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News Community Citizens Academy concludes this week

The Macon County Sheriff’s Department hosts numerous community outreach programs with the goal of crime prevention. One of the programs they do each year is Shop with a Cop. Law enforcement officers from all over Western North Carolina come to Macon County to take children in the community shopping.Crime prevention was focus of final class in the series.

The final session of the 10-week Citizens Academy course wrapped up with Detective Tony Corbin explaining what an important role the community plays in crime prevention.

The main purpose of crime prevention is for law enforcement to work with the community and community leaders to share information in order to create safer and more secure communities.

Corbin explained that the Macon County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) employs various punitive crime prevention techniques through criminal laws, law enforcement officers, courts, jails and prisons and the community crime stoppers program. The corrective crime prevention roles of the MCSO are through education, counseling, mentoring, programs such as DARE and community involvement. “Building a trusting relationship with the community is the key to encouraging crime prevention,” said Corbin.

Protective crime prevention techniques are identified through the neighborhood watch program, community policing, public education, homeland security and local patrol deputies. Corbin explained that the crime prevention triangle operates under the assumption that there are three factors that criminals consider before committing a crime: desire, ability, opportunity. “Based on those three things, it is our job to develop strategies and programs that prevent those three things from occurring,” said Corbin.

For community crime prevention to be successful, Corbin explained that there are five steps to follow. “First you must have a central law enforcement organization,” he said. “Second, a healthy working relationship with the communities you serve. Third, education from law enforcement and vise versa from the community. Fourth, law enforcement must tailor services around community needs to be successful and last, these services must be tested and evaluated in some form and measure.”

When a community works in collaboration with the sheriff's department to take a proactive approach to crime prevention, the final outcome is that everyone can experience an improved quality of life in each community. “No one wants to peek out their windows or look out their doors watching and waiting for the criminal to show up,” said Corbin. “The answer to effectiveness is vigilance and reporting suspicious activity.”

Corbin explained that members of the community should never be apprehensive about reporting things to the sheriff's department. “Don't be afraid to call 911 if something doesn't seem right to you,” said Corbin. “There have been cases that have been solved because people called in to report suspicious activity and it turned into a lead. That is what we are here for, call us.”

One of the main concepts behind community crime prevention is taking a proactive approach as citizens. Corbin explained the importance of securing your own home as a method of crime prevention and recovery. “Secure doors and windows accompanied with a good alarm monitoring system could make all the difference in the world,” he said.

Corbin encouraged Citizens Academy participants to keep an extensive record of all household items. “Take pictures or a video of the items in your house, and record the serial numbers,” said Corbin. “That way, if something were to happen and you were burglarized, we can have better luck retrieving those items for you.”

With the evolution of technology, Corbin said that he has seen an increase of crime due to social media. “In today's world almost everyone uses social media in one way or another,” he said. “I personally use it on a daily or weekly basis for investigative purposes. Often times the very suspect/ offenders we are investigating have a Facebook page. This type of information sharing is great, but it does come with a warning label.”

Often times people disregard or don’t pay attention to the privacy settings and do not know who has access to their information, Corbin noted. “For example, someone may put their status on their Facebook page as: “Enjoying the beach! This vacation was long overdue!” at Sunset Beach, North Carolina.”

Statements like these allow criminals to know that you are out of town and your home is vacant. “They may not know by posting this status they might have set themselves up for disaster,” said Corbin. “First of all, everyone that they are friends with know they are on vacation. Second, they know they are staying at Sunset Beach, N.C. (sometimes even listing the exact address of the hotel, house, condo etc... where you staying). Third, they can easily do a quick search by your name and tax record and drive right to your house. I often hear people say, 'Well, I would hope my friends would not steal from me.' Think again. Your friends may not, but you certainly do not know who the friends of your friends are. Best advice, post your vacation pictures and places you went after you get back home.

Also be observant and do your research when someone sends you a friend request. I always go the person’s page that made the request and look at their wall and their friends before I accept them.”

MCSO Major Andy Shields explained the programs used by the sheriff's department for crime prevention. The sheriff's office works closely with the youth of Macon County. Through the MCSO DARE and Reality Check programs, officers work to educate children early on the importance of making good choices so as not to end up in jail. The Reality Check program was implemented by Sheriff Robbie Holland to allow middle grade students to hear firsthand accounts of how young adults ended up in jail through decisions they made early in life. The MCSO takes inmates to the schools and lets them tell their stories to the children.

Other programs used by the sheriff's office to increase community involvement are things such as “Shop with a Cop.” The Shop with a Cop program was started after Sheriff Holland dealt with a family whose parents were put in jail right before Christmas. He and his wife, Marci, along with members of the community, brought Christmas to the family's three children who might not have had Christmas otherwise. Since then, law enforcement officers from all over Western North Carolina take children from Macon County shopping for Christmas presents, funded solely by community donations. The event allows the children to buy gifts for a family member and get to take a picture with Santa.

“These types of programs work with the community to build a relationship between our officers and the individuals,” said Shields.


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