Sentinel Handbook

Tips for security, safety, and crime prevention volunteers

Archive for May 2013

Carry A Cellphone On Duty

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One piece of invaluable equipment that everyone should have with them, on duty or on patrol, is a cellphone. Used responsibly, a cellphone will make your job much easier and replace several pieces of equipment at the same time. Most basic functions of a cellphone do not require an active calling plan to allow the phone to operate. Making emergency calls to 9-1-1 is free anywhere within the U.S. as long as you have signal.

Basic Phones: (Most functions do not require active Minutes/Phone Plan)

  • Camera
  • Video
  • Audio recorder
  • Store emergency numbers
  • PDA, Personal Data Assistant, for making notes and memos
  • Text
  • Basic Call Plan (May dial 9-1-1 without active minutes or phone plan anywhere in the U.S.)

Smartphones: (Most functions require active Minutes/Phone Plan)

  • Information Apps, such as Emergency Responders Handbook, Basic First Aid Manual
  • Apps, such as a scanner for EMS, fire, and police
  • GPS
  • Data Transfer
  • Maps / Navigation

When on duty, I prefer to use the audio recording function when taking notes, or doing an interview. Doing so only uses one hand, allows for taking notes faster, can be referred to again later for clarification, and allows you to maintain awareness of your surroundings instead of focusing on a notepad.

The camera and video capabilities are great for capturing images for evidence. Recording suspicious activities for later playback to police when they arrive is a huge plus. Data stored on the SD card can be given over to officers as evidence if required.

Texting allows officers and supervisors to send instructions and important message, which are stored and time stamped. Many places do not allow the use of cellphones, even with hands-free capabilities, while operating a vehicle. Sending a text allows a message to be received that can then be accessed when no longer driving.

Often there are conversations that are best not aired over radio channels. Sensitive information that needs to be relayed privately and securely can be done by cellphone if a land line is not immediately available.

Things To Avoid:

  • Non-essential texting – maintain awareness of your surroundings
  • Non-duty related calls
  • Playing games and other distractions
  • Updating Facebook and other social media as this reveals your location and activities that can be tracked by employers, or criminals casing your patrol route to see where you are.

Written by Silver Sentinel

May 15, 2013 at 9:29 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Patrol Tip: Calling In to 9-1-1

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9-1-1 is the number most people think of when it comes time to call in an emergency, but it also tends to be the only number that comes to mind when they think to call in a non-emergency as well. 9-1-1 dispatchers are often flooded with non-emergency calls that tie up available lines, leaving real emergencies to go unanswered.

There are two types of calls you will make when making a report to the authorities, emergency 911, and non-emergency calls. Your place of employment, or organization, may already have policies in place about when to call, so be familiar with those policies.

You should only call 9-1-1 when:

  • When you have a Police, Fire or Medical emergency.
  • When there is danger to life, property, or both.
  • When you see suspicious activities that appear to involve criminal intent.
  • When you need an officer immediately dispatched to your location.

You should call the Non-Emergency number when:

  • When you are reporting a nuisance complaint – noise, parking, debris in roadway, illegal burning, non-working streetlights, etc.
  • When you are reporting a non-emergency crime – after the fact, no suspects in the area.
  • When you have questions about something suspicious occurring in your neighborhood, and you are not sure it is criminal activity.

Local Police, Fire, and EMS non-emergency numbers are located in the front of your local phone book or local government website.  Some locations have special Tip Lines for Underage Drinking, etc.

Tips when calling in a report:

  • Remain calm. If need be, run through your Tactical Breathing to reduce your anxiety before calling in.
  • Be patient while the Operator asks you questions. Operators are trained to ask specific questions that quickly determine what is wrong, and what type of assistance to send. Resist the urge to rush. Remember to breath.
  • Stay on the line until the Operator tells you to hang up.

The Operator will best determine how to handle your call. In some cases during a non-emergency situation, your information will be taken and you will get a call back.

Be Prepared To Answer:

  • Where – Give the exact physical address, street, number, etc. This is very important, especially when calling from a cell phone. If you are driving, be aware of the road or highway on which you are traveling. Look for landmarks or businesses that are very near to your location.
  • What – What happened, what are you reporting – Give a short description at first (I need to report a fire.. I need to report a break-in), the Operator will ask for more details as needed.
  • When – When did this happen? Is it still happening?

Stay On The Line If You Can

  • Stay on the line until the 9-1-1 Operator tells you they have all the information they need. In some instances, they will ask if you can stay on the phone with them until officers arrive. This is to gather additional information if the situation changes before officers arrive.
  • If it is not safe for you to stay on the phone, let the Operator know this immediately.

Written by Silver Sentinel

May 14, 2013 at 9:05 am

Patrol Tip: The Interview Stance

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“Look in the mirror and you will see the one person responsible for your safety. Even if you have a partner, or team, to watch your back, you are still responsible for your front.”

One of the most common methods for maintaining personal safety while on patrol is using the Interview Stance when dealing with the public. The Interview Stance is an alert, protected position that allows you to interact with those you are speaking to, yet still be able to launch a quick response to a possible  Threat.

The Interview Stance should be used any time you are interviewing a witness or a possible suspect. While the general public is usually friendly and not hostile, you still need to be on guard in case of unexpected actions on their part. Someone might take offense at something mis-spoken, they may be intoxicated, or they may be a guilty party pretending to be innocent to throw you off guard for a chance to attack you. You must remain relaxed, and adaptable to the situation.

To begin with, your stance should be natural while giving the appearance of confidence and control. Feet are shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent for good balance. Non-dominant [weak] leg forward, dominant [strong] leg back, torso turned [45 degree angle] so that you are not facing squarely toward the subject. This distributes your body weight over your hips so that you can move quickly in most any direction.

Keep your arms relaxed, and close to the body. Hands should be held above waist level to speed your reaction time, using the non-dominant hand to gesture if necessary. Keep hands relaxed and open, preferably without anything held in them to allow instant reaction. Never hook a thumb in your belt, or pocket! Do not rest hands on your duty belt or equipment as this can sometimes been seen as threatening.

Stand just out of arm’s reach of the subject. By maintaining this gap you increase your response options and give yourself time to react. It also allows you to be able to see the subject in one glance rather than having to look up and down. If you must look away from the subject, always keep them in your peripheral vision. If you have something in your hands, such as a notebook, raise it up to use it, do not look down. This is why I suggest keeping a small digital recorder for conducting interviews instead of taking notes.

Patrol Tip: An Ounce Of Prevention…

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The old saying holds true whether you are doing professional security or neighborhood safety patrols, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In your capacity as a paid guard, or as a volunteer, your primary aim is to protect people from harm and to prevent the destruction or damage of property. The absolute best way to do this is to PREVENT it before it happens.

Should you see someone entering private property, begin to climb a fence, or any other activity that could lead to criminal activity, you should take action to prevent it from the outset. Make your presence known, shout, shine your flashlight on them, turn on lights. Respond in a lawful (and safe) manner to do whatever you can to discourage the activity you are observing BEFORE it goes any further. Do not wait until they have committed the criminal act so that you may perform an arrest. A private (citizen’s) arrest should only be performed if it is absolutely necessary, and can be done safely. Your employer, or organization, may have further guidelines that will further outline when, or if, you may perform an arrest action.

Your very presence deters crime. Making visible patrols along perimeters, along walkways, and into secluded areas (with due caution), does decrease the likelihood of trouble makers staying in the area. Being alert and aware of your surroundings is also important. Make your rounds, but do not follow any set predictable patterns that may be exploited. If you are seen looking down and texting, or “resting your eyes”, or chatting blissfully away on the phone or with a co-worker, these are signs you are not paying attention to your assigned patrol area. Assume that eyes are always upon you, watching for a lack of vigilance. Don’t make your job any harder by creating inviting openings.

How To Survive A Shooting

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While chances are small that you will ever get shot at, unfortunately the possibility is still real.. especially if you go into neighborhoods with high crime rates and increased violence.  BE PREPARED!

Memorial to the September 13 2006 Dawson Colle...

Memorial to the September 13 2006 Dawson College Shooting Rampage (Photo credit: caribb)

If You Are the Intended Target

If someone begins firing a weapon from a distance, increase that distance immediately! Unless someone is trained (and always assume your attacker is trained.. or lucky), they are not likely to hit you with their initial shot.  The more shots they fire, the quicker they will zero in on your current position.

Do not run away in a straight line.  Weave, zig-zag, run behind objects that obscure your position, do anything to keep from presenting a prolonged visible or stationary target.  Get your body around a solid corner as fast as possible and keep running! Stay away from running in front of brightly lit windows, etc, where you will show up like a sore thumb. Also, do not run out into the street where you may be hit by traffic.

Rifles and assault weapons are designed for accuracy at range, or spraying a large number of shots, so increase distance and use cover.  Do not stay put behind a corner as the shooter may decide to pursue you.  As a rule of thumb, if someone is shooting, assume they are in pursuit and run for it.

If you are caught close to the action, get behind solid cover.  Solid Cover is anything heavy and substantial that can keep bullets from passing through it.  A car body and internal components (seats) may possibly stop small caliber ammunition, but not large caliber bullets.  Again, don’t gamble, assume the threat is using high caliber ammunition.  Get behind the heavier steel rims of the wheels, or the solid engine block of a vehicle if possible.

If you can, enter a building and head for the back exit.  Do not stop to look around.  Assume the shooter is on your trail and run like a bat out of hell.

Do not peek around the corner to track your attacker.. IF YOU CAN SEE THEM, THEN THEY CAN SEE YOU!  Use reflections from store windows, or look out from under the vehicle if you’re behind one.  Do what you need to do, but don’t poke any pieces of your body or head out where it can be shot.

Remember, getting shot at in real life is not the same as on television.  When you bleed you become weaker as time passes.  t does not take long to lose consciousness, or even die.  Nor do you know how much ammunition a shooter has, or how many weapons they are carrying.  Counting bullets, or listening for your attacker to reload are not safe indicators you are free to go.

If You Are Not the Primary Target

Get Down, Stay Down – Get as flat as possible IMMEDIATELY!  Do not kneel, or crouch.. DROP.

If you can, get behind a vehicle.  The same rules apply as above.  Get behind the tires, or engine block.  The body of a vehicle will not stop large caliber weapons (and always assume they are using a large caliber weapon).

If you are inside a building, get into another room fast and drop flat, preferably behind a large desk, file cabinet, etc.  Most interior walls are made of dry wall, or other flimsy construction that will not stop bullets.  Staying low and out of sight is your best option.

Up Close And Personal

If you happen to be at ground zero, and a shooter is practically in your face, present as small a target as possible.  Turn sideways, get low, get behind cover, whatever.  The most dangerous range to be near a shooter is between 15 to 30 feet.. statistically.  Un-statistically, any range is unhealthy!  Remember that increasing the distance increases your chances of survival.

If the shooter is outside, stay inside and stay away from doors and windows.  Get low, and behind something solid.

When The Shooting Stops

Do not come out until the shooting stops, or until the authorities have arrived (only if safe to do so).  If you must make a break for it, use the evasion techniques talked about above.  Do NOT approach the authorities when they arrive.  The first wave of officers will be there to search for active shooters, and to secure the area.  Follow their directions and continue past them.  Keep your hands visible at all times.  Shooters have been known to pretend to be innocents to deceive authorities.

Call 911!  Police drop everything and answer calls involving shots fired.  Everyone in the area is probably busy running for cover, freezing in panic, or praying to Jesus, so you  need to call 911 as soon as possible.  Even if you can’t talk to the operator, don’t worry, they will hear the gunshots and begin tracing your location.  Try to give the operator your location, number of shooters, and if there are any victims that you know of.  If you can give a rough description, like color and style clothing the shooter is wearing, that’s great, but don’t poke your head out if you don’t have to.

This is just a rough essay.  If you’re in a situation, you need to keep your head about you and make the best judgement call you can given what you know at the time.

An additional article by Marc MacYoung gives further advice and analysis.. “What Do I Do When Someone IS Shooting At Me?

Written by Silver Sentinel

May 7, 2013 at 9:11 am

Why Neighborhood Safety Patrols?

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A neighborhood safety patrol is an organized group of volunteers, trained to increase the safety of neighborhoods, as well as be able to help handle some emergency situations. Safety patrols actively seek out and prevent crimes and report incidents to the authorities rather than passively sit back and let others handle these responsibilities. Safety patrols seek to respond in a legal and responsible manner to community concerns and problems in a non-confrontational manner. They work with local police and other community organizations for the betterment of the neighborhood and community.

What do Neighborhood Safety Patrols Accomplish?

  • Prevent crime and other anti-social behaviors through visible deterrence
  • Provide a visible community presence to alleviate neighborhood fears of crime and violence
  • Report disturbances, emergencies, and illegal or suspicious activities
  • Seek out, identify, and report unsafe conditions or hazards to the proper authorities
  • Encourage community participation and interaction

Providing a visible presence within a community discourages criminal and anti-social behaviors. Safety patrols are not “nosy neighbors”, but active community representatives. The presence of a safety patrol sends a clear signal to those who would otherwise wish their activities to remain unobserved and hidden.

Organizing a safety patrol and remaining active lets everyone in the neighborhood know that someone is on the job and looking out for their safety and best interests. Police departments can only afford to put so many officers on the streets, so having a visible safety patrol helps increase feelings of personal and community safety in an area.

Actively patrolling and watching for things out of the ordinary is proactive, not reactive. Disturbances, developing emergency situations, and possible dangerous or criminal activities can be reported quickly so that a more effective response by appropriate personnel can be mounted.

Dangerous chemical spills, washed out roads, and many other unsafe and hazardous conditions can cause serious harm in a neighborhood. Identifying them early and reporting them protects residents from harm and serious injury.

Neighborhoods that work together become closer knit. Neighbors get to know one another and interact. This increases community well-being and sparks civic pride, making neighborhoods more friendly and welcoming to live in.

Written by Silver Sentinel

May 5, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Patrol Tip: Signs That An Animal Might Be Abused

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Because of a recent local story, I’m posting this information for my fellow neighborhood watch and safety patrollers. While you’re making your rounds, carry some pet treats so that you have an excuse to come closer to animals to give them a good observation. Remember not to go into someone’s yard, or ignore posted/trespassing signs. I suggest mini-binoculars if you need a close up look from afar. Cameras with an excellent zoom function help gather evidence too.

Be careful not to let abusers see you checking on their animals. This makes some of them close the animal away, making it harder to spot an abused animal and making a timely report.

(Originally posted @

Signs That An Animal Might Be Abused

Recognizing cruelty is simple, right? Not quite, say ASPCA experts. Aggressive, timid or fearful behavior doesn’t always tell the whole story. Animals may appear to be timid or frightened for many reasons other than abuse.

“It’s almost impossible to make conclusions based on a pet’s behavior alone,” says the ASPCA Animal Behavior Center’s Kristen Collins, CPDT. “The best way to tell whether a pet is being or has been abused is to examine him and his surrounding environment.”

Check out our list of signs that may alert you an animal needs help:

Physical Signs:

  • Collar so tight that it has caused a neck wound or has become embedded in the pet’s neck
  • Open wounds, signs of multiple healed wounds or an ongoing injury or illness that isn’t being treated
  • Untreated skin conditions that have caused loss of hair, scaly skin, bumps or rashes
  • Extreme thinness or emaciation—bones may be visible
  • Fur infested with fleas, ticks or other parasites
  • Patches of bumpy, scaly skin rashes
  • Signs of inadequate grooming, such as extreme matting of fur, overgrown nails and dirty coat
  • Weakness, limping or the inability to stand or walk normally
  • Heavy discharge from eyes or nose
  • An owner striking or otherwise physically abusing an animal
  • Visible signs of confusion or extreme drowsiness

Environmental Signs:

  • Pets are tied up alone outside for long periods of time without adequate food or water, or with food or water that is unsanitary
  • Pets are kept outside in inclement weather without access to adequate shelter
  • Pets are kept in an area littered with feces, garbage, broken glass or other objects that could harm them
  • Animals are housed in kennels or cages (very often crowded in with other animals) that are too small to allow them to stand, turn around and make normal movements possibly with too many other animals

“Reporting suspected animal cruelty ensures that animals in jeopardy receive prompt and often lifesaving care,” says ASPCA Special Agent Joann Sandano. “By making a complaint to the police or humane society in your area—you can even do so anonymously—you help ensure that animals in need are rescued and that perpetrators of animal cruelty are brought to justice.”

If you see signs of animal abuse, don’t keep it to yourself.