OCPD offers free security check

OKEECHOBEE — Do you worry about your family’s safety? Do you worry about your business being robbed? Are you unsure about how to protect your valuables?

If so, the Okeechobee City Police Department (OCPD) is just a phone call away.

The police department is starting a new program called the Residential/Commercial Security Inspection. All any resident or business owner in the city has to do is call the police department and an officer will conduct a security check of your home or business free of charge.

“It’s pretty intense,” said Police Chief Bob Peterson. “We’re trying to take a proactive stance in law enforcement and anything we can do to keep crime from happening, to start with, is what we want to do.”

OCPD Lieutenant Justin Bernst, who has received additional training and is administering the program, said officers will walk through the home or business and point out things to improve security. Once the walk through is done, the officer will then give the home owner or business owner a checklist.

The lieutenant has currently trained all of the OCPD sergeants on how to conduct the inspections and will soon be training other officers in the department.

He said the inspection will cover shrubbery, window locks, dead-bolt locks and much more.

“There are different aspects that are particular to a commercial building, and aspects that are particular to a residence,” he said of the inspection.

Although the inspections can cover a variety of security aspects, most of the topics can be boiled down to five specific areas: natural surveillance; territorial reinforcement; natural access control; target hardening; and, management.

The first of those categories — natural surveillance — deals with design concepts directed at making intruders easily seen. This would include such things as adequate interior and outside lighting, and making sure outdoor lighting does not cast shadows.

Territorial reinforcement centers around using landscape, plants, pavement designs and/or fences to discourage intruders from being able to access private areas such as patios, porches and carports.

Natural access control deals with designing streets, sidewalks and building entrances in such a way as to clearly indicate public routes and discourage access to private areas.

Target hardening is defined as taking appropriate measures that are designed to prevent access. This would include window locks, deadbolts, interior door hinges and alarm systems.

Finally, management deals more specifically with commercial buildings. It takes into consideration the hours of operation, handling and storage of money, the number of employees on each shift and emergency/panic alarms.

“We want to be as involved in the community as we can be and we want the community to be involved with us,” said Chief Peterson. “This program falls right in line with this. It’s a good way for our officers to meet the residents and business owners.

“We want the message to be common and cohesive,” he added.

The inspections, pointed out the two OCPD leaders, can currently be done anytime a sergeant is on duty — which is seven days a week. The program is set up to make officers available to city residents whenever they need them.

“People hesitate to call us for what they think are minor things. The best way for our citizens to feel safe is through interaction with an officer. Ninety percent of what we do — in the grand scheme of things — is small stuff. And, that’s just as important,” Chief Peterson pointed out.

By taking part in this free security check, city residents can rest more easily knowing they’ve taken the necessary steps to protect themselves, their families and their valuables.

“One of the most frustrating things for us is when people set themselves up to be a victim,” offered Lt. Bernst.

To schedule an appointment for a security inspection, contact Lt. Bernst by calling 863-763-9780. If you want an immediate inspection, call 863-763-5521.

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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