If you’re like many officers, the idea of being stalked and harassed at home by someone you’ve arrested or someone who has a problem with law enforcement in general may not have been high on your radar, but it should be. It can happen and it’s something you should actively take precautions against.
During an interview with Calibre Press’ Street Survival Newsline, an officer who was stalked and harassed at his home shared some excellent tips for ways you can minimize your off-duty exposure to problems. Here are some basic, yet often ignored tips for keeping yourself and your family less vulnerable to being the targets of someone who tracks you down at home.
1. Don’t put your name on your mailbox or a nameplate on your house. It’s not necessary and it makes it easier for someone who might be looking for you to identify your house.
2. Don’t fill out warranty cards. Many people think that they must complete these cards in order to benefit from a warranty that comes with a purchase. Not true. If you’ve got the receipt, you’ll be covered by the warranty. Companies use those cards to gather data on their customers that is generally shared with other companies for marketing purposes. As a police officer, you don’t want that personal information floating around.
3. Vary your routes to and from work. Don’t be predictable. This will help decrease the possibility that someone can calculate where you will be and when during your commute. Taking these varied routes can also help you more easily identify a vehicle that may be following you.
4. Remember situational awareness when getting in and out of your car and while driving. Look around. Many officers have a tendency to let their guard down, sometimes almost completely, after a shift and drive home mindlessly. This can be dangerous. You don’t need to be on high alert, but you should be alert and aware. Remember to look in your rearview mirror and make note of the vehicles you’re seeing. Is there a particular car that always seems to be behind you? Is the guy in the car beside you conspicuously looking at you? Is there a vehicle that takes every turn you do?
5. When making purchases at stores that require you to give an address and phone number, give the station street address (without mentioning the department) and phone.
6. Put newspaper, magazine and subscriptions that are delivered to your home under a name other than your own. Consider your spouse’s first and maiden name. You don’t want a newspaper with your name on it lying in your driveway where someone could easily pick it up and identify who lives there.
7. Maintain good security in and around your home…security lighting, an effective alarm system, a front/rear door camera system with movement notification, trimmed hedges around your home, well-lit walkways.
8. If you typically hang out to talk after your shift, considering going somewhere other than the department parking lot…maybe inside or in a more secluded place. Having a group of officers standing in the parking lot for all to see, then walking to their personal vehicles and driving away makes it that much easier for a stalker type to ID and follow you.
9. Watch what you throw out at home and at work. Seems obvious but do you really shred everything that has your name on it, all bank and credit card statements, things that may contain your family members’ names, addresses and phone numbers, and things like receipts that can reveal your habits and places you might frequent? Remember that trash pulls can be a helpful investigatory practice for law enforcement. Same can hold true for someone trying to gain intel on you.
10. Try to fly low on the visual radar. Cut back on or completely avoid things outside your home or on your personal vehicles that could announce, “An officer lives here” or “This is an officer’s personal car.” Things like law enforcement-related flags, emblems, bumper stickers, etc. Wanting to display support for law enforcement is obviously understandable, but it could have a negative impact on your security. Along those lines, if you have a take-home unit, consider parking it in your garage if you can, or behind your house. A marked unit parked right in front of your house is a pretty big indicator that an officer lives there.
At the end of the day, it’s not about being paranoid. It’s about being prepared.
Editor’s note: This article is a reprint of an earlier posting.