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Operation Safe House

The Murrieta Police Department recently established Operation Safe House in order to help residents protect themselves against property crimes. The Operation Safe House program affords city residents a home safety inspection by trained Department Officers and volunteers. It also provides city residents with a self-inspection check sheet designed to better secure their homes and reduce chances of becoming victims of vandalism and property crimes. This check sheet is based on the Safe by Design elements derived from the nationally recognized Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) concepts used to deter thieves by restricting access and reinforcing boundaries utilizing a variety of security features.

Operation Safe House is a partnership with residents using targeted goals of educating residents in techniques and methods that can be used to secure their homes, making them less accessible and less attractive to criminals. These safety concepts, coupled with the Department’s Neighborhood Watch program and the ProtectRNeighbors community program, will aid in the overall reduction of crime and continues to afford Murrieta residents the ability to live in one of the safest cities in the nation.

Residential neighborhood Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is comprised of four key “Safe by Design” elements being: Natural Access Control, Natural Surveillance, Territoriality Reinforced and Maintenance (on-going).

This family home design principal version of CPTED is used to develop safety into the design of the entire property and structure, which can help to eliminate virtually any property crimes using the CPTED 3 “D” concept triangle of having Defined Borders, Designed Properly with Designated Purposes.

Design Principle #1 or Natural Access Control, decreases criminal accessibility by limiting (one-way versus two-way) access into an area and back out again, which is a great way to deter criminal activity. Those who may try to use alternative methods to enter an area now look suspicious to others, risk detection by others, which greatly increases the criminal’s personal sense an increased risk of identification ad apprehension.

Natural or Environmental control involves the combined use of the existing natural or artificially created terrain in place to keep trespassers from climbing over walls or fences. Plant hearty cactus or other “thorny” plants where highly visible to others. Use raised dirt berms, small rocks and large boulders to keep unwanted visitors from entering onto private property, making sure to not place these items too close to a structure or fence to prevent making a perfect ladder. Smelly plants like “Society Garlic” may also be helpful to deter others from loitering and may help control certain rodents.

Mechanical control includes the use of security gates because most criminals do not want to exit the way they entered as it gives witnesses the opportunity to obtain a better suspect identification. This type of surveillance also employs the use of passive and active monitoring cameras, security mirrors or other equipment to allow an individual the ability to remotely monitor the area around the residence or extended property area.

Organized access also entails the use of automated passive and active security alarm and lighting equipment attached to interior and exterior doors and gates, which may bring immediate attention to others that someone has entered into the residence or onto the property. Contract security monitoring or patrols may also be helpful in deterring criminal activity.

Organized neighborhood watch groups used to monitor the area are the least cost impacted and is a safe and effective way to deter criminal activity. However, we caution that neighborhood groups are only law enforcement’s local “eyes and ears” and should only record what they see while immediately reporting their observations to law enforcement. Group members should never engage, attempt to capture or follow suspicious persons nor try to interrupt their activities to avoid suffering personal bodily injury or worse.

The “Operation Safe House” home safety self-inspection checklist addresses these areas of concerns under the “Exterior,” ‘Windows and Doors,” “Alarm System/Cameras” and “Away from Home Checklist” categories.

Design Principle #2 or Natural Surveillance, allows and encourages people engaged in their normal activity to observe the areas around them. It affords others the ability to look into an area and the ability to look back-out, considered to be the “line of sight” between garages, out-buildings, street and the neighboring or surrounding homes.

Overgrown shrubs and trees; poor or no lighting, poor or no fencing, inhibits the natural surveillance around a property. Surveillance strategies are aimed primarily at keeping intruders under observation and undesirable behaviors under control by utilizing formal and informal surveillance controls and techniques previously discussed under Natural Access Controls.

Natural occurring control means the residents, or other family and friends, or neighbors moving around an area are able to observe the activity around them provided the area is open, free of debris or over-growth and well lit. Natural surveillance is typically free of cost to the user. Natural observers may sometime accidentally overlook suspicious activity because they were not aware of their surroundings, or they may simply choose not to get involved in any situation that may pose a potential threat to themselves or others.

A casual observer such as a pedestrian, motorist, delivery or service person in the area might be willing to report suspicious activity to law enforcement, if detected. Ask those persons to form or join your Neighborhood Watch meetings or safety social gatherings.

The “Operation Safe House” home safety self-inspection checklist addresses these areas of concerns under the “Exterior,” ‘Windows and Doors,” “Garage,” “Alarm System/Cameras” categories.

Design Principle #3 or Territorial Reinforcement and Target Hardening, defines property lines and delineates private space, communicates expectation of privacy in the use of that space, a sense of community and a personal responsibility by the intended users.

Creating defensible spaces utilizing the CPTED 4 “D” design concepts of: Detect, Deny, Delay and Deter, will help to harden a targeted location or vehicle and personal territoriality. Using durable, properly installed door viewers, key locks or other electronic locking mechanism or security system or techniques on interior and exterior windows and doors of your home, garage, vehicles or other personal property, will help to deter and disrupt would-by criminals.

Detection devices such as hidden motion sensor alarms or cameras attached to an audible bell or chime causes unwanted trespassers to make more noise, which puts them on notice as they increase their risk of detection and can alert you in advance of their presence while at home, business, vehicle or recreational vehicle.

Delaying thieves through in-opportunity is a good way to detect, deter and deny their actions and presence. This greatly increases their risk of exposure by increasing the extra time and effort they may need to commit the crime, which may also persuade them not to commit any crime at your home, business or recreational vehicle.

Deterring a thief by utilizing any combination of the previously mentioned target hardening concepts, coupled with an active Neighborhood Watch program, help to prevent or substantially decrease the chance of a planned crime or other crime of opportunity from happening at your home and business, vehicle or recreational vehicle.

City residents have the ability to receive the loan of an electronic engraving tool on a two-week basis in order to mark their personal property. Please call (951) 304-2677 to ensure engraver availability. Present your personal identification card and utility bill with city addresses upon signing for the engraver obtained at the front counter of the police department.

The “Operation Safe House” home safety self-inspection checklist addresses these areas of concern under the “Exterior,” “Windows and Doors,” “Garage,” “Windows Interior” and “Alarm System/Cameras” categories.

Design Principle #4 or Maintenance Care, on a routine basis simply allows for the safe, secure and continued use of any physical space or location for its intended purpose. A lack of maintenance indicates to others that the occupants do not have a concern for their own well-being, other family or visitors, the location itself or the personal property inside the residence, business, vehicle or recreational vehicle. Loss of control by the owners, occupants, caretakers or other legitimate intended users will definitely invite deviant use or other criminal enterprises to occur.

Browse through our website to learn more about department programs including “Operation Safe House,” or to download the home safety self-inspection checklist and other resource materials on a variety of issues.

Dial 9-1-1 for all medical, fire and police emergencies.

For general information call the department’s Records Section at (951) 304-2677, or the department’s 24 hour Dispatch Center at (951) 696-3615.


Operation Safe House

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