Hurricane Harvey has certainly put our community to the test. We have experienced a natural disaster that is unparalleled with consequences that are too difficult to bear. While none understood the impact Harvey would have, Crime Stoppers of Houston was concerned with the criminal activity that might result as a consequence. We are urging everyone to note the following and to keep calling Crime Stoppers of Houston at 713-222-TIPS (8477) with anonymous tips or email me directly at email@example.com with safety questions and concerns.
1. Looting. Following any major storm, looting becomes a major concern. We want businesses and citizens to know that if your business or home has experienced this type of criminal activity, please immediately report the incident to law enforcement. Be prepared to give all the details and any photos or videos you may have collected. Get a case number. Once you have a case number, call Crime Stoppers of Houston at 713-817-5678 and we will work on it from there. We must all work together to put an end to this type of activity and catch these perpetrators immediately. Let’s recognize that our Harris County District Attorney, Kim Ogg, has issued a strong statement against this type of activity and shared that punishments will be increased.
2. Fake Social Media Posts. Unfortunately, whether as a hoax or for political purposes, there have been fake social media posts circulating that involve images of looters. Please be aware that our partners at the Department of Public Safety are investigating each and every one of these posts. The creators of these posts will face consequences.
3. Be Smart When Posting. During this catastrophic time, many are using social media as a main format of communication with those near and far. We understand this but we are asking friends to use caution when posting photos of their homes or notes that they are evacuating. Many are indicating what neighborhoods they live in when posting. Please keep in mind that it takes only one ill-willed person to see a post like that and target your home – even in this time of great despair.
4. Domestic Violence / Child Abuse / Elderly Abuse / Animal Abuse. Sadly, during these times of high-stress and uncertainty, violence against the family and animals tends to increase. Be on the lookout for any signs of child or animal abuse and report it immediately. Domestic Violence victims as always are urged to get out if it’s safe to do so. Emergency calls can be made to 911; all other calls can be made to Crime Stoppers of Houston (713-222-TIPS / 8477), CPS or Adult Protective Services at (1-800-252-5400 or https://www.txabusehotline.org), the Humane Society (713-433-6421), and the Houston Area Woman’s Center (713) 528-2121).
5. Scams. Be wary of anyone going to your home to try and sell you any type of insurance. If you are need of temporary housing, be wary of “rental listing” that require you to send money via wire transfer before ever seeing the property. These listings could be fake. Similarly, be careful of repair services in the aftermath of the storm. Don’t hire a complete stranger, ask for license and proof of insurance. Get everything in writing before the work begins. Make a payment schedule based on work performed. And while there are many other potential scams, be wary of crooks posing as governmental agents who calls and ask you for personal information. You could become a victim of ID Theft.
6. Giving to Charity. As a non-profit, it is wonderful to see so many giving to charitable organizations doing wonderful work at this time. Please remember to:
o Give to known organizations
o Give directly to the organization itself, there is no need to use a third-party
o Investigate the charity first – the FTC (FTC.gov) has posted useful information with links to charity watchdog groups called Wise Giving in the Wake of Hurricane Harvey.
7. Inventory Your Home. If you haven’t already done so, inventory the valuable items in your home whether in an effort to protect yourself from theft or in preparation for any additional flooding. Make sure your vital documents are secured (either with you, in a safe or saved in a safe-deposit box).
For nearly 40 years Crime Stoppers of Houston has made your safety our business. Harvey has not stopped that. We are here to serve everyone from our incredible law enforcement partners to every man, woman, child and animal calling the Greater Houston Metropolitan area, home. We are thankful to serve.
Take care of yourself, each other, your homes, your neighbors’ homes, your pets and our community. We are #HoustonProud and #HoustonStrong.