On a recent day while patrolling Stapleton, Lt. Robert Wyckoff pulled up to a beautiful home. No one was outside and the garage door was open, exposing mountain bikes and exercise equipment. In the driveway, a new Audi sat unlocked, unoccupied and running, or “puffing” in police terms. After a while the owner came outside and predicted what Wyckoff was going to say. “This is inviting someone who is in the neighborhood for criminal conduct to have their way with your property,” Wyckoff said. He oversees District 511, which encompasses Stapleton.
This occurrence happened several times that same day, and every day. Wyckoff has been surprised by the overwhelming number of houses in Stapleton that are targets for potential crimes of opportunity.
Crimes of opportunity are perfect for burglars, offering little risk and big reward. Simple ways to prevent crime seem to be disregarded in Stapleton—28 of 39 burglaries in the last three months were preventable thefts from open garage doors. “In any community you live in, it doesn’t matter how affluent it is or how nice the homes are, you have to have that level of responsibility,” Wyckoff says.
To help reduce crimes of opportunity in Stapleton, DPD has introduced officers on horseback during peak crime hours (10am to 1pm) to look for crime opportunities and leave notices for residents with prevention tips. Horseback patrols also allow officers to look over fences and find open doors.
On a December day, a resident yelled, “I love that you guys are here,” to cops on horseback while she passed by in her minivan at 26th and Ulster. “I love it!”
Growing up in a cop family, Wyckoff has always been aware of how secure a home is and how to prevent a crime. He hopes to change the culture of how Stapleton people think—although Stapleton may have a “cozy” friendly feeling, crime is still possible and prevention is important. Crimes of opportunity can be prevented just as easily as they are committed.
Wyckoff reminds everyone to use a padlock on a gate, leave porch lights on at night, remove valuables from cars, lock cars, never leave an unoccupied car running, and close and lock the garage.
Crime prevention depends on good neighbors, according to Wyckoff. He suggests: If a neighbor’s garage is open, knock on the door to let them know. Be aware of and report suspicious activity, which can walk a fine line. Is a person wearing a hooded sweatshirt and baggy pants and riding an expensive bike suspicious?
“What does a criminal look like? You got me. But if someone is wearing a sweatshirt, does that automatically make him a criminal? Absolutely not,” Wyckoff says. He wants neighbors to report things clearly out of the ordinary, like a recent arrest when a man was biking and pulling another stolen bike behind him.
Wyckoff hopes to continue building connections with the Stapleton people and surrounding communities to prevent crimes of opportunity. To contact District 511, call 720.913.1400 or email Dist5@Denvergov.org.