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Is Our Area Safe?

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Posted On: 08/20/2014

QUESTION:

We’re greatly concerned about crime. It seems to be everywhere. How can we check crime rates for a given area?

ANSWER:

It would be great to suggest that there are clean and neat comparisons to be made but that simply isn’t the case.

The FBI says “many entities – news media, tourism agencies, and other groups with an interest in crime in our Nation – use figures from the Uniform Crime Reporting Program to compile rankings of cities and counties. These rankings, however, are merely a quick choice made by the data user; they provide no insight into the many variables that mold the crime in a particular town, city, county, state, region, or other jurisdiction. Consequently, these rankings lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting cities and counties, along with their residents.”

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While it’s largely useless to compare crime statistics, the more obvious point is that all areas have crime, crime rates within a given area vary extensively, and with a little common sense much crime can be avoided.

For instance, the Portland, Oregon, police department has a number of burglary-prevention suggestions that can reduce opportunities for criminals. Among the recommendations:

• “Never leave a house key in an obvious place outside such as under a doormat or flower pot.”

• “Remove keys and garage door openers from your vehicles, especially those parked outside. Do not include your address on your keys.”

• “Security for sliding glass doors should have dowels and vertical locks to prevent their removal from tracks and forced entry.”

• “Install motion-sensing, dusk to dawn, or other lighting that illuminates the perimeter of your property. Lights should illuminate what you are trying to protect; they should not be pointed outward towards neighbors’ houses.”

• “Keep an inventory of your valuables stored in a fire safe container,” says the department. “Information such as serial numbers, description, make and model, and fair-market value are important information to supply to the police to increase the chance of recovery and can be used to submit to your insurance company. If valuables do not have a serial number or identifier, engrave and etch a driver’s license number on the items. Take pictures of jewelry and artwork.”

Another useful step is to make a photographic or video inventory of your home and valuables and then send it to yourself from an account with one of the major cloud-based email systems, such as Gmail. That way you have a dated, visual record you can keep online in case you have insurance or police claims. Downloaded copies can be kept in a safe place.

Peter G. Miller is the author of The Common-Sense Mortgage and a veteran real estate columnist. Have a question? Please write to peter@ctwfeatures.com.

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