Residents of the 109 who look forward to the holiday season’s carols, Christmas lights, and Santa’s presents can easily forget that they’re not the only ones looking forward to the holidays.
Some criminal grinches are looking to steal the presents other people bought.
Fort Worth Police Officer Sidney Keith, who serves as the Frisco Heights Neighborhood Association’s police officer, said that crime increases during the holidays.
“[Crime] is all over the city during the holidays, normally,” Keith said. “There are a lot more burglaries because people leave Christmas trees with presents underneath and great big, open windows so [burglars] know there are items underneath the Christmas trees.”
Keith said many people are gone, either shopping or visiting family, during the holidays, making their homes easier targets for burglars.
Bill Hall, mayor of Park Hill Neighborhood Association, said while non-residents often travel through Park Hill to view the historic houses in the area, residents should be on alert with the increased traffic of people looking at the neighborhood’s Christmas lights.
“I think that folks are more aware during this time of year, when there’s more activity, about keeping their cars off the street and if their cars are out on the street to keep them locked, keeping their doors locked, not leaving things outside. It’s just an invitation [for theft].”
The Park Hill Neighborhood Association pays off-duty police officers to patrol its neighborhood randomly throughout the year, but Hall said the neighborhood association has no plans to increase police activity throughout the holidays.
Hall said making Park Hill safer has been an overall community effort over the last 10 years.
“You can’t solve all your problems by having an off-duty police officer roaming around because certainly some things still happen, but we certainly feel like with the awareness that we have in the neighborhood, along with the patrols, we have a pretty good situation for us,” Hall said. “That doesn’t mean that something can’t happen tonight, and it can. We’re not immune to any problems but we’re trying to address it as a neighborhood as opposed to just a couple of homeowners.”
Hall said that while many residents of Park Hill might get a little lax about safety because they live in a closed area, safety should be on residents’ minds more than just the peak time for crime.
“Everybody needs to be more aware and keep their outside lights on [at night], but that’s not just during the holidays, that’s all year. There’s probably more traffic in the holiday period but we’re conscious about it.”
Clif Overcash, president of Westcliff West Neighborhood Association, echoed Hall’s thoughts on neighborhood safety, saying “you can take the holiday season out of the equation and just say that crime is probably the No. 1 hot button issue in our neighborhood.”
Overcash said he did not know whether the holidays made much of a difference in the amount of crime in his neighborhood, but said it comes and goes in a cyclical process throughout the year as residents might lower their guard against incidents.
“It almost works in reverse,” Overcash said. The more crimes that are reported in any neighborhood in town, the police are going to go patrol that area, whether it’s Westcliff West, or whether it’s Ridglea. The police kind of respond to wherever is getting hit the hardest and so, for a while, if we go without any crime then the residents get a little lax and then it comes back and we have to warn everybody a couple times a year.”
A lot of the crime in Westcliff West seems to coincide with the school year, Overcash said. Often, when a new group of TCU students moves into the neighborhood, they have not received any previous community emails regarding safety and might not be aware of recent crime in the neighborhood so they do not know to protect themselves and their possessions.
By using the Internet, however, Overcash said informing TCU students living in Westcliff West has become much easier, making them more aware and the neighborhood safer.
Keith said the holidays should be a concern for TCU students living off-campus in the 109 and encouraged students leaving Fort Worth for the holidays to take the necessary steps to make their houses safer.
“You want somebody to check your house,” Keith said. You don’t want to leave the house for a month and not have someone check on it. You want to leave a neighbor a contact number and you want to record all your serial numbers on all your electronics and [other possessions].”
Keith said burglars often look to sell stolen goods at pawn shops and keeping track of your possessions’ serial numbers makes it possible for police to find a stolen item and the burglar when they attempt to sell it.
Keith said residents of the 109 who aren’t travelling for the holidays should remember the little things to ensure a safe and merry Christmas.
“Make sure everything is secure and locked and not in plain view so that people can’t see what you have,’ Keith said. “You want to keep the blinds closed. If you have a screen door to keep it locked. Most important would be for neighbors to look out for neighbors. If you see somebody who’s not supposed to be there, call 911.”