Theft Prevention Tips
A secure environment is made possible through community involvement in crime prevention. The purpose of community crime prevention is simple: to help you recognize your own vulnerability to crime, and reduce your risk through preventive action and cooperation with law enforcement.
Theft is the most common crime on the College of the Sequoias campus. Most thefts occur during the daylight hours, and in 80% of reported thefts and burglaries, thieves enter the structure without forced entry. In your class and office, exchange information about your schedules and watch your neighbors' stuff. Report suspicious activities to one another and to Public Safety.
Wallet, purse, and backpack theft make up a large percentage of personal property theft. You can reduce the opportunity for theft by taking a few simple precautions:
- Do not leave your wallet/purse in unlocked desks, cabinets, or in the open
- In an office lock up your desk when you leave
- Lock your door when you leave, even if you are gone for a short time
- Create an office or building watch program within your building; watch each others stuff.
Although no office or home is completely safe from theft, you can make it more difficult for a thief to steal your equipment or property, and improve the chances of recovering stolen property, by following the suggestions below:
- Keep an updated inventory of all office, lab, and home equipment
- Have all equipment locked down with an approved lock-down device
- Identify all College equipment by engraving on the top or front side
- Identify your personal property by engraving your California Driver's License, do not use your social security number. If you live out of state, you can use that number followed by the abbreviation for the state of issue.
- Park in well-lit, heavily populated areas. Trust your instincts, if something doesn't feel right, find another place to park.
- Avoid parking next to occupied vehicles.
- Be aware of your surroundings.
- Take note of emergency/pay phones near where you have parked in case you need to use them.
- Do not leave valuable items visible in your car.
- Always roll up all windows and lock all doors before leaving your vehicle.
Before Entering Your Vehicle
- Walk with others to your vehicle whenever possible.
- If someone looks suspicious, leave the area immediately, do not try to go to your vehicle. Contact College Police
- Carry vehicle key on separate ring from house keys
- Have your keys in hand when you approach your vehicle.
- Look around and underneath your vehicle before approaching.
- Check the back seat of your vehicle before entering.
- Upon entering your vehicle immediately lock all doors.
- Make a copy of your registration and keep it on your person. Then remove all forms of identification from your vehicle. Anyone with permission to drive your vehicle should also have a copy on their person to furnish to police if necessary.
- If you are involved in a minor collision in an isolated area, you may want to drive to a well lit and populated area before stopping to assess your damage.
- Never pick up hitchhikers or troubled motorists. If you want to help a troubled motorist, drive to the nearest phone and call police.
- While driving, if you notice that you are being followed, do not go home. Drive to the nearest police station, open store, or service station for help. If you are fearful of exiting your vehicle, blow your horn to draw attention to yourself.
- Report all attempted vehicle thefts to the Public Safety (if on campus) 730-3999 or your local police department. This information will assist police in catching the suspects before they make another attempt.
If You Are Approached For Your Vehicle (Carjacking)
While this is a highly personal decision, we strongly recommend that you give up your keys immediately, and without protest. Avoid getting into the vehicle with the suspects if at all possible. If you do have to surrender your vehicle note the following:
- The race, sex, approximate height, and clothing of the suspect(s.)
- The direction that the suspects went.
- If they had weapons, and if so, what type.
- Report this information immediately by calling 911.
Before purchasing your canister of Mace or Pepper Spray (hereafter referred to as tear gas), you should be aware of the laws concerning its use as well as other issues related to the physical effects of tear gas on human beings.
Physical Effects - Mace
Mace has six physiological effects that may be experienced:
- Central Nervous System: headache, dizziness, and extreme general discomfort.
- Chest: tight feeling in upper respiratory system, coughing.
- Eyes: tearing and burning.
- Mouth: accelerated secretion of saliva.
- Nose: discharge, burning, irritation.
- Skin: burning and stinging feeling on surface nerve endings on the face.
Physical Effects - Pepper Spray
Pepper Spray has four physiological effects that may be experienced:
- Eyes: tearing, involuntary closing or complete closing due to dilation of the eye capillaries. Eyes will appear red/bloodshot for 30 to 60 minutes. People wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses will be equally affected.
- Respiratory System: immediate inflammation, including swelling of the throat lining which can restrict the airway size. Respiratory functions return to normal within 10 to 45 minutes.
- The airway will be open enough to allow for sufficient oxygen flow for survival.
- Due to the reduced airway flow, the person will probably not receive enough oxygen to continue fighting or other sustained physical exertion.
- Temporary paralysis of the larynx.
- Uncontrollable coughing, retching, and gasping for air with a gagging sensation in the throat.
- Effect on the skin: inflammation of the exposed skin with a burning sensation.
- Effects on muscle coordination: Pepper Spray exposure may cause a person to lose balance due to the effect of Pepper Spray on vision.
Because Pepper Spray causes a number of physiological effects on a person-even those with elevated pain tolerance due to prior use of alcohol and/or other drugs-it is different than Mace, which relies mainly on pain compliance. Individuals, such as the mentally disturbed or those under the influence of intoxicants, who have a high tolerance to pain, are still subject to the inflammatory effects of Pepper Spray. It is important to understand that teargas does not paralyze. Your attacker may still be able to walk, run, or try to grab you.
What to Do IMMEDIATELY After Using Your Spray
- Get out of the area! Run in the opposite direction of your attacker if possible.
- When you are safe, tell your local law enforcement agency about the attack.
This is very important because it may help police apprehend the attacker, and prevent attacks on others.
The following persons may not purchase/carry/use tear gas products:
- Persons convicted of a felony or any crime involving an assault under the laws of the United States , of the State of California , or any other state, government, or country. Any person convicted of misuse of tear gas.
- Persons addicted to any narcotic drug.
- Persons under the age of 18 (persons 16 or older may carry tear gas with the written consent of their parent or guardian).
Misuse of Tear Gas
Use of tear gas or a tear gas weapon, EXCEPT in self-defense, can be a felony. ( California Penal Code Section 12403.7 (a) (8)) The local District Attorney has the discretion to file misdemeanor or felony charges. Use of tear gas against a peace officer engaged in official duties is a felony.
The following are possible sanctions for misuse:
- Up to three years in state prison; or
- Up to one year in county jail; or
- Fine up to $1, 000; or
- Both fine and imprisonment.
Carrying Tear Gas Aboard An Airplane
Tear gas may not be carried on a plane, even for self-defense purposes. In addition to commercial aircraft, this applies to:
- Privately owned and operated aircraft
- To persons who attempt to ship tear gas in luggage
- To the area from the security gate to the air craft gate.
Carrying Tear Gas aboard an airplane is a federal offense. The following are possible sanctions for this violation:
- A civil penalty of up to $10,000
- An additional criminal fine of up to $25,000
In addition to the civil penalty and criminal fine, you could also be sent to federal prison for up to five years.
First Aid and Decontamination Procedures
If you are accidentally sprayed, or if someone else is sprayed accidentally, the following are some first aid procedures that may help:
- Avoid panic.
- Do not rub the face. This will aggravate the pain already being experienced.
- The best immediate treatment is to expose the person to fresh air, a breeze if possible. A fan can also be used.
- Flush the affected area with cool water either from the tap or a garden hose.
- Clean the affected area with non-oil or cold cream based soap. Do not use salves or greases on exposed area because it will trap tear gas particles or OC resin onto the skin.
- If eyes are exposed, flush copiously with cool, fresh water for 15 minutes.
- If you wear contact lenses, remove them carefully once hands are thoroughly clean.
- An ophthalmic examination should be performed by a physician if irritation or pain persists after 15 minutes of flushing with water.
- Clothing which is contaminated with tear gas should be removed immediately and, if indoors, placed in a sealed plastic bag or container
- Persons assisting the subject should wear rubber gloves to avoid residual contamination.
If any irritation or pain persists after decontamination procedures, a physician should examine the exposed area.
The crime of identity theft is on the rise. By using a variety of methods, criminals steal credit card numbers, driver's license numbers, Social Security numbers, ATM cards, telephone calling cards and other key pieces of individuals' identities. They use this information to impersonate their victims, spending as much money as they can in as short a time as possible before moving on to someone else's name and account information. Take these preventive steps to minimize your losses in case of identity theft:
Reduce Access To Your Personal Data
To minimize the amount of information a thief can steal, do not carry extra credit cards, your Social Security card, birth certificate or passport in your wallet or purse, except when needed.
Reduce The Amount Of Personal Information That Is "Out There."
Consider the following: remove your name from the marketing lists of the three credit reporting bureaus-Equifax, Experian (formerly TRW) and Trans Union. This will limit the number of pre-approved credit offers that you receive. Sign up for the Direct Marketing Association's ( www.the-dma.org ) Mail Preference Service and the Telephone Preference Service. Have your name and address removed from the phone book and reverse directories.
When You Order New Checks, Do Not Have Them Sent To Your Home's Mailbox
Pick them up at the bank instead. When you pay bills, do not leave the envelopes containing your checks at your mailbox for the postal carrier to pick up. It is best to mail bills and other sensitive items at the post office rather than neighborhood drop boxes.
Passwords and PINS
When creating passwords and PINs (personal identification numbers), do not use the last four digits of your Social Security number, your birthdate, middle name, pet's name, consecutive numbers or anything else that could easily be discovered by thieves. Ask your financial institutions to add extra security protection to your account. Most will allow you to use an additional code (a number or word) when accessing your account. Do not use your mother's maiden name, as that is all too easily obtained by identity thieves. Memorize all your passwords. Don't record them on anything in your wallet or purse.
Social Security Number
Protect your Social Security number (SSN). Release it only when absolutely necessary (like tax forms, employment records, most banking, stock and property transactions). The SSN is the key to your credit and banking accounts and is the prime target of criminals. If a business requests your SSN, ask if it has an alternative number that can be used instead. If the SSN is requested by a government agency, look for the Privacy Act notice. This will tell you if your SSN is required, what will be done with it, and what happens if you refuse to provide it. Do not have your SSN printed on your checks. Order your Social Security Statement once a year to check for fraud.
Responsible Information Handling
Carefully review your credit card statements and phone bills, including cellular phone bills, for unauthorized use. Do not toss pre-approved credit offers in your trash or recycling bin without first tearing them into small pieces or shredding them. Do the same with other sensitive information like credit card receipts, phone bills and so on. Discourage your bank from using the last four digits of the SSN as the PIN number they assign to customers. When you fill out loan or credit applications, find out how the company disposes of them. Store your canceled checks in a safe place. Never permit your credit card number to be written onto your checks. It's a violation of California law (California Civil Code 1725) and puts you at risk for fraud.
If You Become A Victim of Identity Theft
If you lose your wallet, or believe that your identity has been otherwise compromised, follow these steps.
Report The Crime To The Police Immediately
Give them as much documented evidence as possible. Get a copy of your police report. Credit card companies, your bank, and the insurance company may require you to show the report in order to verify the crime. Immediately call all your credit card issuers. Get replacement cards with new account numbers.
Call The Fraud Units Of The Three Credit Reporting Companies
Report the theft of your credit cards or numbers (see below for contact information). Ask that your accounts be flagged. Also, add a victim's statement to your report. Be sure to ask how long the fraud alert is posted on your account, and how you can extend it if necessary. Notify your bank(s) of the theft. Cancel your checking and savings accounts and obtain new account numbers.
Ask The Bank
To issue you a secret password that must be used in every transaction. Put stop payments on any outstanding checks that you are unsure of.
If you use an ATM card for banking services, get a new card, account number and password. Do not use your old password. When creating a password, avoid such commonly used numbers as the last four digits of your Social Security number and your birthdate.
If you have had checks stolen or bank accounts set up fraudulently, report it to TeleCheck, National Processing Company (NPC) or Equifax.
Your telephone, electrical, gas and water utilities. Alert them to the possibility that someone may attempt to open new service using your identification. Also contact your long distance company. You may need to cancel your long distance calling card.
You may want to change your driver's license number if someone has been using yours as identification on bad checks. When requesting a new number from the Department of Motor Vehicles, you might be asked to prove that you have been financially damaged by the theft of your driver's license.
The nearest office of the Consumer Credit Counseling Service might be able to give you advice on removing fraudulent claims from your credit report. Call (800) 388-2227.
Monitor your credit reports regularly even after your file appears to be clean. Sometimes thieves go dormant for a while, then reappear in dealing with the authorities and financial institutions, keep a log of all conversations, including dates and names. Send correspondence by certified mail. Keep copies of all letters and documents. Provide your police report number to expedite reporting the crime. Consider seeking legal counsel, especially if you have difficulty clearing up your credit history or your case is complex and involves a lot of money.
Credit reporting bureaus
Equifax (800) 525-6285
Experian (888) 397-3742
Trans Union (800) 680-7289
Remember that you are entitled to a free credit report if you are a victim of identity theft, if you have been denied credit in the past 60 days, if you receive welfare benefits, or if you are unemployed.
Social Security Administration
If your SSN has been used fraudulently for employment purposes, report the problem to the Social Security Administration at (800) 269-0271. You may order your Earnings and Benefits Statement by calling (800) 772-1213. Unfortunately, the SSA has no procedures in place to deal with non-employment types of SSN fraud, such as credit application fraud. For extreme cases of identity theft, they may be willing to change your SSN.
General Crime Prevention Tips
Protecting Yourself at Home
- Lock your door, even when you intend to return home shortly or even if you are just going down the hall. It takes a thief ten seconds or less to enter an open room and steal your property.
- Lock or secure doors and windows when you are alone or asleep.
- Keep emergency numbers by your phone.
- Do not leave messages on your door indicating that you are away and when you will return.
- Do not let strangers enter your home.
- Do not prop open outer doors.
- If someone asks to use your phone for an emergency call, offer to telephone for them instead of allowing them access.
- Do not put your address on your key ring.
- Know your neighbors.
- Do not leave keys in hiding places. Thieves will find them. Carry your keys or make sure that anyone who truly needs them has their own copy.
- Call 911 to report suspicious persons or activity in or around your neighborhood.
- Open a savings or checking account instead of keeping money in your room.
- Keep automatic teller machine cards in a safe place, keep your PIN number secret. When possible, only use ATMs during the day.
- Instead of carrying large sums of cash use a charge card. Some charge cards insure property purchased with those cards against loss, theft or damage.
- If you find yourself in immediate danger, call 911; try to stay calm and get away at the first opportunity.
Protect Yourself When Walking
- Avoid walking alone at night unless absolutely necessary.
- Keep to well lit commonly traveled routes.
- Avoid shortcuts and dark, isolated areas.
- Walk purposefully, know where you are going, and project a no-nonsense image.
- Avoid potentially dangerous situations.
- If you feel threatened, cross the street, locate an emergency phone, or enter a store or place of business even if you have just left it.
- Have your door keys ready; carry them in your pockets, not buried in a purse.
Protect Your Automobile, Bicycle or Moped
- Always lock your car. (one in five stolen cars was left with keys in the ignition.)
- Lock bikes to immovable objects or bike racks with hardened alloy locks and chains or U-shaped lock
- Do not leave tempting valuables or property visible inside the car. Lock these items in the trunk.
- Lock mopeds as you would bikes.
Protecting Yourself When Driving
- Look into your car before getting in. Lock doors and roll up windows once inside for protection.
- Never pick up hitchhikers.
- Carry change for emergency calls. 911 is a free call.
- Drive to a police or fire station or open place of business if you feel you are being followed.
- Do not stop to help occupants of stopped or disabled vehicles.
- Continue driving to the nearest phone and call assistance for them.
- Raise the hood, and then lock yourself into your car if it breaks down. If someone stops and offers you help, remain in your car and ask them to phone for help. Do not worry about seeming rude.
Protect Yourself At Night
- Travel with a friend or in a group
- Be alert and aware of your surroundings
- Avoid dark, vacant or deserted areas; use well-lit, well-traveled routes.
- Dress in clothes and shoes which will not hamper movement
If You Sense You Are In Trouble:
- Move away from the potential threat if possible.
- Join any group of people nearby; cross the street and increase your pace.
- If a threatening situation is imminent, and people are close by to help, yell, scream or make a commotion in any way you can to get their attention.
- Go to an open business.
- Call 911 from a safe location
To increase your level of safety at automatic teller machines, follow these basic guidelines:
- Try to use the ATM during daylight hours. If you have to get cash at night, go with someone else and only use machines that are visible from a major street and well lit.
- Look for suspicious people or activity.
- If you notice anything out of the ordinary, even if you have started a transaction, cancel your transaction and leave.
- When entering your secret code, use your body as a shield.
- Always take your transaction receipts and statements.
- Do not count or display money at the ATM.
- Do not accept offers of help from anyone you don't know. If you have problems or questions contact your bank.
- When you use a drive-up ATM make sure your passenger windows are closed and all doors are locked.
- Do not give your secret code to anyone, including anyone posing as a police investigator or bank official.
If you see a suspicious person in your building, ask if you can help them. If the person has legitimate business in the building, he or she will appreciate your assistance. If not, ask the person to leave the building, but only if you feel comfortable doing so. If the person refuses to leave, call Public Safety. Be prepared to describe the person when you call. The following are examples of behaviors that could be considered suspicious:
- A person or persons you, or the other residents/employees, do not recognize going from room to room or office to office.
- A person or persons standing in a hallway for a long period of time.
- A person or persons waiting outside of the building near the time that the building will be closing.
Personal Information Security
Your personal information can be used by criminals to gain services, create fraudulent credit accounts, and to obtain false identification. The following are items that you should never give out to strangers:
- Your credit card number or expiration date, unless you know the company is reputable.
- Your checking account number or ATM personal identification number.
- Your telephone calling card number.
- Your social security number. Only give this out if it is legally required.
- Your Driver's License number.
- Health information, such as your insurance, medical and mental history, and doctor.
- Information about your home security system, such as whether you have one or not, or your code.
- Information about those who live with you and whether you live alone.
- Your age or age category.
- Financial information, such as your annual income, mortgage, or financial institution.
In addition, you should keep track of whenever you do provide this information and to whom it was given.