When you think about Asheville North Carolina, crime may be the last thing that comes to mind. We like to think more about food, and hippies, and beer, and fun; but this is not always the case. As the WNC area continues to grow with locals, transplants and visitors; criminal activity will grow as well. Then, for our sanity and protection, law enforcement and media regulate what “we the people” actually know. Of course with all of the small talk, neighboring buzz and social media; sometimes you find out things that you would not have otherwise known. That is of course, if you want to be in the know.
Recently a lady knocked on my door. She was about 45 years old, 5’7, 150 pounds, brown/blond hair with a little grey in it, and she was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. She said hello and proceeded to tell me how she was raised on this property, she pointed at the home across the street and said that used to be her Mamaw’s property. She told me how her grandmother used to ring the lunch bell so the kids could know to run up the hill and eat. Then, she asked “can I go inside to take a quick look around the “ole house?” I immediately said No! She then tried to peek her head in my house and she said “wow, you guys have it looking nice” which did not make any sense because all she could see was a couch and a big screen TV. She then left. Looking back on it, my normal self would have walked out to the vehicle and took a photo of the license plate right in front of her. But I happened to be too busy at the moment, which is a playground for crime and the opportunity for me and my family to be a victim.
Here are fifteen ways to fight crime in Asheville and Western North Carolina. You may be practicing some or all of these already, but you should make sure that your family, children and friends are also safe and aware.
1. Lock Your Doors: Unless you have an “open door policy,” this is an elementary step to fight crime. A locked door is the one barrier between inside your home and the streets. When a burglary or home invasion happens, it is usually through the door. Double locks, ones that key lock from the inside and outside are good as well. This assures that even if a burglar enters through a window, they are going to have trouble getting out of the door since it is locked. Note: some folks do not lock the double locks when they are staying in the home or while sleeping, because of emergencies that could arise. Like a fire, and not having enough time to grab your keys to unlock the door from the inside.
2. Close Your Windows: We are not talking about barricading yourself inside your home, but you should be pay attention when it comes to windows that are on ground level where people can walk up to, easily accessible by an outside stairwell or embankment, or have access from another residence via fire-escape etc. It is a way into your home, and burglars look for a way to make this happen.
3. Install An Alarm System: There are plenty of alarm system companies in the Asheville area that stand ready to make your home safe and sound. What should you put an alarm sensor on? Every door to start with. Then a few windows that are easy to enter your house through. Next, you want a motion sensor; just in case a burglar gets into your home through a window that does not have a sensor. Video cameras would be the next step up, so the security company can easily identify the perpetrator.
4. Put An Alarm Sign On Your Lawn: If you have an alarm system in your home, many choose to let neighbors and passerby’s know by putting a warning sign in the front lawn and/or a sticker on their front door. Others like to surprise the burglar by not letting them know an alarm is installed. If you do not have an alarm system, a sign and a sticker could work great for you as well. If a burglar is looking at three homes on any given street and one has an alarm system sign; they many times eliminate that home from the looting choices.
5. Install Video Cameras: While visiting China a few months ago, I noticed how much crime they fight with video. Every night on the news, a video of criminal activity was being shown, and criminals were getting busted. Sometimes they went a little overboard for me, with cameras in elevators, bathroom lobbies etc. While I on the highway there, I asked a friend what a traffic sign said. She told me it said “Cameras are everywhere, so think twice before you do something you will later regret.” Wow! Now we are not going to do that here, but video camera surveillance in communities may be on the rise. Lots of technology is no longer expensive, so a neighborhood watch crew can install outdoor cameras, have full time monitoring, and recorded documentation for a small investment. So then when a burglary does happen at a home in your area at 1:00 pm on a certain date, you can go back and see the license plates of the vehicles that came down the street at the time.
6. Get A Dog: It does not have to be a man-eating monster, maybe just a pet that makes enough noise. Burglars like an empty house. Having a dog inside the home is an inconvenience that they do not like to plan on, and many times try to avoid.
7. Answer Your Door With The Alarm On: If you are unsure in any way about someone who is knocking on your door, remember that you are not obligated to answer or open your door for anyone. But if you must, DO NOT turn the alarm off first. Let the alarm alert, answer the door while it is buzzing, find out what the visitor wants, then reset it once you are safely locked back in your house. Years ago in the ‘Big City” there were folks dressing up as delivery drivers, knocking on doors, and invading homes.
8. Watch Your Neighbors: Just because someone lives near you, does not mean they are your friend and that they will not harm you. Yes, all of us have those neighbors we love, and the neighbors that none of us like. Does this mean they are out to get you? Of course not. But you do need to pay attention to others in your neighborhood, and even the people they are associated with that stop by from time to time. Your neighbors see you the most, they know your schedule, they know when you are on vacation, and many times… they know what you have inside your home. Think about major crime in any City or Town. They were done by someone’s neighbor. Maybe not your neighbor this time, and hopefully never; but situations evolve and bad things happen every day. Community meetings across WNC help combat this regularly.
9. Get A Gun: This is an option, but many times this could put your family in more danger if you are not responsible. In the perfect world of our mind, many gun owners think that someone is going to break into their home, and they are going to have their firearm ready to shoot. In this case, you would have to have a loaded gun on you constantly, ready for an attack. Not good. You can also hide the loaded gun somewhere so your kids do not find it. In this case, most of the time your child knows more than you think, they know where your gun is, and they are only one bad decision away from an accident. You can unload the gun and hide it too, but then others argue that it is just as good as not having a gun. You do not call “Timeout” in the middle of a home invasion. According to published statistics, more people are shot by accident in their own home and by their own guns, than there are people getting shot for breaking into a home.
10. Install A Fence: This is also great if you have a dog and want to let them run around the yard. A fence can help prevent burglaries as it is another barrier to get from outside to inside your home. Some concerns with having a fence may be the appearance of it. You do not want an ugly or improperly installed fence that is not aesthetically pleasing. The other concern would be getting a fence that isolates you from your neighbors and local community. If a crime was to happen, nobody would know from the outside because you have a 10 foot fence blocking the view of your home. Be safe, but let some sun shine in.
11. Pay Attention To Your Surroundings: When a vehicle keeps passing your home; look at them for a moment, be aware of it, make eye contact. Criminals do not like to be identified so the more attention you pay, the further away they want to be. If burglars drive through a neighborhood where folks are looking at them; they will leave and target a quieter spot. Who is that stranger keeps walking around your neighborhood? Look at them at get a description, just in case.
12. Don’t Be Naive When It Comes To The Dark Side: Crime happens to, and affects anyone and everyone. I talked to a person recently whose home was burglarized and over $25,000 in jewelry was stolen. She regularly left her doors unlocked and windows opened, even while traveling out of town. She bragged to me one time about how she lives in Weaverville where there is no crime. She also said “nobody would dare come into my house!” This all sounds good, but it is so untrue, as she now knows. Another time I told a friend that I was missing some items from my condo. Their response was “only me and my sister have been in there.” I responded.. “Exactly, so it is one of you.” Turns out her sister had sticky fingers, and she was never allowed in my house again.
13. Protect Your Keys: Don’t leave a backup key outside: Leaving your key under the doormat, on the ledge above your door, or under that fake rock in your front yard is an old trick that has turned many folks into victims. Burglars know about them. Even when I am getting an oil change, I never give our full set of keys to anyone. It only takes one minute for someone to match and file a key to match the keys to your home. We know about employees of a car dealership that were known for making copies of all keys when a customer brought their vehicle in for servicing; and then selling the keys along with the home address to criminal enterprises.
14. Don’t Allow Strangers To Approach You In A Parking Lot Or Secluded Area: We have all heard of people getting walked up to in grocery store parking lots in the Asheville area, and getting attacked and robbed. I remember some guy jumped out of a car while I was in a parking lot, and he said “Excuse me, excuse me sir!” I looked at him, pointed my finger at him, and said “Do Not Even Come Near Me!!” He shut up, walked away, got back in his vehicle and drove off immediately. Do I know what he was going to do? No, but it did not matter. Another time I saw a lady putting her baby in a van, and a guy walking up to her. He started to talk to her until I said “What’s Going On Here?” and then he just looked at me and ran. The lady said “thank you” and I walked away. I think about some of my nicer friends who would not know what to do, and would end up talking to this guy, possibly becoming another victim. We do know that some people have emergencies, so call 911 immediately if it seems like someone really needs help.
15. Secure Your Vehicle: In Western North Carolina, many folks never lock the doors of their car, truck and SUV. Some do not believe that a theft will happen to them; while others say they do not want their window or door broken if a thief really wants to get into it. Locking your car doors is a safety, protection and privacy issue and should be implemented. This also goes for while you are driving. Carjacking usually happens when you are stopped somewhere, even for a moment; and someone either opens your door, or jumps in the car with you.
We hope that these tips will help you become more aware and safer in the Asheville and Western North Carolina area. Remember to Call 911 if you have a Police, Fire or Medical Emergency.