Helping Each Other to Prevent Illegal Activity on Seabrook Island
In this month’s letter, I wanted to share some thoughts about what all of us can do to keep ourselves and our wonderful island community as free as possible from
You may have heard that both Seabrook Island and Kiawah Island have recently been experiencing some instances of illegal entry into homes. This unfortunate fact has gotten everyone’s attention, and we are all looking at ways to improve the security across our community. Fortunately, to date on Seabrook there have been four incidents, which have been spread over about two months and have not involved any personal injury or face-to-face confrontation. It seems that the homes that have been affected were unoccupied at the time, and in one instance entry was not gained but storage area door hinges were bent. Presumably, the break-ins presented targets of opportunity for would-be thieves.
SIPOA is taking steps to improve our security force from the standpoint of both personnel and operations. When our new security force takes over around October 15, the force will be split into officers who are only patrol officers, and others who are gate officers. Moreover, in the orientation of our incoming security force, we have used recent real-life experiences that occurred here as training and teaching exercises in an effort to ensure that our officers are more attuned to the sometimes-unique issues involved in security on Seabrook Island.
Nevertheless, the fact that crime has occurred here by definition means that some people who have come through our security gate, and who may have otherwise had legitimate access to the island, have less than legitimate intentions once they are here. Unfortunately, we cannot know before their arrival who may have plans to do illegal things, but we all can take some steps to try to minimize their likelihood of success.
I grew up in a very small town in Maryland where, quite literally, I knew everyone who lived there and they knew me. Because my mom grew up on surrounding farms and was one of eleven children, many of my “neighbors” were also my cousins, aunts and uncles. On the positive side, we had a built-in support network in times of trouble, and there was always someone nearby to take us to the doctor, keep an eye on us kids, or help shovel the walk or the road in the winter. On the negative side, the moms and aunts and uncles and neighbors at the windows did not let any of our juvenile transgressions pass without notice. I learned a lot amid those relatives and neighbors, and one of the most fundamental lessons I took away was this: neighbors look out for each other.
Here on Seabrook Island, where many of the homes are not occupied all year around, we should all take the time to try to connect with our neighbors, whether they or we are full- or part-timers. Get their email addresses and phone numbers. If they rent via a rental agent, learn who the agent is and get a contact number. Stay in regular touch with your neighbors. If something looks amiss across the street or at a house you know is not occupied, speak up. Call SIPOA Security (843-768-6641), call the property owner, call the rental agent, or call 911, depending on your assessment of the situation, but don’t ignore it.
If you see someone looking suspicious at a home you know is vulnerable because of the absence of your neighbors or any other reason, don’t confront the suspicious person directly or put yourself in harm’s way, but do contact SIPOA security or 911. If you see a suspicious or unusual car or van parked on your street, and if you can do so without putting yourself at risk, take a picture of the vehicle and the license plate with your phone. If, given your life experience, you feel that something is amiss, it probably IS amiss, and you should report it.
Many of us have fallen into the habit of not locking our doors when we leave our houses, but the simple act of locking doors greatly improves security. This includes sliding doors, patio doors and the doors to the screened porch.
Be sure to clean out your mailbox daily, and if you don’t have forwarding or a hold on your mail when you are away, please ask a trusted neighbor to clean your mailbox-even junk mail can contain your full name and address and can present an opportunity for identity thieves.
If you buy a large electronic appliance like a flat-screen TV, consider taking the box to the recycling center rather than leaving it at the curb for pickup on trash day: nothing says “brand new fancy TV inside” like a big box sitting next to this week’s trash.
If you know your neighbors are going to be away for a while after their trash cans have been emptied at the curb, consider rolling the cans back up to their house; again, cans at the curb likely signal an empty house.
If your house will be unoccupied for more than a day or so, consider installing timers on your lights, and asking neighbors to collect your mail and packages so they are not piling up in your absence.
If you are calling in or authorizing guest passes for contractors or day workers or others, please be as accurate as you possibly can in the identification of all individuals for whom you are seeking passes. Accuracy in our passes gives us a real advantage when we are trying to track who was on the island at any given time.
Keep your lawn maintained. Consider giving a trusted neighbor a key to your front door (not under the mat!) and asking them to check in on your house while you are away.
If you have a rental agent, engage the agent to make at least weekly randomly timed checks on the house and its contents.
Consider installing a “smart home access system” that allows you to control access to your home via your computer or smartphone, and bypass the need for extra keys. A ring-video doorbell system that also operates via your smartphone and that lets you see and speak to anyone who rings the doorbell from wherever you are, is also a great deterrent, because the person ringing the bell does not know where you are, but knows that they are being seen.
When we live in a place where we are accustomed to feeling safe and secure, incidents like those that have occurred in the last couple of months can be upsetting. It will take the combined efforts of all of us to reduce and hopefully eliminate these incidents in the future.
We still live in a beautiful, relatively crime-free place; to date we have only three or four incidents on Seabrook Island in about two months, and only one in which anything was taken. Soon we will be approaching the time of year when many of us travel to visit family and friends for the holidays. Let’s collectively do what we can to maximize the peace of mind for everyone who will be away, and to minimize the chances of illegal activity here on Seabrook for us, our friends and neighbors.
Enjoy the coming Fall weather!
President, SIPOA Board of Directors