Crime Prevention is Common Sense

By Charles Foster, Neighborhood Watch Committee Chair to the FBI, crime rates at the national level have been declining for decades. In addition, 2015 crime rates in Fairfax County were at their lowest levels since 1970 when the current form of reporting began. Obviously, these are great stats. However, crime stats provide little comfort if you happen to be a victim. It makes sense always to do the simple and common-sense things that can deter crime.

If you’ve ever been to South Florida, you’ve probably noticed a large number of gated communities. These communities have iron fencing, controlled access via guard stations, and professional security guards patrolling the streets. The homes might have motion-detecting spotlights, cameras, peep-holes, and modest plantings around the homes so that all four sides are clearly visible to the neighbors. Street lighting is bright and signage is prominent. This is an example of “Crime Prevention through Environmental Design” (CPTED). Obviously, a top priority of residents in these compounds is security, even if it means being segregated from the surrounding community.

In contrast, Reston is attractive to people who enjoy the beauty of nature and a sense of community. Features include open spaces, lush landscaping, natural wooded areas, and miles of pathways. Fencing, lighting, utilities, and signage are all muted in order to achieve the desired atmosphere. Applying the concept of CPTED to Reston indicates that residents clearly favor natural beauty and community over security.

Lakeport Cluster is an interesting case study. In addition to having the general environmental design of Reston, we are next to a busy shopping center, a commuter roadway, and a Metro station. And Lakeport Way and the Reston Association pathway are major pedestrian routes through our community. Furthermore, we invite in a lot of contractors. Given these conditions, how do we embrace the vision of Reston while maximizing safety? The answer is twofold: look out for one another and utilize good crime prevention practices.

For example, a great crime prevention technique is to get to know your immediate neighbors. Exchange phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Let your neighbors know when you will be out of town. In other words, look out for one another. We all have a stake in the safety of our community. Whenever you walk through the community, look around more than you might otherwise. Consider maintaining a mindset of “welcoming yet vigilant.”

A lot of crime prevention techniques are simple common sense, but we don’t always think about the potential consequences of our actions. Crime is most likely to occur when three conditions are present: desire, ability, and opportunity. Consider the following example: You park your car in your driveway or the common area and forget to lock it. A burglar opens your car door and finds a garage door opener. He opens your garage door and finds that the door into the house is unlocked. He walks into the house and finds valuables on the counter near the door. He quickly grabs what he can and leaves. The burglary took a total of one minute!  The typical burglar is in the home no longer than 10 minutes. And, believe it or not, the FBI reports that 33% of burglaries do not involve forced entry! In our example, the unlocked car provided both the ability and the opportunity (the burglar supplied the desire!).

The Lakeport Cluster Neighborhood Watch Committee is looking for volunteers. If interested, please contact Chuck Foster at

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