Crime Prevention

Taking Precautions
By: Officer Terry Watters, Ret.
Estherville Police Department


crime prevention triangle

Every new rookie who goes through the law enforcement academy is taught that three things are necessary for a crime.

The first is Ability. In other words, the person who desires to commit a crime must have the physical ability to do so.

Next is Opportunity. S/he must be "in the right place at the right time" to commit the crime.

The last thing necessary is Desire, a need or wish to take away a person's property.

If we take away one just one of the sides, the triangle collapses! Since we can't control a persons' ability to commit a crime, we need to focus on removing the other two.


lock and key

Locks are probably the first things that a homeowner or businessman considers in terms of security. When you shop for a lock, there are a few things that you should look for.

First, the portion of the lock that extends into the door jam should be at least one inch long. It should be made of hardened steel or have a hardened steel bolt inserted into it. Last, don't be afraid to spend a little extra money. Remember the old adage "you get what you pay for."

padlock burglar

When a deadbolt lock can't secure something, think about using a padlock.

Things to look for here are

a loop that locks on both sides,

a case hardened loop

a case that will withstand repeated blows from a hammer or pry bar

But the best system is only as good as its weakest link. Don't forget that the hasp is also an important part of the system too.

Now that we have some ideas on removing the ability, let's look at taking away the desire.

security cam

If a would-be burglar thinks that he is likely to be discovered, he may think twice about committing the crime. There are a number of things you can do to give the appearance that this may happen.

Sometimes just a simple window decal indicating that a burglar alarm is in place (even if it's not) is enough to deter a would be bad-guy.

An inexpensive light timer is also a good idea. Buy a couple and place them in different rooms of your home or business to give it that "lived in" look. You can even hook one up to a radio to complete the deception.

A simple strategy that doesn't cost you anything is to keep the shrubbery around your home trimmed and away from the windows and doors. This way if a burglar is attempting to get into your home, a passing motorist or a neighbor may see him and call police.


It's during vacations that the home is most vulnerable. Homeowners away for more than just a few hours give the bad guy an opportunity to "case the joint" and plan how to burglarize the structure.

vacation paradise mailbox

There are some simple rules:

First, have the U.S. mail stopped during the time you will be gone.

Next give a house key to a trusted neighbor and ask him/her to watch the home. You can even suggest that s/he park a car in the driveway.

Using a light timer is even more important now that you will be gone for an extended length of time.

Last, notify your local law enforcement agency of your absence. If an emergency occurs, they will have a phone number to contact you.

dial 911

By remembering the "crime triangle" a homeowner can take simple steps to make their home safe and secure.

Remember: Ability, Opportunity, Desire.

Most of all, don't hesitate to call 911!

This is just a small sample of the things you can do to make your home or business more secure. If you have questions or comments please call, stop in, or e-mail us. We look forward to hearing from you.

About The Author

Terry Watters is a recently retired 30-year veteran of law enforcement and was with the Estherville Police Department from 1984 through 2008. During that time, he attended classes for crime prevention certification, street crimes training , and classes on youth gangs and deviant groups.