By Sargent Scott Edwards, Mission Police Station

What do the following the scenarios have in common?

1. A rather drunk man walks home, texting on his iPhone and updating Facebook.
2. An older gentleman accepts a drink from a very attractive young stranger at the bar.
3. A visitor to the Castro leaves her rental car parked on the street with her backpack inside of it.

If you answered “they’re all in danger of becoming victims,” you are correct. At the risk of being accused of blaming the victim, let me suggest some ways in which you, your friends and family can lower the probability of becoming a crime statistic.

The common thread linking most victims is an inability to exercise capable guardianship. The more distracted or intoxicated a person is, the harder it is to take good care of themselves and their property. Likewise, the less secure a person’s property, the more vulnerable that property is to theft. Most criminals are actually risk-averse, although sometimes they misjudge how risky a given crime is. For example, if you put yourself in the shoes of a would-be robber; would you choose as a potential victim an obviously intoxicated person carrying his cell phone in his hand, or an empty-handed person walking briskly down the sidewalk? Most criminals would choose the former. Although it’s flattering when a pretty young thing brings you an already-made drink, the careful person has to ask, “Is this too good to be true?”

What should you do if you are a victim of crime? The first and most important thing to do is get yourself to a safe location. Obviously, what constitutes a safe location depends partly on what has happened, and partly on your present level of ability. Secondly, you need to report the crime to the police. How you report this also depends on the situation. If you return to your vehicle and find that someone has broken into it, you can call 415-553-0123 or 311 or make a report online. If you’ve just been assaulted, robbed, or have a bona fide emergency, you should immediately call 911. Once you have called, stay calm and tell us these five things first:
1. Where you are.
2. What happened, preferably in one sentence (e.g., “I was robbed!”) You can give out more information later.
3. Where the suspect is, or which way the suspect went, on foot or in a vehicle.
4. What the suspect looked like and was wearing.
5. Whether the suspect had any weapons.

The one exception is that if you are badly injured, let the 911 dispatcher know immediately. Otherwise, when the police arrive on the scene, we will make sure you get any needed medical attention.
Keep in mind that our response time is predicated on a number of items:
1. The caller’s use of the proper number.
2. The speed at which the call-taker gets the information to the dispatcher.
3. The priority of the call, as assigned by our dispatchers based on your initial call and their protocols.
4. The availability and capability of units to respond.
5. The proximity of available units.

For example, if a robbery victim calls 911 to report they were just robbed at gunpoint at Dolores Park on an otherwise uneventful Tuesday night, officers may be able to respond to the area within two minutes. On the other hand, if a good Samaritan calls Mission Station directly to report a suspicious person casing cars on Pink Saturday, there will be a delay while the person working at the station relays the call to dispatch, another delay while officers first complete higher priority assignments (like the aforementioned robbery call,) and a further delay as they make their way through heavy traffic to your location.

In summary, try to avoid being a tempting target for criminals by being aware of your surroundings, monitoring your ability to take care of yourself, and being cautious of situations that appear “too good to be true.” If, despite your best efforts, you do become the victim of a crime, report it appropriately as soon as possible and give as much information as you can.

Finally, get involved and stay involved. Criminals target what they believe to be easy prey. As a community, we have the means to dissuade them just by watching out for each other as well as ourselves.

Stay safe!

Emergency calls: 911 or 415-553-8090
Non-emergency calls: 311 or 415-553-0123

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