Olathe is helping its residents kick crime to the curb.
Earlier this year, the police department released crime statistics for every residential part of town on Nextdoor, a social networking site for neighborhoods. The police also gave out important safety tips on how to prevent or lower the most common neighborhood crimes, such as auto theft, auto burglary, burglary and criminal damage to property.
“The police department can’t prevent or solve crime alone,” said Sgt. Bryan Hill, the Olathe Police Department’s public information officer. “We’re just a piece of it and the community is the other. Now with the help of Nextdoor, we have 5,000 extra eyes and ears helping us.”
Tips include locking car and house doors, closing garage doors, keeping personal belongings out of sight in cars and never leaving vehicles unattended and running with keys in them.
Although the advice may seem like common sense, Hill said a lot of people still have small-town mentality and don’t realize crime lurks at every corner.
“Random people walk through neighborhoods, rummaging through trash for personal belongings, or seeing if car doors are left unlocked,” he said. “People drive around neighborhoods looking for empty cars with exhaust coming out from underneath.”
And although criminal damage to property isn’t something that can necessarily be prevented, Hill emphasizes that each incident should be reported.
After all, it helps officers with investigations, finding suspects, and keeping track of criminal activity.
Hill hopes that offering residents a snapshot of crime in their area will encourage them to take the tips to heart and help lower crime rates.
One of those residents, Amy O’Bryan, hopes so, too.
As neighborhood watch captain for the Nelson Square subdivision, she took the statistics and tips very seriously.
She was delighted to learn that her neighborhood, which is made up of 77 homes a few blocks away from Olathe North High School, had no reported crimes in the past year.
Impressive, especially since her neighborhood is in the heart of the city.
She attributes the success to Nelson Square being a tight-knit community.
“Everyone in our neighborhood knows one another,” O’Bryan said. “We’re not a bunch of strangers. And we all keep an eye out for each other because if someone sees something suspicious, we don’t hesitate to call the police.”
She’s grateful that the department communicates closely with each neighborhood. She thinks Nextdoor has been a wonderful asset to the community because of its ability to connect neighbors to each other and to the city.
Half of the residents in her neighborhood are signed on to the site. She hopes soon it will be more.
“It’s a great way to get everyone together for potlucks or advertise garage sales,” O’Bryan said. “It’s also a great way to get to know people who might not live right next door, but maybe a little further away. It’s an ice breaker for when you see people out and about in person.”