Memorial Day marked the unofficial start of summer—the season many Chicagoans look forward to during the long, grey winters. Whether you decide to picnic in your backyard, soak up the sun at the lake shore or help plan a block party, keep these summer security tips in mind—and don’t forget the sunscreen!
Late spring and early summer weather prompts many of us to crack the windows at home and let in the lake’s cooling breezes. To keep potential intruders at bay, Chicago’s Alternative Policing Strategy, aka CAPS, recommends installing locks that allow your windows to open only an inch or so.
Of course, when you are not at home, you should always make sure that your windows and doors are locked securely. Never leave your house or apartment unlocked even if you are just around the corner, police say.
Also, don’t leave your spare key in the mailbox or under the doormat; instead, the National Crime Prevention Council recommends keeping a key with a trusted neighbor or nearby shopkeeper.
Another good tip? When you leave your home for extended periods, make it look like your home is still occupied. Automatic timers are an easy way to turn lights on while you’re away.
In the summer, more of our personal items end up in our cars, or outside—bikes, lawn furniture and valuables.
“If you can’t leave them at home, lock your purse, wallet and other belongings in the trunk of your car or a friend’s car,” the Chicago Police Department says in a summer safety tip list. “Never lock your valuables in your car where they can be seen.”
If you prefer to bike around town, you can register your wheels online with the City of Chicago’s CLEARPath program. Police say registering your bike can help to identify and recover it if it’s stolen.
When you lock up your bike (The city’s Chicago Bike Program recommends a high-quality U-Lock), be sure to check the source you’re locking it to. Is it actually secure? After months of harsh weather and wind, bolts can come loose, making it easier for a thief to walk off with your bike. Check the bolts, and if they’re firmly secured, you’re safe, according to chicagobikes.org.
With backyard cookouts and weekend block parties, summer can be a good time to get to know your neighbors.
CAPS recommends checking on elderly neighbors when the temperatures climb. Lately, there have been dramatic spikes in Chicago’s temps, jumping 50 degrees in one day, according to Tom Skilling. But when the heat index reaches triple digits, the city’s Office of Emergency Management says it can be particularly hazardous for the elderly. You can call 311 to locate the city’s nearest cooling center, or to sign up for extreme weather alerts.
If you plan on a summer vacation or other trip, it’s also nice to have a network of neighbors nearby to look after your place while you’re gone.
Having a neighborhood watch or block club devoted to improving your community and keeping it safe is one of the oldest and most effective ways to prevent crime, according to the National Crime Prevention Council. The NCPC recommends that such groups work with local police organizations to get the proper information and training. CAPS offers information on the most effective ways to organize and run a block club, as well as how to work with local police.
“Knowing your neighbors and communicating on a regular basis can help you identify quality of life issues and other trends in your neighborhood and allow you to address those issues,” CAPS says.
Now get out there and enjoy your summer safely, Chicagoans—you deserve it.