Feb 15, 2007

Prevention the Best Deterrent

Scams come in all forms—many of you are exposed to them every morning when you open your e-mail. You know what they promise: Millions in cash, cheap medications, free vacations, and all of the other interesting topics that will go unmentioned in this editorial.

Of course, you are intelligent enough to recognize these fraudulent claims. You quickly direct these e-mails to your trash, permanently delete them, and they are gone forever. Well, at least until they appear again tomorrow morning.

Occasionally, other types of scams are so ingenious that the victims are often unaware they are being duped until well after the deception has taken place.

Take for example a recent series of crimes reported in a number of metropolitan areas around the country.

The offenders, often working in pairs, pose as employees of a city water department in an attempt to gain access to senior citizens’ homes to check for water leaks or plumbing-related problems.

Upon entering the home, one offender distracts the victim with conversation or meaningless paperwork while the other searches the residences taking money and valuables along the way. Once the scam is completed, the offenders are long gone before the victim even notices any of their possessions missing.

Fortunately, crimes such as these are preventable. Specifically, under the watchful, perceptive eyes of the community itself but also with the help of your water utility.

As part of the crime prevention program in your community, your water utility should immediately ensure that residents be made aware that these incidents are taking place. Residents should not to let anyone inside their home if a call for water service, or any service for that matter, was not placed. Suspicious people or activities in and around homes should be reported to 911 immediately. If a service call is expected, proper identification should be presented by the water utility employee before allowing them into a home. Finally, if a service call is being made, make sure a neighbor or relative is present, so that more than one person is in the home during the service call.

While these measures may seem rather common, often they need to be reinforced to your community through the local newspaper or posted on your website in order to ensure that proper crime prevention procedures are available.

Prevention can also begin within your own water utility as well. For starters, conduct in-depth background checks on all employees, a measure that should be mandatory in your water utility anyway; make sure all employee IDs are regularly updataed and if one is lost or stolen, that it is reported immediately; keep tabs on all uniforms worn by employees; and make detailed checks of any reports of suspicious activities or complaints involving water utility employees.

I could name dozens of other areas to check; however, I do not feel this is particularly necessary in this forum.

As you can tell, the premise of this editorial is to reinforce some of the security and safety measures that often can be overlooked. While these measures may seem minor in the era of international terrorism threats, they are most certainly necessary as any one of the scenarios mentioned above could lead to an incident in your community.

About the author

Tim Gregorski is the Editorial Director of Water & Wastes Digest.

expand_less