I caught a prowler on my home security camera, but what can I do?

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When I watch nighttime footage from my outdoor home security cameras, I usually see raccoons and possums scurrying back and forth. But on a recent day, at 2:27 a.m., the cameras captured disturbing images – an almost ghostly human form emerging from the shadows on a walkway alongside my house.

The walker was dressed in sneakers, pants, a jacket, and a baseball cap turned inside out. He was not wearing a mask and appeared to be in his late teens or early twenties. As a motion-sensing light illuminated his face, he walked undeterred to where my car was parked. He stopped, looked around, then walked back down the driveway. At 2:28 a.m., he disappeared into the shadows.

The one-minute videos have stuck with me since they were recorded on July 13, and many questions linger. What if he comes back? What if he’s armed? Should I adopt a dog, as a law enforcement officer suggested? Or a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun, like urbansurvivalsite.com recommends in its review of the “Five Best Guns for Home Defense”?

I remembered the words of Joseph Parker Jr., 83, of Mitchellville, who shot a burglar in his home in 2018: “I didn’t want a murder on my hands. he told ABC7. “I didn’t want to kill anyone. But I didn’t want to be killed.

Like Parker, I live in Prince George’s County. Most violent crimes have dropped significantly this year, police say, with homicides up to 30% from the same period last year.

Homicides are down in Prince George’s, but other crimes are up

But carjackings are on the rise and vehicle thefts are epidemic. Whenever criminals are bold enough to enter your property to break into your car, whether it’s parked in your driveway, your carport, or your garage, it’s not hard to imagine them ending up do the same at home.

“Group driving around Tantallon, walking around checking cars,” a Fort Washington resident wrote last week on Next Door, a community bulletin board monitored by county police. “Ski goggles in broad daylight and in hot weather.”

Another resident asked, “What the hell can we do against these egregious criminals?

One of them replied: “We are alone, I watch over my family and my neighbours. [It’s] anything you can do.

The same night the prowler showed up at my house, a car was stolen from outside a neighbor’s house. And there I was annoyed because the raccoons were getting into my garbage cans and making a mess.

However, I wondered what had pushed this young man to take such a risk. I could imagine going out to chat with him – man to man. Was there anything he’d rather do than prowl? And I would show him where he could find the help he needed.

Yes indeed. Pious hope, I know. But the thing is, as Parker made it clear, while no one wants to be killed, most people don’t want to kill anyone either.

Prince George Police have already been a month into their ‘Summer Crime Initiative’ aimed at stemming any increase in crime that may result from children being out of school. “Hot spots” of violence along the county’s border with the district, among others, were targeted with enhanced patrols and other enhanced law enforcement efforts through August.

But for areas where property crime is the most serious problem, other types of preventive strategies are implemented, such as police-sponsored neighborhood walks; sports activities for young people; and training sessions with seniors to help them avoid con artists, car thieves, burglars, purse snatchers and pickpockets, among others.

“We want to involve our seniors, offer training and exercises [to teach them] what to do in a crisis, whatever the crisis,” police chief Malik Aziz said at a press conference kicking off the summer initiative. “Normally we are going to put very strong pressure on a community and put a lot of police in the community in order to bring down crime. So what we’ve done is expand our thinking into a more holistic approach to working with other partners and providing our resources to the communities we serve.

But when you have klats of masked car thieves wandering on foot in broad daylight — not to mention the maskless night prowler in my corner of the country — a more robust police presence might be preferred to, say, a walk around the neighborhood.

Aisha Braveboy, the county’s state attorney, joins forces with police in the summer crime prevention effort. At a recent rally in Oxon Hill, she said fighting crime is about more than prosecuting people; it’s also about helping them get their lives back on track.

“We are focused on protecting our communities by getting people out of our communities who mean us harm,” Braveboy told The Washington Post. “Now there are people who have committed offenses in the past, they have been held responsible, they can commit another offence. But that’s because they don’t have the resources. This is what will make the difference. »

I hope she and Chief Aziz can help these people get the resources that make a difference. Soon. There simply aren’t many effective crime-fighting options for law-abiding citizens during a theft pandemic. A yard dog can become a barking nuisance. Weapons in the wrong hands are dangerous. County police are understaffed — often minutes when seconds count, as the saying goes.

One could always hope that parents would teach their children not to steal.

For now, I can only crank up the volume of alerts from my security cameras, enduring the false alarms triggered by wildlife, but making sure I’ll be awake if the prowler returns.

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