How to Protect Your Home While You're On Vacation

  • By Spokane C.O.P.S.
  • 15 Jun, 2016

Simple steps to take before you leave to make your home safer

Before you leave for a much-deserved vacation, take a few minutes to protect your home. Thieves look for easy targets, and a few simple steps can make a big difference in minimizing your chances of break-ins.

  1. Don’t let mail pile up. Newspapers on the front doorsteps and a mail slot overflowing with envelopes is a tip off to burglars that a home is vacant. Contact the post office to put a hold on your mail or ask a neighbor to collect your mail daily.

  2. Give the appearance people are home. Set lights and a radio on a timer- the lights and noise will appear to be activity of people inside. Park a vehicle in the driveway. If you’re gone longer than a few days, coordinate with someone to mow the lawn (like a pile of mail, an overgrown yard is a tip off that no one is home). Consider hiring a house sitter to really make the home look lived in.

  3. Don’t announce your departure. It’s tempting to post on social media your excitement for your vacation-but resist it! The posts could be seen by the wrong person, and alert them that your home is vacant.

  4. Designate an emergency contact. Provide a friend or neighbor a spare key and your vacation information so at least one person can get ahold of you if there’s a problem with your house.

  5. Remove the spare key. The only person who may need to enter your home while you’re gone is your designated emergency contact, and you’ve already given them a key. Bring your spare key inside your house. That way, there’s no possibility of a burglar finding it and using it to gain entry into your home.

  6. Unplug electronics. This reduces the chance of a fire (and helps you save on electricity).

  7. Lock away valuables. Don’t leave items like expensive jewelry laptops in plain sight. Instead, secure them in a safe.

  8. Take advantage of the free vacation home check. Volunteers with the Spokane Police department will check the perimeter of your home to make sure it’s safe. Checks can be done Monday through Friday while you’re out of town for up to four weeks. You can schedule checks by calling 622-5885 two weeks ahead of your departure.

A vacation isn't the only time you should be protecting your home. Check out our blog post for tips on protecting your home every day. 

For more crime prevention and safety tips, follow us on Facebook , Twitter , Pinterest , and LinkedIn .
Want to make Spokane a safer place? Volunteer at your local C.O.P.S. shop with one of our crime prevention programs , from lifting fingerprints off of vehicles to catch car prowlers to organizing a block watch for your neighborhood.

Spokane C.O.P.S.

By Spokane C.O.P.S. 25 Nov, 2017

Working with neighborhood volunteers, residents, school officials, and merchants to address the problems that concern them in their respective neighborhood.

The NRO program was initially launched in disadvantaged neighborhoods and has expanded to maintain a presence citywide. The goals for theNROprogram is to work with neighborhood volunteers, residents, school officials, and merchants to address the problems that concern them in their respective neighborhood.   Evaluations of the NRO program by Dr. Quint Thurman of Washington State University in 1992  and again in 1993 suggest the NROs  have made important strides in stabilizing crime in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. In addition, the data he collected shows high levels of satisfaction among school personnel, citizens, and parents with the NRO job performance. As a result, the NRO program has been extended to other geographic areas of Spokane.  NROs  help residents identify and solve problems that affect the viability of their neighborhoods.  NROs  are based in each C.O.P.S. substation and use that base to expand out into the community to help citizens solve their own problems.  NROinteract regularly with C.O.P.S. substations in their area of responsibility, providing direction and presence when necessary.  NROprovide a positive police presence.  NROs  provide a unique problem-solving focus to long standing concerns and treat the underlying problem rather than the symptoms.  As a result,  NROs  are involved with all facets of their neighborhoods; whether schools, businesses, churches,  neighborhood groups, or city and state agencies.  NROs  either directly or indirectly respond to each complaint form written in the substations.  NROs  do not get involved in C.O.P.S. volunteer disputes, unless there is suspected illegal activity or is requested by the Spokane C.O.P.S. Board.  However, the NROshould assist in facilitating In-Service Volunteer meetings to keep volunteers up-to-date on changes within the Spokane Police Department or to address specific concerns of the community.

Your Neighborhood Resource Officers are listed below showing the  C.O.P.S. Substation  that is their base of operations.  You may contact your NRO by going by the substation or calling to making a request for an appointment.

  • Seth Berrow, C.O.P.S. East Central
  • Shaney Redmon, C.O.P.S. Logan
  • Keith Cler, C.O.P.S. Neva-Wood
  • Scott Hice, C.O.P.S. Northeast
  • Dale Wells, C.O.P.S. North Hill /C.O.P.S. North Central
  • Doug Strosahl, C.O.P.S. Northwest
  • Dion Mason, C.O.P.S. Southeast
  • Tim Ottmar, C.O.P.S. Southwest / C.O.P.S. Greater Spokane
  • Traci Ponto, C.O.P.S. West
By Spokane C.O.P.S. 23 Sep, 2017

Block Watch is one of the oldest and most effective crime prevention programs in the country, bringing citizens together with law enforcement to reduce opportunities for crime to occur. The idea is neighbors look out for each other and work together tackle issues and, when needed, report issues to law enforcement.

Here are some ways to make your Block Watch as strong as possible (for information on how to start a Block Watch, click here ).

Partner with other organizations: Leverage the expertise and knowledge of other organizations to strengthen your Block Watch. Your local C.O.P.S. shop  and Neighborhood Conditions Officer not only add to a Watch group’s credibility, but can provide you with vital information and resources. Contact your victims’ services office to gain knowledge on helping victims of crime. Reach out to citizens’ association, community development office, tenants’ association, or housing authority to see if they can offer any helpful resources.

Be consistent: Hold regular meetings to help residents get to know each other and to decide upon program strategies and activities. National Night Out Against Crime on the 1st Tuesday in August each year is a great way to start a Block Watch or to strengthen your current Watch. Don’t let your Block Watch fizzle out-create and keep a consistent schedule that engages the members.

Utilize communication tools: For some Block Watch groups, communicating through a phone tree or email distribution is the most effective. But don’t forget about new technology ways of communicating, such as or Facebook private closed groups. Picking a communication tool helps prevent the Block Watch from falling apart due to poor communication. Check out our blog post of the best free communication tools for neighbors.

Engage stay at home members. Ask people who seldom leave their homes to be “window watchers,” looking out for children and reporting any unusual activities in the neighborhood. 

Sponsor a crime prevention fair. Take your group’s enthusiasm for crime prevention beyond your housing unit! You can share your crime prevention knowledge (and the benefits of Block Watch) with others at a church hall, temple, shopping mall, or community.


Curious about the history of Block Watch?

Block Watch can trace its roots back to the days of colonial settlements, when night watchmen patrolled the streets. The modern version of Block Watch was developed in response to requests from sheriffs and police chiefs who were looking for a crime prevention program that would involve citizens and address an increasing number of burglaries. Nationally launched in 1972, Block Watch counts on citizens to organize themselves and work with the Spokane C.O.P.S. shops, the Neighborhood Conditions Officers, and other law enforcement to keep a trained eye and ear on their communities, while demonstrating their presence at all times of day and night. The program took off quickly: in just ten years, data showed that 12 percent of the population was involved in a Block Watch.

For more crime prevention and public safety information, follow us on Facebook , Twitter , Pinterest , or LinkedIn

By Spokane C.O.P.S. 21 Aug, 2017
Throughout Spokane communities were coming together as the feeling of neighborhood swept over the city. More than 60 parties, some small affairs at residences and other large community gatherings at parks such as Dutch Jake's or Shadle Park, were held as part of National Night Out. 

By Spokane C.O.P.S. 29 Jul, 2017

National Night Out is an annual community-building campaign that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer, more caring places to live. National Night Out enhances the relationship between neighbors and law enforcement while bringing back a true sense of community. Furthermore, it provides a great opportunity to bring police and neighbors together under positive circumstances.

August 1st is the big night for National Night Out, and neighborhoods across Spokane will be joining in on the fun. Many of the parties will be on the 1st but others will be on different nights throughout August and into September. Please find a party near you, get to know your neighbors and the police who work to keep you safe. Together we can make a difference in our neighborhoods and really make this a going away party for crime.

Below is a list of public parties for National Night Out in Spokane, WA. In attendance will be law enforcement, fire department, city officials, and more!  If you have questions call the contact number for the party or Spokane C.O.P.S. at 509-625-3301.

On August 1, 2017

  • Rochester Heights Park, East Rowan on Crestline, 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm
    • booths, games, food, music
  • Dutch Jake's Park, Broadway and Chestnut, 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
    • booths, games, food, music
  • Hamblen Park Presbyterian Church, 5:30 pm - 8:00 pm
    • booths, games, food, music
  • Shadle Park, Wellesley and Belt, 5:00 pm - Midnight
    • booths, human Foosball, music, dance off, karaoke, movie on big screen
On August 3, 2017
  • Shadle Park, Wellesley and Belt, 6:00pm
    • Concert in the Park with Lilac City Community Band
In September 2017
  • Downtown, Wall Street between Spokane Falls Blvd and Main Downtown, 11:00 am - 5:30 pm
    • booths, games, food, music
  • Lower South Hill Neighborhood, Madison St between 8th and 9th Avenue, 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm
By Spokane C.O.P.S. 12 Apr, 2017

By Samantha Purcell, Spokane C.O.P.S. Crime Victim Advocate

April 2017

Imposter Scams

I find I often tire of hearing about scams, frauds, data breaches, and I wonder if everyone else isn’t tiring of it too. What I have concluded is this – I read about these crimes daily so the information seems like old news to me; however, with Americans reporting $744 million dollars lost at the hands of these scammers and fraudsters in 2016, clearly education and awareness remains imperative.

What concerns me the most about the losses of 2016 is the most reported method used: imposter scams over the telephone. In my research, it is painstakingly clear the imposters are good at what they do; whether they are gaining their victim’s trust or threatening them, they are convincing. But the most devastating consequence of most imposter scams is the money is rarely, if ever, recovered. The scammer get the victim to physically get the money and send them money, so convincing the bank or credit card company of a scam is difficult.

            My purpose in writing about imposter scams is to educate anyone reading this on how to identify red flags of an imposter scam, and prevent this from happening to as many people as possible. I also want to implore the reader to share this information with your friends and family; particularly if you know any seniors who you feel would benefit from this information because the imposters tend to target them.


 - You did not initiate the call.

 - Overly persuasive, aggressive, or threatening tone or language.

 - A sense of urgency – the transaction must happen right now.

 - The know too much or too little about you than seems appropriate for the situation.

 - Payment methods of money orders, pre-paid cards, wire transfers, transferring money from your account to a new   account, depositing a check into your account them withdrawing cash to give to someone, or asking for credit card   information.

 - Sounds too good to be true.

 - Free, for a fee.

Here is a list of current phone scams:

 - IRS scams

 - They may claim you owe money that must be paid now or you will be arrested.

 -Tech scams

 - They may say your computer in vulnerable and they can help. They may ask for money (via credit card or money   order), or they ask for remote access of your computer. Either way they may be attempting to steal your money or   your information.

 - Lottery

 - They may claim you have won a lottery in another country. Usually you must pay a fee to claim the prize, or they   may ask for your bank account information to deposit the money in your account.

 -Jury duty scams

 - The imposter claims you have unpaid fines for missing jury duty. The demand payment immediately.

 - Grandparent Scam

 - The imposter claims to be your grandchild. The know enough about your actual grandchild to sound convincing, and   they claim they are in jail and need bail money. They will ask for payment to be made in a variety of formats.

There is another platform used by imposters to scam people out of money or personal information. It is not as common as phone scams, but the damage that can be done is the same. These imposter scams happen online, using email and ads.

Online Scam Red Flags:

 - Email that contain spelling and grammar errors.

 - Ads that offer an unbelievable discount.

 - Email from a friend that contains a link or attachment (known as phishing).

 - Email from a CEO or manager of your company asking for employee information, such as W-2 information. This    request also includes an extreme sense of urgency (known as spear phishing).

 - The phone scam red flags apply to online scams.

Pause, then Post

            The information be share using online platforms is fun – pictures, stories, videos, etc. The most common places: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube, and there are others. Here’s the deal, your personal information is as valuable as the cash in your pocket or the credit card in your wallet. Does that seem strange? It did to me, at first, but I have since learned how true it is. The criminals who are committed to stealing from people, by any means possible, are using the information we share on our social media sites to gain enough information about us to use it against us. Posting information about our lives on Facebook is fun and seemingly harmless; however, an imposter scammer may use your Facebook page to find information that will make them sound legit when they call you. We work hard to have good passwords, but many people use names of pets or items they love, so their passwords are easier to remember. Hackers will intentionally glean this information from your social media sites and use it to guess passwords.

            Often people respond to hearing this information saying, “This is scaring me”. My intention is to educate and create awareness, not to scare anyone. The more we know about the tactics of criminals the better we can protect ourselves and our families. Next time you are going to post something on social media – pause, then post. And if your passwords contain information about you I recommend changing them today.

By Spokane C.O.P.S. 17 Mar, 2017

The C.O.P.S. Shop for Northeast Spokane (Located at the Northeast Precinct 5124 E. Market St. Spokane) now offers Operation Family ID (OFID ) .

OFID is a program where volunteers take fingerprints, updated digital photos and other identifying information such as name, height, etc. about children or vulnerable adults with dementia or other disabilities.  This information is incredibly helpful to police in the event someone is lost or abducted.  Police send Amber or Silver Alerts for missing children or adults and dispatch as much relevant information as possible to ensure they are found quickly. Having current, accurate information about those we care for can make all the difference in the world in the critical first hours that someone is lost.  

None of this information is kept or stored by Spokane C.O.P.S.  Everything is transferred to the parent or loved one for their storage.  In addition, a DNA Swab and container is provided in the ID kit. 

Spokane Police and C.O.P.S. recommends all families bring their children and any other vulnerable adult to a C.O.P.S. Shop regularly to keep up to date information on file.

Call C.O.P.S. Northeast at 625-3343 for more details and to schedule an appointment.

Your local C.O.P.S. Shops run many, many programs that can benefit you, your family and your neighborhood.  Stop on by and get great information on block watches , neighborhood observation patrols , Latent Fingerprinting for car break ins, safe streets , code enforcement , bicycle registration , Engraving ID information on your property, crime free multi-housing and other great resources that are personalized for your neighborhoods in Spokane. Click Here to find your nearest C.O.P.S. Shop and find out how we can help you keep your loved ones and belongings safe.

By Spokane C.O.P.S. 09 Mar, 2017

Having your car broken into is no fun! You lose your belongings, have to pay for a new window or broken lock, dealwith insurance, clean up broken glass, and the headache and time that come with dealing with those issues. And, of course, you lose your sense of safety.

So what can you do about vehicle prowlings ?

First, Do all you can do a lot to prevent it from happening.  Car prowling and break-ins are crimes of opportunity for thieves. Some common sense prevention can do a lot to decrease the likelihood of you becoming a victim.

Keep it Locked-   It seems simple, keep your car locked to avoid would-be thieves from getting in, but all of us get lulled into feeling like it won't happen to us. If you leave your car, lock it up. It can be tempting if we're running back into the house or another location because we forgot something to just keep the car running or unlocked to make things easier. During these cold temperatures we can be tempted to let our car "warm up" before we get in. Some people feel safe in their neighborhood and that it could never happen to them. But thieves look for easy targets and there is nothing easier than an unlocked car, especially if it is running! Locking your car means that the prowler is going to have to break in, and that means a lot more risk of someone seeing or hearing the break in and calling the police.  Anything that makes a prowler have to work harder or be more noticable might be enough to protect your car or belongings.

Park in a secure location-  The best place to park your car would be in your locked garage, or in a driveway with a locked gate, but that's not always available for a number of reasons. There are still things you can do, however, to keep your car as safe as possible. 

 -Park in a well lit area: Prowlers want to get in and out of your car without being seen. If you are somewhere with a lot  of light they are likely to move on to avoid being caught.

 -Park in high traffic area, or where your car will be visible to many: This goes along with the concept of being in a well lit area, but be somewhere where many people can see your car. This could be because you are on a sidewalk where neighbors commonly walk, or in a place where you and your neighbors can clearly see the car from windows. The same principle applies the easier it is for you and others to see your vehicle, the less likely a prowler will think he can break in without being noticed.

Don't Leave valuables, mail or other items in your car- Whenever you go in take your valuables with you.  Don't leave laptops, cell phones, purses, wallets... really anything you want to keep in your car.  The more a prowler can see in your car, the more the reward for breaking in might exceed the risk.  

Don't just think about traditional items though. Leaving mail in your car can also entice prowlers. Identity theft is rampant, and anything that could help criminals steal your identity are as enticing as electronics or a wallet.  Be careful and safeguard your identity by protecting your documents, bills, and other identifying information.

Don't leave things that could appear to be valuable.  Avoid leaving bags, boxes, or other items that could hold valuables. You may know that the duffel bag in your backseat only has old gym socks, but a prowler could think it has a laptop or other valuables.  Even a bag you leave in your car to collect trash could make a prowler think something valuable is inside. The more that is visible from outside your car the more enticing your car looks as a target.

Prowling is all about risk-reward, use these tips and constantly be thinking about ways to make your car seem more like a risk and less like a reward to protect yourself from being a victim.

But, if you do become a victim of car prowling call Crime Check (456-2233) and report it. Note the incident number, which you will give to your insurance company if you are making a claim. While you are talking to Crime Check, request a fingerprint lift . That’s where your neighborhood C.O.P.S. shop comes in. We have trained volunteers who will attempt a fingerprint lift and get the prints to forensics to help catch the person who did it.

Even if you haven't had a break-in- You can still make use of your local C.O.P.S. shop . If you are seeing a lot of break-ins, let us know. You can request a Neighborhood Observation Patrol (NOP) that will help patrol your area, and we can help you set up a Block Watch or Business Watch as well to minimize your risk.

Always remember that there are actions you can take to minimize your risk of crime. And that’s what we’re here for. Get in touch with us, and consider volunteering at your neighborhood C.O.P.S. shop!


By Spokane C.O.P.S. 10 Jan, 2017

The Club is an excellent theft prevention for your car.  Not only does it make it more difficult for thieves to steal your car, it also acts as a visual deterrent telling thieves to pass your car for an easier target.

C.O.P.S. Northeast has steering wheel clubs available for the following vehicles. If you have one of these vehicles and are interested please contact the shop at 509-625-3343.   They are located at 5124 N Market St, Spokane, WA 99217.

1984-2005 TOYOTA CAMRY

By Spokane C.O.P.S. 22 Dec, 2016

There are few things worse than having your belongings stolen from you. Aside from the fact that our belongings are physical manifestations of all of our hard work and sweat that we put into this world, often belongings have strong sentimental value as well – the lawnmower your mom gave you when you bought your first house or the tools you inherited from your dad. Whatever it may be, property crimes are so much more than the simple value of the items that were stolen or the damage that was done to our property. Our neighborhoods don’t feel as safe and it can severely affect our quality of life. It can too easily feel like property crimes are just a fact of life for us and that we need to give up and accept it. But it doesn’t need to be that way , and it certainly doesn’t mean we need to resign ourselves to watching our property get stolen while we sit idly by. As citizens, there are a myriad of things we can do to help get this situation under control and protect ourselves. And your neighborhood C.O.P.S. shop is here to help.

The first thing you can do to stay safe is get a Block Watch going. That’s because one of the single most important crime deterrents is getting to know your neighbors . Period. When we work as a community and look out for each other, we make it considerably harder for criminals to cause trouble. When you know your neighbors, when you know their schedules, when you have a strong relationship with your block and when your street is full of people looking out for one another, you can drastically reduce your risk of crime. If there was a strange car at your neighbor’s house, for instance, would you notice it? And even if you did, do you have your neighbor’s phone number and are you close enough that you would call them and check in to see if they were expecting company? If you saw a person walking on your street, do you know your neighbors well enough to know if this person lives a few houses down or if this person doesn’t live there at all? These are the things neighbors need to do. That’s what makes us a community, and strong communities are safe communities. Your C.O.P.S. shop can help you work to start a block watch and get your neighbors together. It’s not hard! It just needs someone to want to make it happen. We will even happily come out and talk to your group about safety tips, products, and any other number of things that will help you to stay safe.

Keeping your neighborhood neat and tidy is another thing you can do to stay safe. The Broken Windows Theory is the idea that criminals are attracted - at either the conscious or subconscious level - to areas that look unkempt and run down. Broken windows attract crime. So do overgrown lawns, broken down cars parked in yards, graffiti, and garbage strewn across yards. Things like that tell criminals that no one cares, and that anything goes in that area. Contrarily, neighborhoods that are neat, clean, and tidy tell criminals that people care in this area, and that they better try their shenanigans somewhere else. Your neighborhood COPS shop can help you report code enforcement violations such as these to the Spokane Code Enforcement team.

Other things you can do to minimize your risk of property crime are:

 - Keep things of value locked up. Even walking away and leaving something unattended for a few minutes can attract thievery.

- Keep your garage door closed

- Make sure your house is well-lit at night.

- Keep shrubbery trimmed, and not overgrown. Overgrown bushes and trees provide great hiding spots for criminals.

- Make sure your front door has a working deadbolt

- Ensure all windows and sliding doors have dowels or other device to keep from being forced open

- Let your neighbors know when you go on vacation, but no one else. Don’t put it on social media that you aren’t home.

- Stop by your local COPS shop to borrow an engraver (free of charge) and engrave your personal belongings so if they get stolen, police can return them to you.

- Bring your bicycles in to your neighborhood COPS shop for registration.

- Make sure all exterior doors on your house are solid core doors

For any of these physical features to your house or landscape, you can come in to your neighborhood C.O.P.S. shop and request a CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) evaluation. We’ll have a CPTED-trained volunteer come and look at your house and property with a check list of things to go through that can help minimize your risk of crime.

And don’t forget, you can also go into any C.O.P.S. shop and request a Neighborhood Observation Patrol (NOP). Our volunteers are trained by the Spokane Police Department, and our NOP patrols are always out and about, observing and reporting to help keep you safe. We can patrol your neighborhood to help keep your area crime free.

So, stop by your local C.O.P.S. shop and talk to us about things you can do to stay safe. And get involved! Crime is a community problem and it takes a community to solve it. We’re here to help, so volunteer with us!

By Spokane C.O.P.S. 22 Dec, 2016

Having your car broken into is no fun! You lose your belongings, have to pay for a new window or broken lock, deal with insurance, clean up broken glass, and the headache and time that come with dealing with those issues. And, of course, you lose your sense of safety.

So what can you do about vehicle prowlings ?

First , if you are a victim, call Crime Check (456-2233) and report it. Note the incident number, which you will give to your insurance company if you are making a claim. While you are talking to Crime Check, request a fingerprint lift . That’s where your neighborhood C.O.P.S. shop comes in. We have trained volunteers who will attempt a fingerprint lift and get the prints to forensics to help catch the person who did it.

To avoid becoming a victim in the first place, please consider these:

- Remove anything of value from your car. If possible, don’t just hide it, but actually take it with you. Thieves are looking for items they can sell, so don’t give them that opportunity. Cell phones, laptops, mp3 players, all of those things just invite a thief to break into your car. Get in the habit of looking around every time you leave your car to make sure you didn’t accidentally leave something in sight.

- Remove anything that appears to have value. Things like duffel bags or laptop bags invite thieves. Sure, you knew that laptop bag held just your dog’s veterinary papers in it, but a thief figured it had an expensive laptop . Anything that even seems like it could have value puts you at risk. Even a plastic bag you use for trash could tempt a thief!

- Lock your doors. Often, people will leave doors unlocked as they figure if a thief is going to break in anyhow, it’s better to let them in so no damage is done to the car. But remember: a person opening a door and getting in does not attract attention or get noticed. A person breaking a window does, should someone see it.

- When possible, park in areas that are highly visible and well-lit. You are more likely to get broken into if a thief is aware that no one can see them.

Finally , make use of your local C.O.P.S. shop . If you are seeing a lot of break-ins, let us know. You can request a Neighborhood Observation Patrol (NOP) that will help patrol your area, and we can help you set up a Block Watch or Business Watch as well to minimize your risk.

Always remember that there are actions you can take to minimize your risk of crime. And that’s what we’re here for. Get in touch with us, and consider volunteering at your neighborhood C.O.P.S. shop!


More Posts
Share by: