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SALT LAKE CITY — Neighborhoods across Utah are banding together to fight back against crime and police reports reveal the reason.
In Utah in 2013, there have been more than 170,000 reports of burglary, theft, stolen cars, and larceny. KSL-TV partnered with police officers and residents in two areas of Salt Lake County to establish Neighborhood Watch programs.
"They'll prowl through the neighborhood, they'll knock on doors," said South Jordan Police Sgt. Sam Winkler. "They'll take advantage of those houses they know people are not at."
Police said they can't be everywhere at the same time, but one possible solution to decrease crime is establishing a neighborhood watch. The KSL Investigative Team helped organize two neighborhood watch groups — one in South Jordan and the other on the east side of Salt Lake City — to see how different tactics work.
KSL's analysis of crime data in a South Jordan zip code showed more than 600 break-ins, thefts and property crimes occurred in the past six months.
"We just decided it was time to take back our neighborhood," said Angie Fedderson.
Steve Fedderson is part of a neighborhood watch group in Daybreak. He occasionally patrols his neighborhood at night and reports any suspicious activity.
"As soon as they see me and I spotlight them, they run. Hopefully we prevented some crimes," said Steve Fedderson.
Police said they guarantee community crime will plummet after Neighborhood Watch programs have been established. Officers also said there are some easy things people can do to avoid being a victim of a crime — like keeping your garage door closed, even during the day.
"Many people will go out back and do gardening or yard work and the criminals will go in through the daytime and take stuff out of garages," said Sgt. Winkler.
Don't leave anything inside your car, even if it's parked in your garage. Also, program your local police department's number into your phone and report any suspicious activity.
"Trust your instincts and give your local law enforcement agencies a call right away," said Sgt. Winkler. "The sooner we know about something, the sooner we can check to see if it's legitimate or something that's quite serious."
Police also say to pay attention to unusual noises, like a dog barking, or even unusual smells which could mean drug activity.
On the east side of Salt Lake City, KSL's analysis of crime data shows approximately 200 burglaries, thefts and property crimes in one zip code in the past six months. Many are crimes of opportunity like toys that are left out in the yard, houses with overgrown shrubs and bushes and open garage doors.
Liz Mower explained why she joined a neighborhood watch group in her area.
"We've had a couple break-ins in the last few weeks and that's kind of propelled us into this," Mower said.
Salt Lake City Police Department s Sgt. Rick Wall said an essential step is not to leave your property lying around.
"It's an easy target for me to pull up, jump out, grab those, throw those in and be gone — and we think about how fast that can happen," he said.
Wall also said to turn on your lights at night, and he explained why it's important to trim your shrubs and bushes.
"There were bushes that were grown up over the windows providing places for offenders to hide," he said.
Police said perhaps the most important tip of all is get to know your neighbors.
"We do, and the days of us burying our heads in the sand are over and we need to do that," Wall said. "We need to come together as a community and we have to watch out for one another."
That Salt Lake City neighborhood has set up an email chain to instantly alert each other about suspicious activity.
There is a big disparity in crime from city to city. If you would like to see what crime in your neighborhood is like, click here. You can also contact your local police department if you're interested in organizing a neighborhood watch program in your community.
If you would like to let KSL know how you're making your neighborhood safer, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.