-6040.

By following these few tips we can all have a safe enjoyable summer.

Neuenfeldt is president of the Cottage Grove Crime Prevention Board.