Danville police officer Alan Shields was a guest speaker at our office meeting this week, and I found his information fascinating.

We know we are in a relatively crime-free area, but I learned that, until recently, we’ve seen a steady decline in all crimes since the 90’s. Lately it’s been ticking up, so the police are trying to engage the community and bring those numbers down.

We don’t see violent crime as a rule, but we have had burglaries and the “kick in” of the front door type of break-ins. Officer Shields told us about someone they arrested who had been breaking into homes to the tune of 4 or 5 a week, up and down the 680 corridor for several years.

He said they interviewed the crook to find out what his methods were and what would potentially deter him. He was always on the look out for empty homes; he would dress nicely to fit into the area (not in a suit, but just nice clothes to blend). He would ring the doorbell, and if no one was home and it was a protected view, he would kick in the door. Otherwise, he’d walk around to the back of the house.

“What if there is a sign indicating an alarm?” No, that wouldn’t really bother him. Some people just have the sign and no alarm, and so many people don’t bother to set their alarms. If one sounds, he can just run.

“What about dogs?” Dogs are sweet and friendly. He will pet them and they will watch, wagging their tails while he puts the family’s jewelry in his pockets.

“How about cameras?” Ah, cameras area another matter for this criminal. His response was that if he rang the doorbell and looked up to see a camera, he would not proceed. In fact, he would not try the neighboring homes either, knowing that he was on camera next door.

Officer Shields encouraged cameras and had some great examples of how cameras in the community had been helpful. He also mentioned that the Town Council is discussing a town-wide camera system that he expects we will have installed soon.

He also told us that any door-to-door solicitor is required to have a permit from the Town of Danville. Ask the next pesky magazine salesperson that comes to your door. Or don’t answer the door if you don’t want to – but Officer Shields cautioned against waiting quietly inside your house for them to go away. The criminals looking for an empty house to rob will think you’re not home and could break in. Just shout through the door “go away; I’m not interested,” and if that doesn’t work “go away, I’m calling the cops,” and then make that call.

Have you heard of www.crimereports.com ? The Danville police department uploads their activity to this website at 5pm daily. Also – if you do get a camera for your home, you can register it here. That info will only be viewable by the police department, but it could help them solve a crime if they know where to go to find cameras that may have captured a clue.

Of course, unincorporated Alamo is serviced by the Contra Costa sheriff, but I inquired and learned they are seeing similar patterns in Alamo. Also, I can see information from www.crimereports.com in Alamo, so clearly the sheriff also feeds to this site.

Remember how we all hung on to our home phones for years even when the only call we were getting on them was from the library regarding an overdue book because it seemed like a good safety feature to be able to make a 9-1-1 call from your home phone and know that the location was identified? The good news is that the locate feature now works from your cell phone as well. So you can give the library your cell phone number and give up the home phone.

The biggest message of the day was “please call us.” Officer Shields emphasized that if you see something odd, don’t hesitate to call. Please don’t feel you are troubling them or that they are too busy. Sometimes it’s the calls from helpful neighbors that make all the difference.