Safety in the Home and Community


·    Anti-Carjacking Tips

·     Keep Your House Number Visible

·     Safety for You and Your Home

·     More Safety Tips




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This page last updated 2/13/09

Safety in the Home and Community.htm



Securing Your Home Before a Vacation


When you are on vacation, your home is vulnerable to a break-in.  Securing your house and giving it a lived-in look are important to prevent burglaries.  Having someone check the house regularly is also a good idea.  Here are some ideas for preventing break-ins while you are away.


·        Check the neighborhood newsletter to see who has Neighborhood Watch while you are gone.  Give them a call and inform them of when you'll be gone.  They can keep an extra eye on your home.

·        Make sure all doors and windows are locked.  Don't forget about basement windows, garage windows, skylights, and pet entrances.  Make a final check once everyone is out of the house.

·        Remove ladders from sight so they cannot be used to gain entrance to the second floor windows.

·        Leave outside lighting on to discourage prowlers.

·        Set yard lighting on a timer so it will come on at night.  Consider installing motion or heat-activated exterior lighting.  (However, don't set the sensitivity level so low that it turns your security light on merely when a car passes the house).

·        Set indoor lights and radios to come on at intervals to give the illusion the house is occupied.

·        Turn your telephone down to its lowest level before you leave.  The sound of an unanswered phone is an indication of an unoccupied house.  Never leave a message telling callers you are away.

·        Maintain a list with serial numbers of all the valuables on your property.  Photograph or videotape the contents of each room.  That way you will have an accurate record in case you need to file an insurance claim.

·        Tell a trusted neighbor when you are leaving and when you plan to return.  Leave your itinerary and phone numbers where you can be reached in an emergency.

·        Ask your neighbors not to tell strangers you are away and extend the same courtesy to them when they are away.

·        Arrange to stop delivery of mail and newspapers. (You can this online now.  Go to and click Subscriber Services.  Go to and click Receive Mail and Packages.)

·        Arrange for regular lawn care and snow shoveling.

·        Don't talk about your planned trip in stores or public places.  Burglars pick up information this way.

·        Don't hide a key outside.  Burglars know where to look.  (Greg Gillette August 2003)


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Register Your Burglar Alarm


In the fall of 2001, Fairfax County created the False Alarm Reduction Unit with the goal of reducing the number of false security alarms.  Homeowners are required to register their alarms.


Here are a few reminders for those who have not registered their alarms or continue to have police responding to false alarms:


  • If the police respond to a home or business with an alarm that has not been registered, a $50 fine will be imposed.


  • Registration forms can be obtained from the alarm company.  Once the form is completed, it should be returned to the alarm company along with the registration.  The alarm company will then forward it to the Police Department.


  • Each home is allowed two false alarms within a year's timeframe without being fined.  Subsequent false alarms within the year will incur a fine for each response.  The fine increases with each offense.


  • If an owner has three false alarms in one year, an inspection of the alarm system by the alarm company may be required.  Failure to provide proof of inspection within 30 days will result in a fine.


  • If the police respond to an alarm activation and it is determined to be false, contact with the owner will be attempted.  If contact is unsuccessful, a note will be left on the door explaining that police were there.


  • If an owner moves or needs to update information, they should call the False Alarm Reduction Unit at 703-280-0626 e-mail to


The Police Department's main goal is not to collect fees, but rather to provide education on how to reduce false alarm dispatches.  Be sure you know how your alarm system operates and have it inspected periodically (Provided by Fairfax County)


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Anti-Carjacking Tips


Because of the continuing danger of the crime of carjacking, citizens are advised to take extra precautions when entering, parking and driving their vehicles, and to modify their driving habits in order to make it more difficult for would-be carjackers to succeed. The following are some measures suggested by the County Police Department to reduce your chances of becoming a victim of carjacking.

·        Do not walk alone to your car at night.

·        Drive with the doors locked and the windows up.

·        If suspicious of loiterers, remain in your car, lock the doors and close the windows.

·        Drive when possible on well-lit and much traveled roads.

·        Park in well-lit parking areas and avoid remote locations, especially in shopping malls.

·        Do not stop for suspicious pedestrians.

Two additional driver safety tips:

·        Separate house keys from car keys.

·        Keep your vehicle registration in your wallet or purse, not in your car.  (HF Newsletter 1998)


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Keep Your House Number Visible


The Fairfax County Code requires that all street addresses be clearly visible and readable from the street. In an emergency, precious seconds or minutes could be lost if police, fire or rescue personnel are unable to identify an address promptly.


Each home or business in the County must have an address clearly marked at the front entrance. If a building is occupied by more than one business or family dwelling unit, each separate front entrance must have a separate number.


The fire department has several recommendations to aid in prompt identification:

  • Be sure that shrubbery or long driveways do not obscure numbers.
  • Use block letters rather than script lettering.
  • While painting address numerals on curbs is a useful means of identification, your primary means of posting addresses should be on your home, because parked cars can block curb numbers.
  • Make sure numbers are large enough and contrast sharply with their background.
  • Illuminate numbers or find other ways to make them visible from the street at night, such as using reflective numbers.
  • Be sure all numbers are posted at all times.
  • If you live on a corner lot, be sure numbers are visible from the street named in your address.


If you share a private pipe stem driveway, be sure to post numbers at the front entrance of the home in addition to those posted at the drive-way entrance. To order a private pipe stem driveway sign or replacement, call the Cashier's Office of the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services at 703-324-1520. (HF Newsletter 1997)


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Safety for You and Your Home


Fortunately, crime is rare in our community of nearly 200 homes.  However, one should always be careful of their surrounding to avoid being a victim.  We offer these suggestions to reduce the likelihood that you will be the crime victim.


·        Vary your routine.  Don't walk a predictable route at a predictable time.  Cross back and forth across the street every so often.  In other words, be a harder target.


·        Be aware of your surroundings by looking ahead; try to avoid places which allow concealment near the side walk; do not wear headphones.  Keep your senses working for your protection.


·        Do not walk alone late at night.


·        Carry a flashlight and a whistle (Mace can backfire and incapacitate you instead of the assailant).  There are some very piercing 'noisemakers' on the market now for self protection.


·        Report any suspicious behavior, strange cars, or people noticed at any time to the police immediately.  Let the Neighborhood Watch coordinator (listed on the Home Page) know as soon as possible.  Practice taking mental notes so that you can identify five characteristics about a suspicious person or vehicle.


·        Trim back bushes, and leave lights on.  Motion detector lights are particularly effective deterrents to someone using your yard for illegal purposes.


  • Join Neighborhood Watch.  With more members, perhaps we could cover additional time slots on a random basis, making ft harder for wrong doers to case the neighborhood. (Bob Cosgriff Sept 1995)


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More Safety Tips


·        Pay attention to what is going on around your house (and your neighbors), and dial 911 if you see or hear anything unusual.  Don't confront suspicious persons; let the police handle it.


·        Leave outside lights on at night.  Light bulbs and the electricity they use cost very IittIe, and light provides a great deterrent to nighttime trouble.  Individuals bent on mischief avoid Iighted areas.  The more Iight we have in the community the better; so leave your lights on all night.


·        Walk around the community.  Get to know who beIongs here and who doesn't.


Examples of Suspicious Activity


·        A stranger entering your neighbor's home while your neighbor is away or someone crossing your neighbor's yard for no apparent purpose; anyone trying to open a neighbor's door; a moving truck or van pulled up to a neighbor's home while they are gone.  Remember, burglaries often occur at times when they should be most obvious – in broad daylight, in full view of observers, and with no effort at subterfuge.


·        Someone carrying property such as television sets, radios, stereos, etc., at an unusually late hour or in an unusual place, especially if it does not appear that the property is newly purchased.


·        The sound of shattering glass could signal a possible burglary, vandalism, or larceny in progress.


·        Anyone peering into vehicles while walking down the street or someone removing tags, gasoline, or parts from a car; someone attempting to enter a car using a coat hanger or other device.  Never assume that it is the owner who has locked his or her keys in his car.  Be suspicious of anyone tampering with the hood or trunk of a car.


·        An improperly parked car, an abandoned vehicle, or someone leaving one's car and driving away in another.  These may be signs of a stolen vehicle.


·        Anyone being forced into a vehicle could be the victim of a possible abduction.


·        Persons loitering around schools, parks, isolated areas, or in the neighborhood.  Loiterers could be possible sex offenders or burglars.


·        Business transactions conducted from a vehicle, especially around schools, playgrounds, or parks and often on a regular basis at unusual times or late hours.  This could indicate drug sales or a fencing operation.


·        Offers of goods or repair work at unusually low prices could indicate stolen property or some type of fraud.


·        All fights, screams and loud noises (such as explosions) should be reported, as possible crimes or life threatening events could be taking place.


·        Door-to-door solicitors without properly issued licenses. (HF Newsletter April 1993)



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Yet More Safety Tips


  • Leave your outside lights on at night.  If you don't have any, buy and install some, or pay someone to do it.
  • Trim shrubbery so that nobody can hide behind it, or use it to hide behind when they sneak up to your house.
  • Get a burglar alarm (even a cheap one is better than nothing).  Then arm the darn thing when you go to bed -- or when you leave the house.
  • Arrange with a neighbor to keep an eye on your house, and you promise to keep an eye on theirs. 
  • Keep your curtains drawn at night (every time I do neighborhood watch, I see open curtains and can see what people own from the street - if I was a burglar, I'd make a note of what I like and come back some time when you're gone).
  • Lock your doors and windows when you're not home and when you go to bed.  If you don't have good window locks, you can drill a hole through the upper and lower sash and put a long screw in there.
  • Keep your garage door shut and locked (and the light out).  Tools are valuable and are often stolen.
  • Don't put valuable stuff in your carport (including bikes, power tools, etc)
  • Lock your car.  Consider getting a car alarm.  Don't leave valuables readily visible in your car.
  • Discuss with a professional (like a policeman) or check out a book from the library (like Home Safe Home by Helen Maxwell) on what you should do in crisis situations when someone has broken into your house and you or your children are threatened.  (HF Newsletter 1999 – Pete Scala)


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Identify and Inventory Your Property


Mark your property so it can be identified should it be stolen.  Make an inventory of your valuables.  Property identification discourages thieves and makes fencing of stolen property more difficult.  When recovered stolen property can be identified, it can be used as evidence against the thief and also can be returned by police to its owner.


Engravers may be borrowed and inventory forms obtained from Fairfax County Public Libraries.  Engrave your driver's license number and the abbreviation for the state that issued it – in our case, VA.  Police recommend using the driver’s license number because they can quickly identify the owner of the property when it is recovered from the thief.  Include the following Information in your inventory record:  your driver’s license number, Item marked, make, model, size/color, serial number, and where marked


Also, use a video camcorder to inventory your home’s contents should it be burgled or subject to fire.


Keep the videotape and property inventory in a safe location such as a safe deposit box.  Don’t keep them in your home – they won’t help you if they are burned!  (Kirk Randall October 2004)


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Free Home Security Inspection


The Fairfax County Police Department offers free home security inspections.  A qualified, trained officer will inspect the locks, doors and windows of your home with you and make recommendations for improvement.  Exterior lighting, landscaping and other factors affecting the protection of your home from burglary also will be reviewed.  You can arrange for a free inspection by calling the West Springfield District crime prevention officer at 703-644-7377.


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Watch Your Ashes!


What could be better than curling up in front of the fireplace or wood stove on a cold winter's night?  What could be worse than burning your house down because you didn't properly dispose of the ashes!  Every year, hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage occurs and dozens of families are displaced because of fires in their homes that are caused by the improper disposal of fireplace ashes.  Fireplace and woodstove ashes retain enough heat to ignite other combustible materials for several days after a fire.


It is important to learn the following ways to dispose of fireplace and woodstove ashes properly:


·         Do not discard your ashes into any combustible container like a paper or plastic bag, a cardboard box, or a plastic trash can.


·         Put ashes into a noncombustible metal container with a lid.


·         Pour water into the container to make sure the ashes are cool.


·         Keep your can OUTSIDE the home, away from combustibles.


·         Teach all family members to be safe with ashes from your fireplace or wood stove.


Fireplaces and wood stoves have increased in popularity.  Fires related to their misuse are increasing as well.  Learn to use yours properly.  CYA (Cover Your Ashes)!  For more information about fireplace or woodstove safety, call your local fire station. (HF Newsletter, Dec 1997)


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Open Garages Invite Burglaries


By Virginia Law, the time of day dictates what crime can be charged in regards to the thefts from garages.  During the day, if someone enters an open garage and steals items, it is a larceny (petit or grand larceny depending on the value of the items).  However, during nighttime hours, if someone enters an open garage of another with the intent to commit a crime, it is a burglary, which is a felony.  It is important to remember also, that by leaving your garage open, it gives easier access into your home.  Please encourage neighbors and loved ones to keep garage doors closed at all times.  It only takes a matter of seconds for someone to enter an open garage and steal items.


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