The following are general Crime prevention and safety tips for your review. The Helena Police department encourages residents to protect themselves from injury and their property from theft or damage due to crime or unsafe practices.
After receiving questions from some of our citizen joggers about personal safety while jogging or walking in our city parks and trails, I decided to post a few safety tips:
- Run with a running partner or group.
Remember that there is usually safety in numbers.
- Do not run with earphones.
Although it is enjoyable to exercise to some great tunes, your situational awareness will not be as sharp. It will become harder to hear a potential attacker approach you from behind. You may have a slower reaction time in order to escape.
- Alter your route.
Altering you route makes it more difficult to track your movements on a day by day basis and thus more difficult for stalkers to learn your patterns. Different scenery will keep you more alert and focused on your surroundings.
- Run with your dog.
Large dogs make a great deterrent to a potential attacker.
- Let someone know.
Let someone know when you go for a run and the route that you are taking. Some smartphone apps provide route planning, GPS, or alert notification features to allow friends or family to track your movements during your run.
We are very proud of our low crime rate and level of security that our citizens enjoy within our public parks and trails. Safety, however, is never 100% and we must be ever diligent of danger.
The quickly approaching warmer weather usually means fun at the park. To ensure that we have a safe and secure time, let us review some general safety tips. Stay Safe!
- Lock your vehicle doors and don not leave anything of value visible inside. Remove valuables that you don not immediately need before visiting the park, preferably.
- Listen to your intuition - if something does not seem right, report it to the police.
- Situational Awareness - Be aware of your surroundings. Distractions such as cellphones and earphones limit your ability to hear and see what is around you, including potential threats.
- Stay in the open areas of the park whenever possible and stay visible to other park visitors. Wandering alone in isolated areas makes you a prime target for predators.
- Keep children under close watch and near you at all times.
Maybe you have gotten one. you answer the phone and hear a recorded message instead of a live person. Internet powered phone systems have made it cheap and easy for scammers to make illegal sales robocalls from anywhere in the world. Fortunately, you have some options to block robocalls and other unwanted calls. Some are free and others cost money.
- Check with your carrier about call blocking services. Many carriers now offer services that block unwanted calls for wireless phones and for some types of home phones, too.
- Try a call blocking app. These apps use blacklists to weed out or flag unwanted calls and give you options about how to handle the calls ringing through with a warning, going straight to voicemail, or blocking the call altogether. Many apps also let you flag additional numbers that should have been blocked, which helps improve the app. Some apps even use complaints to the FTC as a source of information.
- Use features built into your mobile phone. These features can let consumers block specific contacts, identify unwanted incoming calls for future blocking, and set do not disturb hours.
- Consider a call blocking device for your home phone. Devices can be installed directly on a home phone.
If you get a robocall, hang up the phone. Don not press 1 to speak to a live operator and don not press any other number to get your number off the list. If you respond by pressing any number, it could lead to more robocalls.
With the cold weather approaching, take this time to prepare your vehicle for the freezing temperatures. Here are is an essential checklist:
- Add Antifreeze - Antifreeze will protect your engine from freezing temperatures.
- Check Your Tire Pressure - As temperatures drop, so will your tire pressure. Check the pressure to maintain the proper psi.
- Change the Oil - Your motor oil can thicken in cold temperatures and cause starting problems. Changing the oil will keep it flowing easily.
- Wash and Wax - Wash your vehicle and apply a fresh coat of wax will protect it from ice, salt and slush.
- Replace Wipers - Properly fitted wiper blades will help to keep your windshield clear.
- Have Winter Survival Kit - Include times such as: flashlight, gloves, ice scraper, sand & salt, shovel, warm clothing, blankets, jumper cables, and first aid kit.
Identity Theft is a growing and costly problem. Victims can not only suffer financial loss, but often spend years of frustration trying to clean up the damage to their credit. For this Tuesday tip, I decided to provide some general guidelines to help you prevent becoming a victim.
- Never give your Social Security number or other personal information to anyone who contacts you by phone, text, or E-mail even if it seems legitimate. Do not click links in Emails unless you are sure of the source. Some Email phishing scams will try to convince you that there is a problem with your account. The Email will provide a link directing you to a fraudulent website that asks for your account number and personal information. Always contact your financial institution directly if you think there is a problem.
- Keep your computers anti-virus software up to date. Identity thieves will attempt to install malware on your computer to steal personal information.
- Remove Social Security cards from your wallet or purse and never leave your wallet or purse unattended.
- Store bank account statements, medical records, and tax records in a secure place at home. Shred documents that you no longer need.
- Do not share personal information on social media websites like Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, or Twitter. Personal information like your Date of birth, favorite pets name or mothers maiden name is often used to validate identity and could allow an imposter to access your accounts.
- Utilize free mobile or online alerts from your bank or credit card issuer if offered.
But before you start Cyber Monday, consider these safety tips and keep your personal information safe.
- Update your anti-virus software.
Make sure your anti-virus, adware, spyware and firewall are up-to-date. This will be your first line of defense against cyber thieves.
- Use secure websites.
Look for the https:// - URL which stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol with Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). SSL is a secure encryption Web protocol used to make data safe when transmitted over the Internet. Also look for a lock or similar icon to indicate you are on a safe site.
- Do not use a public WiFi to make purchases.
It is easy for cyber thieves to steal your information over a public WiFi network. Shop online, using a secure wireless network. Set your wireless router to WPA2 or WPA/WPA2 security mode.
- Create a strong password.
Choose a password by combining different numbers, letters and symbols. Remember, the longer the password the better. Be sure to log off of a web site after completing an online transaction.
- Don't use debit cards online.
You have got far less protection against fraud on a debit card than you do with a credit card. Stick to credit cards when shopping online. If you absolutely must use a debit card, use the prepaid kind with a set spending limit. Use a single credit card. It is easier to cancel one card rather than several if your card is compromised by online purchases.
- Shop with companies you know and trust.
Shop online at with well known and reputable retailers. Avoid unfamiliar sites offering big steals, huge savings and super bargains.
- Search for deals on websites, not search engines.
Don not search for deals on Google. Get to that site s website and look for it there instead so you don not fall victim to an adware attack and have your information compromised in the process.
It is always a good idea to keep safety in mind during the holiday season. Here are a few tips for the home:
- Always lock your doors and windows, even if you plan to be out for a short amount of time.
- Leave lights turned on both inside and outside your residence after dark. Criminals do not like bright places.
- If you plan on being away from home for several days, make arrangements to have someone pick up your mail and newspapers. An overstuffed mailbox is sure sign that no one is home and burglars are tempted to check those envelopes for holiday gifts. The use of automatic lights inside the home will give an appearance that someone is present.
- Large displays of holiday gifts should not be visible through the windows and doors of your home.
- When setting up a Christmas tree or other holiday display, make sure doorways and passageways are clear inside your home.
- Be sure your Christmas tree is mounted on a sturdy base so children, elderly persons or family pets cannot pull it over on themselves.
- If you use lights on your Christmas tree ensure the wiring is not damaged or frayed. Frayed or damaged wiring may cause a fire.
- If you are purchasing toys for small children, be sure that they are safe. You will be surprised what a small child can swallow or what can injure them.
Halloween is a week away. It is time for ghosts, goblins, ghouls, princesses, and super heroes in search of goodies to invade our neighborhoods once again. For Tuesdays tip, let us revisit some good Halloween safety to ensure that this night of Trick Or Treating is a scare rific success.
- Drive slowly, anticipate heavy pedestrian traffic and turn your headlights on earlier in the day to spot children from greater distances.
- Please make sure that your children go in groups if they are going without an adult. There is always safety in numbers.
- Carry a flashlight or glow sticks with you and apply reflective tape to your childs costume to ensure they are seen by drivers on the road.
- Make sure that you check your childs candy prior to them eating it. Discard any unwrapped or opened candy.
- Turn your porch light on for the children who are trick or treating. A front porch light indicates that your house is ready to receive trick or treaters.
- Try to start winding the trick or treating down by 8:00PM so the younger goblins, ghosts, and ghouls can get a good nights sleep.
December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month. Follow these tips to avoid impaired driving and have a safe holiday season.
- Have a designated driver and encourage others to do the same.
- Don not drive impaired. Get a ride home, call a taxi or use an alternative transportation service.
- Take the keys. Don not let someone else drink and drive.
- If you are hosting a party, offer plenty of food to your guests and have non alcoholic beverages for those who are driving.
Home And Property
There is nothing more frustrating than to find package stolen or lost from your front door or porch. Not to mention the tedious and lengthy process of reporting the theft and trying to replace your missing packages. IF this has happened to you, then you have joined the 23 million Americans who have had their packages stolen. However, here are some handy tips to help becoming a victim of package theft.
- Ask for a tracking number.
Track your packages and try to be home at the time of delivery. When you are placing an order, try to schedule shipment for a day you expect to be home, if possible.
- Require a signature on delivery.
This will ensure the package will not be left at your door without you there to sign and bring it safely inside.
- Provide delivery instructions.
Leave a note specifying what less conspicuous spot you would like it left. Some delivery services offer delivery management services that let you leave delivery instructions on where you want your packages to be dropped off.
- Have your packages delivered somewhere else.
If you know you will not be home when your package will be delivered, have it delivered to a neighbor who is home or to your workplace, if allowed.
- Use Online Pick Up Services or Smart Package Lockers.
Some retailers will let you place online orders and then pick up your items in the store. You can also look into the Amazon Locker service, which delivers Amazon orders to a locker in your area.
- Mail Holding Service.
Mail Holding Service securely holds letters and packages at your local post office until you are back in town. Many delivery companies such as USPS and FedEx offer a free service to uphold your package at their terminals or delivery centers for a period of time.
- Insure Your Upcoming Packages.
Insuring your packages will guarantee you reimbursement if unfortunately your delivery was stolen or lost before you lay your hand on it.
- Install a Smart Security Camera at Your Front Door.
Having a smart video surveillance camera pointing at the front door, hallway or driveway. A security camera will serve as a deterrent for criminals and provide evidence to aid in the arrest and prosecution of thieves.
Rules of the Road
Whenever any person driving a vehicle approaches a railroad grade crossing they should stop at the clearly marked stop line or within 15ft to 50ft of the nearest rail. Once stopped, follow the doctrine of stop, look, and listen. Look both directions for any approaching train and for signals indicating the approach of a train. Only proceed across when it is safe to do so. A driver must remain stopped under the following circumstances.
- The crossing is regulated by an active traffic control signal or alternately flashing light signal intended to give warning of the approaching train.
- The Crossing gate or is closed or is in the process of being opened or closed.
- The audible signal or whistle of the approaching train can be heard.
- The approaching train is plainly visible.
Exception: When directed to cross by Police or a Rail Road Flag Man.
In 2016 there were over 2,000 vehicle and train collisions in the United States with about half resulting in injury and fatality. Federal Railroad Administration preliminary stats. LET US STAY SAFE HELENA!
Tuesdays tip is a reminder about Alabama traffic code concerning pedestrian crosswalks. Code of Alabama 1975 Section 32-5A-211.
- A vehicle shall yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if need be, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk.
- No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.
- Whenever any vehicle is stopped at a marked crosswalk or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass such stopped vehicle.
Alabama Graduated Drivers License(GDL) Law which includes three stages: Learners Permit, Restricted License, and Unrestricted License. An Alabama driver with a Restricted License (16-year-old drivers, as well as 17-year-old drivers licensed less than six months) may not:
- Have more than one non-family passenger other than the parent, guardian, or supervising licensed driver at least 21 years of age.
- Operate a vehicle between 12:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., unless:
- Accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
- Accompanied by a licensed adult 21 years of age or older with parental consent.
- Going to or from their regular place of work.
- Going to or from a school-sponsored event.
- Going to or from a religious-sponsored event.
- Driving due to a medical, fire, or law enforcement emergency.
- Driving to or from hunting/fishing activities in possession of required licenses.
- Drive while operating any non-essential handheld communication device.
Violations will result in an extension of the graduated license period and/or suspension of the license.
When can you pass to the right of a vehicle that is waiting to make a left hand turn?
You can only pass a vehicle on the right when there is unobstructed pavement of sufficient width for two or more lines of vehicles moving lawfully in the direction being traveled by the overtaking vehicle.
You can pass only when it is safe to do so and not by running off of the roadway.
Code of Alabama 32-5A-83
School Safety Information
The Helena Police Department would like to remind motorists traveling in school zones during the hours of morning and afternoon school traffic to be aware of posted speed limits. We also ask that you use caution and pay close attention to pedestrians.
With the school year in full swing, it is a good idea for this Tuesdays tip to remind everyone that it is the Law to stop for school buses while they are loading and unloading passengers. AL Title 32, Sec. 32 5A 154.
When school buses are loading and unloading passengers:
- All traffic from both directions must stop on two-lane roadways, four-lane roadways without a median separation, four-lane roadways with a center turning lane, and two-lane roadways with a center turn lane.
- On divided highways of four lanes or more with a median separation, only traffic following the school bus must stop.
Failure to stop for loading and unloading school buses will result in hefty fines and penalties. We all want our children to have the security of arriving safe to school and safe back home every day.