Neighborhood Safety Strategy: Starting Neighborhood Watch Groups


Organized groups of neighborhood residents who watch out for criminal and suspicious behavior and report it to local law enforcement help prevent crime and promote cooperation among residents and police.

Community Problem Addressed

Every day, neighborhoods across the United States confront any number of property and violent crimes and threats of crime. This strategy attempts to provide local law enforcement with additional eyes and ears to watch out for all types of criminal activity and promote neighborhood security. Community crime watches can address all types of crime, but their primary focus is typically residential burglary and other crimes around the home, such as larceny and vandalism. Their presence can also help deter criminals who would attempt to conduct drug- or gang-related activities in the neighborhood.

Key Components

The first step is to identify key leaders or persons most concerned about crime in the neighborhood and organize a meeting of these individuals to discuss safety. The police can be invited to a neighborhood meeting to discuss community safety, and volunteers can be solicited to serve as block watch leaders. The neighborhood may be divided by blocks and block leaders assigned to serve as points of contact.  A communication network can be organized to pass along information about crime and security to residents. The police may provide training on recognizing and reporting suspicious activity and on home and neighborhood security. The watch may expand to foot or car patrols.  The watch can provide a variety of safety and security information to residents.

Key Partnerships

Local law enforcement officials and residents form the crucial partnership in this strategy. Training from the police and help with recruitment and communication ensure the watch program’s success and provide the basis for a sustained and broad-based community effort to promote public safety. Local media aid watch groups by publicizing recruitment drives and successes in crime prevention through citizen involvement. Involving seniors and youth will also make the program more comprehensive.

Potential Obstacles

Apathy, civic disengagement, and fear are among the most common obstacles to forming a Neighborhood Watch. Education, usually via law enforcement, can overcome such obstacles. The potential for displacing crime to other neighborhoods is a concern for law enforcement; they seek to involve as many neighborhoods as possible to offset the potential for displacement. Also, volunteer momentum can wane if the program is narrowly focused and does not allow for a variety of roles that use residents’ talents and respect their varying degrees of comfort with visible involvement in public safety programs.

Examples of Success and Results

In 1994 in Laurel Lake, New Jersey, community residents working with law enforcement founded the Laurel Lake Community Crime Watch in response to an increase in property crime and drug activity in the rural community [population 2,800]. Police calculated that 90 percent of the crimes in the area during that year were property crimes committed by those involved in buying and selling drugs.

The patrol serves as the eyes and ears for the New Jersey State Police and aims to prevent acts of property crime. As a consequence of the community watch group’s efforts, there was no more graffiti nor any other acts of vandalism. In addition, when the town began enforcing local ordinances like the late-night juvenile curfew, residents noticed fewer youth on the streets and in trouble.

Since 1981, the National Association of Town Watch has promoted the Neighborhood Watch concept, encouraged community groups throughout the United States to pool resources in crime prevention efforts, shared crime prevention information with thousands of local organizations, and coordinated National Night Out, an annual August event where communities demonstrate their desire for peaceful neighborhoods through parties, cookouts, and crime prevention fairs.

Source: National Crime Prevention Council

Temporary Worker Safety: A Shared Responsibility

Creating a safe workplace can be challenging. That’s true even when the job and its hazards don’t change much from day to day. Imagine if your employees worked on a construction site one day and an assembly line the next.

That’s a very real scenario that plays out at staffing agencies every day.

Workers employed through staffing agencies are called temporary or supplied workers. Some show up on a job site with decades of experience. Others are “greenhorns” who don’t understand the hazards of the job or how to protect themselves.

Temporary workers are at double the risk of suffering severe injuries, including crushing incidents, lacerations, punctures and fractures, according to ProPublica. And in 2014, nearly 800 contract workers died on the job, a 47 percent increase since 2011.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recognized the trend and launched an initiative to protect temporary workers in 2013. OSHA instructed its inspectors to assess whether employers who use temporary workers are complying with their responsibilities under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Inspectors are also evaluating whether temporary workers received necessary safety training.

As we approach the holiday season, retail businesses are beefing up their workforces with temporary labor. OSHA encourages staffing agencies and host employers to follow these best practices:

  • Staffing agencies and host employers should remember that OSHA’s General Duty Clause guarantees everyone, including temporary workers, the right to a safe workplace.
  • Staffing agencies and host employers share the responsibility for keeping temporary workers safe. Typically, staffing agencies provide general safety training, and host employers provide job-specific training.
  • Staffing agencies and host employers should enter a contract. The contract should specify such things as what tasks temporary workers will do, what training they will receive, and who will provide training and personal protective equipment.
  • Host employers should never ask temporary workers to do any task they have not been trained to do safely.
  • The supervising employer must set up a process for temporary workers to report work-related injuries and illnesses.
  • OSHA requires the employer who provides day-to-day supervision to record temporary worker injuries on their OSHA injury and illness log. Day-to-day supervision should be spelled out in the contract.
  • Staffing agencies and host employers should jointly investigate accidents, determine root causes and implement corrective measures.

More resources

Source: Texas Mutual

Is the Security Equipment in Your Home Prone to Hacking?

The smart home is a clear step into the future of home security, which comes with exciting implications and new devices to explore. Users are able to unlock doors in convenient situations like when hands are full of groceries, or lock doors if they forgot to secure the premises. Home cameras help parents monitor homes while on vacations. Baby monitors have improved in such a way that parents are able to keep an eye on their children even while outside the house.

Yet many devices that are intended to keep the home safe are connected to the internet, or pass information wirelessly. And as such, any kind of information transferred in this way is susceptible to interception. This is home invasion gold for hackers who know what they’re doing, and have the potential to put homes in danger.

Here are a few of the devices that have been flagged for potential to hacker attacks in recent months — and are devices you should make sure to do diligent research on before connecting to your home.

Baby Monitors

A firm in Massachusetts, Rapid7 Inc., reviewed 9 internet-connected baby monitors and found security flaws in every single one. For example, iBaby Labs is a baby monitor that streams a live feed, which can be accessed by username and password. The password can be guessed an unlimited number of times until the correct password has been found, a technique called brute forcing. Philips brand has a baby monitor that also failed the security test, as all of their baby monitors come with the same username and password before the user changes it, which means an uninitiated system could easily be hacked into. Another example is the Summer Infant baby monitor, which is also susceptible because anyone who knows the camera’s ID number can create an account for access.

Smart TVs

Voice recognition technology has come to your television, an exciting revolution that improves the TV watching experience significantly. Just this week, Apple released its newest version of Apple TV, with the Siri voice technology as one of the main new features. However Samsung’s version of a smart TV is susceptible to hackers, due to their version of voice command technology. The company revealed that they share the voice commands with Nuance, Samsung’s third-party voice recognition service. The data transmission lacks encryption, and the stream does not use a secure HTTPS protocol. This means that the streams are susceptible to hacker interference, allowing a savvy hacker to access the homeowner’s smart TV and home network credentials.

Garage Doors

A security researcher, serial hacker and independent developer hacked a Mattel toy to create a universal garage door openers. The toy, IM-ME, is now out of production, but was a toy for children to be able to send instant messages to friends in close proximity. Samy Kamkar, the serial hacker, found a way to manipulate the toy so that it can crack the code of any fixed garage door system. Fixed code garage door openers have only a dozen binary lock switches that are permanently set at the factory. This means there are 4,096 possible codes to gain access. Cycling through all the 4,096 combinations normally takes about a half an hour. However, the hacking tools developed for the IM-ME computer helped Kamkar get that time down to 10 seconds or less.

Ways to Protect Yourself

In the era of the “Internet of Things,” a term coined for the growing number of internet connected everyday devices such as cars, televisions, even refrigerators, security will become more complicated to address. It is always wise to do your research before choosing a product, especially if there are security reports from third-party companies you can access. It is important to use strong passwords and change them frequently, as well as restraining from sharing them with as few people as possible. Finally, be sure to check for security updates on your devices, as sometimes a new version update can be just the trick to make your home significantly safer.

Source: El Dorado Insurance Agency, Inc.

Stopping Shooters: Spot Warning Signs of Early Aggression

In today’s America, it is no longer uncommon to wake up to news of an aggravated attack, shooting, or terrorist event. Both Lafayette, LA and Nashville, TN have been recent hosts to theater shootings. On top of that, who can forget the horrific shooting within the historic church in South Carolina? Regardless of the motive, all of these crimes have one thing in common – tragedy.

In the wake of these events, more questions circulate the media inquiring what can be done as a means of prevention. Perhaps better technology could help with the installation of metal detectors, video surveillance or even panic alarms. While these would undoubtedly help the case for safer public grounds, they are by no means foolproof, nor are they necessarily the best option available.

The best option is simple – there is no substitute for the human element in identifying a potential attacker. Trained professionals are able to spot the tell-tale signs of an aggressor, and in many cases are well qualified to take the appropriate action that can stop an event. The challenge here is funding, resources and availability of persons who can not only perform the security functions, but who can even train others to do so. While these challenges exist, identifying the types of aggressors and how they behave is information that should be readily available for anyone from a movie ticket-taker to a school principal to a church pastor.

As such, John Byrnes is the founder and CEO of the Center for Aggression Management and works to provide organizations with the knowledge and skills to identify potentially violent behavior by understanding aggressive tendencies. According to Byrnes, there are two aggression categories of people who commit violent acts – primal aggression and cognitive aggression. Primal aggression is aligned with reactive or sudden behavior, wherein the perpetrator is quick to anger in the moment, responding to the onset of adrenaline in a flight or flight manner. Conversely, cognitive aggressors plan their attacks ahead of time, premeditating their violence having identified their targets, and formed a plan by which they will execute.

In considering both primal and cognitive attackers, there are nine stages of increasingly violent intentions and behaviors. Seventh stage cognitive aggressors are those who want certain people to die, but don’t want to be involved in the tangible causing of their deaths. Examples of whom include Charles Manson or Osama Bin Laden, who influenced others to perform murderous acts rather than performing them themselves. From there, an eighth stage cognitive aggressor is someone who is aware of the possibility of their own death, but intend to survive. Finally, ninth stage aggressors understand and accept that they will die following their attacks, either by suicide or by being killed by law enforcement.

“Each stage,” according to Byrnes, “is a precursor to the next. Each gives you the ability to get out in front and prevent the next and that’s particularly important because we know from current research that from the moment of commitment when a person pulls a weapon and starts shooting to the moment of completion when the last round is discharged is as little as five seconds. If you’re going to react to this you’re more than likely going to step over those people slain during those first five horrific seconds.”

Although this is grim knowledge, there is hope. Byrnes goes on to explain, “The FBI says that the only way to prevent a shooter is to identify someone who is on the path to violence. We call the path to violence emerging aggression because a path to violence means you have to foresee the violence in order to evoke a response.”

A problem in identifying cognitive aggressors is people tend to look for the signs of a traditionally angry person – red-faced, loud, causing a scene or speaking in an aggressive way. Alternatively, a cognitive aggressor is someone who knows that something big is going to happen, that people are going to die. In order for a person to kill another, unless they are sociopaths or psychopaths, all people must dehumanize their victim in order to carry out the act. They have to come to terms that their target is simply an object, making them an object that can be killed.

Once this state has been reached, a calm washes over the person, especially a ninth stage cognitive aggressor who has come to accept his or her imminent death. They embody a look that is all encompassing, where their entire body language loses animation and doesn’t change even as they proceed with the attack. “They come to the scene with that look.” says Byrnes of this eerie calm. “They drive into your parking deck or parking garage with that look. They enter into your premises with that look. They walk through your doors, whether it is theater doors, workplace doors or school doors, past a receptionist  possible or someone taking tickets in the matter or a theater, etc.”

In a critical piece of advice, Byrnes says, “If people are trained as what we call aggression first observers, they will be able to identify this person. There is no way to avert this. It is a reflection of the body to this level of intention.”

Source: El Dorado Insurance Agency, Inc.

Consumers Look to Security Companies for Smarter Homes

The smart home isn’t a new concept, nor is it a passing trend. In fact, the homes of the future are here to stay, helping to protect your investments, reduce the amount of harm on the environment, and make living just a little bit easier with the click of a button.

It seems as though every alarm company is getting in on the smart home revolution, and it’s to the benefit of homeowners across the country. As such, we’d like to point out some of the players in the game and share some of the innovations they have created or are coming up with next.

Vivint – originally APX Alarm – is a security company founded in 1999, and launched the successfully comprehensive Vivint Sky Smart Home cloud system. This system paired with its proprietary Smart Home panel pushed its customer adoption rate to nearly 70 percent. This provided a platform for growth, and supports the mission the company adopts. Jeff Lyman, chief marketing officer, says of the company, “We believe in a comprehensive system. Access control and video are part of a larger package we provide for our customers who want a total experience in home automation and security.”

In moving forward on their strategy, a product set to hit the market next spring includes the Vivint Doorbell Camera. The camera syncs with the rest of the system while adding one of the newer products in security industry. “What people expect from residential security goes way beyond what it was even five years ago. People expect comprehensive services all in one,” says Lyman.

Another example of a company progressing with the trend of smart home security is A-COM Protection Services Inc. in Columbus, GA. As one of today’s largest family-owned companies in security, home and business automation companies in the state, they reached such status because they listened to their customers demand for burglar alarms, and the business took off from there. CEO Wayne Beck explains today’s current goals for the company, and the future of the industry is around home automation.

“Right now, we do install DMP panels for some clients when people want it for a specific area of their house, a jewelry closet or gun closet. [But] I think the advent of home automation is on us. People want to control their homes from anywhere — work, vacation spots, or even control the doors or their security systems from their phones.” An example of which, he pointed out, is that his clients are asking for “24/7 live-video monitoring.”

Other companies have jumped on a similar approach, such as Guardian Systems. General Manager for the company Dan Jarnagin says, “The idea of a ‘connected home’ that can be managed remotely via smartphone or website is still a fairly new concept for people in our area, but over the past few years it has really taken off.”

Source: El Dorado Insurance Agency, Inc.

Planning for Emergencies: A Family Guide

What to consider when preparing your family a disaster or other emergency

What Kinds of Emergencies?

Emergencies are events–natural or human-generated–that disrupt daily life to a high degree. They may have already resulted in death and damage or they may threaten death, injury, and damage.

At the family level, most emergency preparation is similar regardless of the cause of the emergency. Think about past emergencies in your area. Hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and tornadoes suggest the kinds of disruptions communities and families may face. Hazardous material spills may present different challenges. Terrorist attacks can take many forms.  The idea is to know what’s likely and what’s not.  By making your plan based on your specific risks, your family can be better prepared.

What kinds of events are common in your area? If you are not sure, check with the local Red Cross or your city or county emergency management or emergency preparedness office or with firefighters and police officers in your area.

So how do you plan? First, think about your goals. For most people, the prime goal is knowing that all family members are safe and as secure as possible against harm. Most families want to be together if that is at all possible. A second goal is having what you need to make it through the immediate disaster period. The “Making Sure You Have What It Takes” checklist can help with that. A third goal might be communicating with out-of-town family about your family’s safety. What other goals should your family’s plan address? Talk with other adults in the family. Talk with teens and children. Find out their concerns and help ensure that your disaster preparations address those concerns where possible. Remind everyone that you’re being preventive and prepared–not running scared.

Second, develop a plan with these goals and the following outline in mind. Your family’s plan is probably going to have some unique features. But there are some basics.

  • Who: Who is included in this plan? Relatives across town? Close friends? Just immediate family members? What about family pets?
  • Where: Home is where the heart is, and it’s probably going to be the center of your family plan. But what are the back-up locations? It might be the nearby house of worship, the closest elementary school, or a close friend’s home. The point is to decide on the back-ups and make sure everyone knows what and where they are.
  • What: What will trigger the emergency plan? An official announcement? Notification from authorities to people in your immediate area? A call from one of the adults to all the others involved? A call from a child’s school? Remember to think about how other family members will be notified.
  • When: What time frames help shape your plan? Does everyone work or go to school within a few miles? Then people should be at home fairly quickly. If some people have a long commute, they may be held up by emergency conditions. How do you cope if the emergency is projected to last several days?
  • Why: Family members should understand, to the best of their ability, why the plan includes certain provisions. Why must children stay at school under certain circumstances, for example? Why might a parent stay out of town if on travel during an emergency?
  • How: This gets down to the steps of the plan. Think through key points.  Who will take what responsibilities?  Where will emergency supplies be kept?  How will supplies be updated?  What about the Family Link-Up Plan–how will it be updated?  What different steps are involved in a “shelter in place” situation versus an evacuation order?  What if there is no information from authorities?  What training do family members need?  How often will the family review its plan?

Strategies and Tactics To Consider

Some of the strategies and tactics to consider in developing a plan include the following:

  • Make sure everyone has basic family phone contact numbers and business or school addresses. Remember that email may work when phone circuits are overloaded.
  • Identify places to meet both near the house and farther away. Set a priority order about which place to go to, why, and when.
  • Establish an out-of-town contact that everyone can call and report to.  Make sure the contact agrees, and make sure everyone knows how to dial that long-distance number. Consider prepaid calling cards for everyone’s convenience.
  • Keep vehicles in good working order and keep the gas tank at least half full at all times. Remember, if power fails, gas pumps won’t work!
  • Stockpile a disaster kit in advance and refresh supplies at least every six months. Consider seasonal changes in your family’s needs. For example, you might want to have more blankets available in the fall and winter season.
  • Know how to turn off safely the water, electricity, and gas that serve your home.
  • “What if?” your plan. What if a major roadway is blocked? What if power is out and the car is low on gas? What if mass transit is unavailable? Where will these family members go? How will they communicate that they are safe?
  • What local situations in your neighborhood or community might result in evacuation? How should family members pack for this situation? What about care for pets in cases where they cannot be in shelters?
  • Find out about plans that link with yours. What plans do children’s schools have in place? What plans are in place where you and other adults work? Make sure school and workplace have updated contact information for all members of your family. What are local authorities’ plans for your area?
  • How might your family work together with neighbors to prepare and survive an emergency? Are there neighbors with special needs? Who could help them? Talk together; share the skills and equipment you could make available to each other. Devise ways you could help each other’s families if the need arises. Third, revisit your plan.
  • Review the plan as a group every few months. Consider holding family rehearsals or drills if you live in areas where there might be little warning of an emergency.
  • Don’t forget to update the plan to account for new schools children attend, changes in job locations or employers, and the like.

Source: National Crime Prevention Council

Diversity and Community is Stronger Security, Says Google Management

Security professionals, like any professional, exist under a stereotype of expected personality, background, and skill sets. Security guards in particular can be perceived as a group coming from military or law enforcement backgrounds, which can make sense given the physical demands and primary task of keeping people and properties safe.

Google has a different idea. In a recent conference, keynote speaker and Google global investigations and intelligence manager Brian Katz, argued that diversity is one of the keys that can determine whether a security will be considered “feared, revered, or irrelevant.” The senior manager at the tech giant commands a staff of more than 50 team members, and the diversity of backgrounds of these employees is far reaching. From a nanny to a former prosecutor to a rock star, each person brings a different skill set and point of reference that can be valuable in the overall goal of tightened security.

Katz articulated this point in saying, “What makes them truly unique is these other things they’ve done. The skills they developed in these non-security jobs, and the other ways they continue to broaden their horizons, make them the people I want on my team.” These different talents create a dynamic team that can help continue the innovation in thinking Google is known for.

Yet security at Google extends well beyond the security team themselves. Security guards can’t be in all place at all times, but there is a certain need for protection within companies. Referencing the common ways companies address the problem, Katz went on. “Most companies do this with turnstiles, restricting the number of entrances to a building and overwhelming sensitive areas with security guards to attempt to prevent unauthorized access,” he said.

This style of facilitating an environment of “fear” as Katz put it, is not in line with the company mission at Google. Creating this kind of environment, “certainly doesn’t promote the open campus and freedom of movement, which helps to define Google,” Katz said. “What’s back there, anyway, and why does my teammate have access if I don’t? Why did my coworker just close a door firmly in my face?”

As an alternative, security is considered everyone’s responsibility at Google. Wearing a company badge at the company is not an enforces requirement, but rather a piece of the community environment that even the C-level executives participate in every day. Due to this, Google employees notice persons not wearing a badge and feel empowered at every level to question non-badge wearers at entryways. This was humorously demonstrated at the conference with an in-house video, depicting a Google employee not wearing a badge and in an alligator costume. Google employees stopped the seeming intruder.

The identity of the intruder was revealed later as Google CFP Patrick Pichette. At Google, “what we’ve tried to do is build a team of security professionals who define themselves by more than just security,” Katz concluded. “This diversity of thought and experience leads us away from the old security enforcer stereotype, and makes my team flexible, creative, approachable and trusted.”

This concept can be applied in the security industry to some degree, enabling more persons to assist in the security goals of companies. While security guards surely add an important level of security, diversity in security and a community environment can make their jobs just a little bit easier.


Source: El Dorado Insurance Agency, Inc.

Workplace Violence: Prevention, Types, Warning Signs and Employee Assistance

The workplace can consist of natural dangers due to the tasks required to perform work duties. Police officers, firefighters, construction workers and so forth understand that with the professions they chose, there will certainly be dangers that face those who choose these professions.

However another danger that faces the labor force is workplace violence. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that workplace violence accounts for second most frequent cause of death in American offices. For women especially, in-office violence is the number one cause of death in the workplace.

To reduce the prevalence of workplace violence, understanding the warning signs, types of violence and employee assistance programs available can equip the labor force with beneficial tools and knowledge.

Types of Workplace Violence

Typically, workplace violence can divided into 4 different categories. However there are 2 primary types of violence:

  1. Physical violence – physical violence is actual harm done by contact to the body. This can include punching, kicking, hitting, biting, spitting, scratching and so forth.
  2. Verbal violence – verbal violence is additionally painful and arguably more prevalent. Verbal violence can include threats, intimidation, emotional aggression or emotional abuse.

From there, the two types of workplace violence can be divided as follows:

  1. Worker on worker violence – this includes employees participating in either physical or verbal violence against one another.
  2. Client on worker violence – one of the most common forms of this type of workplace violence is a robbery situation.
  3. Member of public on worker violence – similar to client on worker violence where the perpetrator is not an active or past client of the business.
  4. Intimate partner violence – may be co-workers but not necessarily.

Warning Signs

Workplace violence isn’t entirely preventable but knowing the warning signs can prevent some of it. First of all, understand that there usually are warning signs and that employees seldom suddenly turn violent without precursory behavior. Therefore look for these signs:

  • Angry behavior and anger eruptions
  • History of violent behavior
  • Substance abuse
  • Fascination with weapons such as guns, knives and sharp objects
  • Excessive interest in violence

Additionally, a significant change in behavior can be indicative of potential abuse. Someone who typically possesses a positive or calm demeanor who suddenly begins expressing themselves differently could be experiencing issues personally that could result in harmful behavior at the workplace.

What to Do and Employee Assistance

First of all, reading literature regarding workplace violence is an important first step in prevention. Resources are often available in HR and social service departments in workplace offices.

When encountering a co-worker or employee who exhibits any warning signs, evaluate the severity of the situation before getting involved. However for some milder cases simply talking to the individual can be enough to turn things around, as the display of empathy can diffuse hostility or loneliness.

The best way to prevent workplace violence is by spreading awareness. By understanding the realities and prevalence of workplace violence, it is easier to see the warning signs and take care to do something about it. One of the biggest risk factors for violence in the workplace is denial that workplace violence could possibly occur. Understanding the warning signs and spreading awareness can result in diffusing a hostile situation before it ever occurs.