Deputies: When danger knocks, protect yourself

LEXINGTON COUNTY, SC (WIS) – In light of recent a home invasion and burglaries across the Midlands, Lexington County Sheriff's Deputies say there are ways to be prepare yourself and your home in the event of a crime.

First, authorities say take a look at the strength your lock and your door frame.  "If everybody opens up the door and looks at the strike plate where the lock goes in the bolt, they're usually an eighth of an inch or a quarter of an inch screws," said Resident Deputy David Nieves with the Lexington County Sheriff's Dept. "And that [small screw] is only going into the little wood strip that's in the front of the frame of the door. By putting in three inch screws it will go into the framing of the door frame, which makes it very, very hard for you to kick the door down."

Deputies say this simple switch of screws could give you lots of time in the event someone is trying to get in your home.

Authorities say if you hear someone trying to knock down your door or break-in to your home, grab a cell phone or cordless phone and call 911. Deputies say then make it clear that someone is in the home by turning on a porch light or yelling through the door that you are calling police. They add, most burglars are looking for an empty home.

Law enforcement officers say once you're on the line with emergency responders, and you have made it known that you're home, head to a safe place far from where the suspects are trying to get in the home. "[Move as] far away from that person [as possible]," said Deputy Nieves. "[For instance] if you have an upstairs or the rear part of the [back] bedroom so it gives us time to get there while you're calling us on the line," added Deputy Nieves.

Under the "Protection of Persons and Property Act, residents have a right to protect themselves in their dwelling, and deputies say self-defense is your right under the law.

Authorities say it's best to stay hidden and remain on the phone so emergency officials can hear what is going on in the home.

Much like families are encouraged to practice a home fire drill, deputies say residents should be prepared and practice a burglary drill.

Lexington County Sheriff's Deputies say that Neighborhood Watch groups are another great way to be proactive about crime prevention. They add that members of a neighborhood group are often the eyes and ears of a neighborhood for the Sheriff's department. "We have stopped a lot of [crime] through our neighborhood watch groups because the first time they see something that is out of character in their community they call the police," said Deputy Nieves.

"[Members] are notified to look out for cars, unusual cars in the community, get license plate numbers and descriptions of cars first of all," said Thomas Lee Kleckley, a Neighborhood Watch Captain in one part of Lexington County. "So they can pass it on to the deputies and also let me know so we can be looking out for that car on that particular day or another day if it comes back in the neighborhood."

Deputies say there needs to be 50 percent of a neighborhood committed to a watch group for it to be successful. In addition to being a part of a group and taking steps to fortify your door and protect your family, officials say you should keep bushes and shrubs cut back around your home to avoid would-be burglars from prowling around.

For more information on neighborhood watch groups, neighborhood property checks, and security surveys you can contact the Lexington County Sheriff's Department at (803) 785-8320 or follow them on Twitter and  Facebook. If you are in a different jurisdiction, you can reach out to your local law enforcement agency to learn more about the services that are provided.

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