As holidays approach, U.S. and British security forces look to curb thefts
December 12, 2007
RAF LAKENHEATH – British and U.S. Air Force police are looking to step up their joint “hot spot” patrols in the area this week to prevent crimes, such as the one-night theft spree against airmen last month.
As the Christmas holiday approaches, the Lakenheath Safer Neighborhood Team and members of the 48th Security Forces Squadron plan to sweep troubled spots in Lakenheath and Beck Row villages help prevent crimes.
“We’re upping patrols ahead of Christmas and as a result of the recent thefts,” said team member Constable Jono Waller.
Airmen reported six thefts from vehicles in November — most occurring on one night — within the Lakenheath team’s jurisdiction. Six incidents might not seem like much, but it’s more than the total of similar thefts against airmen from June to October, according to British police.
The patrols allow the two police forces to point out security risks to airmen living off base, such as items left visible in vehicles or unsecured garages. Both forces began the patrols last summer after another outbreak of theft, but stopped them as reported thefts decreased.
The first of the new wave of patrols will kick off this week.
“We want to educate people so they don’t become victims of crime,” said Staff Sgt. Alberto Castillo, RAF Lakenheath’s crime prevention officer.
Mildenhall Police Constable Sarah Chapman is investigating a majority of the thefts that occurred on the night of Nov. 19-20 in towns around RAFs Lakenheath and Mil- denhall. Thieves broke into six vehicles in Beck Row, Lakenheath and Mildenhall that night, stealing satellite navigation devices, a CD player, an iPod, CDs, wallets and documents, among other items, according to British police reports. Five vehicles belonged to U.S. airmen.
Air Force uniforms as well as pink cards (used for base registration) and identification cards also have been known to be stolen from airmen’s vehicles, police say.
Police urge airmen to stay vigilant during the holiday season and to not leave gifts in cars or where they can be easily seen from the windows of homes.
“Unfortunately, it’s a trend when it comes to Christmastime,” Constable Waller said of the rising number of thefts this time of year. “Thieves know that there could be expensive presents under the tree, especially in the homes of U.S. military personnel.”
Police also warn about incidents of stolen vehicles. Residents have reported 30 stolen vehicles from Lakenheath and its surrounding villages from Jan. 1 to Dec. 4 of this year. A third of those vehicles belonged to U.S. airmen, according to Police Community Support Officer Jason Thomas, also a team member.
The Safer Neighborhood teams were created in May as part of a Suffolk Constabulary-wide initiative to increase police presence on the streets. The teams work closely with local communities, concentrating on crime trends rather than responding to emergency calls.
How to protect yourself from thieves
Anyone who wants to keep tabs on crime in the area can register on Suffolk’s Neighbourhood Watch program online. Once registered, residents receive via e-mail the latest newsletters on crime in their areas.
Click here for the program’s Web site.
Another helpful British online service is Police Direct, which provides crime updates, messages and security alerts to your e-mail, cell or landline phone.
Here are some tips on vehicle security:
Never leave your vehicle running while it’s unattended.Remove your pink (base registration) card from your window when you leave base, and store it in a safe location. Also, remove military gear and equipment from your vehicle.Do not leave valuables in plain view. If you have a removable stereo faceplate, remove it and hide it. Also, remove satellite navigation devices and holders from vehicles.Park in open, well-lit and populated areas near your destination. Avoid parking near trucks, trash bins and other objects that can obstruct visibility and provide hiding places.Turn off your engine, roll up all windows, lock all doors and take your keys with you when making even a quick stop at a store, gas station or your driveway.Source: RAF Lakenheath’s 48th Security Forces Squadron