Columbus Police Department

Protecting Children

Tips for Tots

Parents use these Tips for Tots with your children who are too young to read. It is important that you not frighten your child; but with repeated lessons - as with play school - teach him/her the following:

  1. Never get into a car with a stranger.
  2. Always play with a friend - "Be a buddy."
  3. Do not take presents from strangers.
  4. If a car pulls up where you are playing, back away and run either home or to a safe house.
  5. Teach him/her where a safe house is if you are going to be out.
  6. Teach your child to cry loudly for help and run if he/she is followed by foot or by car.
  7. Teach your child name, address and telephone number and 911 for Police.
  8. Practice dialing your number - including area code
  9. Teach your child a magic word; and he/she is only to go with someone who knows the magic word. (Make it simple and reiterate often.)
  10. Never open the door when home alone. Teach your child to dial police if person persists.
  11. Never let anyone touch them in a way they do not like - especially in an area covered by a bathing suit, and if they do to tell you about it at once.
  12. Assure them of your love and that they will not be blamed if they do to tell you about it at once.
  13. Never go anywhere without permission.

Tips for Grade School

  1. Always tell your parents where you will be.
  2. Travel in groups or with a buddy. There is safety in numbers.
  3. If you see someone hanging around the schoolyard or the park, tell your parents. Learn to give a good description - is the person tall or short, dark or light, color of eyes and hair; if he/she is driving, make and model of car and license number.
  4. Do not travel in dark and lonely areas.
  5. Do not accept job offers or rides or gifts from a stranger. Even if you know the person, do not go with him/her unless you first tell your parents and let the person know that your parents know.
  6. Do not take dares to go into lonely places or remote areas.
  7. It is no fun to run away from home. There is nothing so terrible that you cannot tell your parents.
  8. Do not answer the door when you are home alone or tell people that you will be alone.
  9. If someone persists in calling or trying to get in, call the police at once.
  10. Do not go up to people from cars who ask directions, step back and tell the occupants you do not know, and walk rapidly away. Adults should not be asking you for directions.
  11. If someone touches you in a way that feels bad, yell and tell. It is your body and nobody has a right to make you feel bad. Even if it is a relative or friend, TELL and keep telling untill somebody believes you.
  12. Remember, YOU did nothing wrong.
  13. Do not go with strangers even if they are dressed like a police officer. Insist on running home first.
  14. Do not believe people who promise you a TV career. Tell your parents if somebody does.
  15. If your parents don't believe you, tell your teacher or someone you trust.

Tips for Teens

  1. DO NOT RUN AWAY FROM HOME. If things are impossible at home, speak to your teacher or minister about it. They will help you. If you run away, you will soon be at the mercy of the street people who will push you into drugs, pornography and prostitution. TALK IT OVER WITH A FRIEND WHO CARES; and if you think you have no friends, you will find a crisis center in your town who will reach out to you.
  2. Be careful of offers of friendship from strangers. Because you are lonely and unhappy, do not be misled by signs of affection from strangers.
  3. Do not accept job offers that require you to go to offbeat, lonely areas. Beware of job offers that seem to offer too much pay. Use legitimate channels such as the school placement office for your part-time jobs. Check all references.
  4. Do not accept offers to take your photograph and make you famous. Repeat any such offer at home or to the police.
  5. Do not get into cars with strangers for any reason, or near enough to be grabbed. DO NOT HITCHHIKE.
  6. Travel in groups or with a friend.
  7. Do not go into lonely areas at night.
  8. Do not take dares to do foolish things like going into a bad area alone.
  9. Tell your parents where you are going to be and let them know when things change.
  10. Do not babysit in a home you do not know.
  11. If anybody tries to caress or fondle you in any way TELL.
  12. Report any incident of attempted molestation or it someone is hanging around your school or play areas. Learn to give good descriptions of the person to the police to help in capture.
  13. Remember, it is NOT your fault - so do not be afraid to tell if someone has bothered you.
  14. Do not linger in recreational areas such as bowling alleys, but leave with your friends.
  15. Do not open the door to strangers and do not tell people when you are alone.
  16. Do not accept offers for drinks, cigarettes or drugs.

Tips for Parents

  1. Have your child fingerprinted, and keep the card in a safe place along with pictures updated every 6 months and an accurate description, including scars. Click here for a Child ID Kit.
  2. Teach your children their telephone number, area code and address.
  3. Show your children how to dial the operator and what to say (Tell them to say on the line, if possible.) Practice this.
  4. Know where your child is at all times.
  5. Don't let your child go to a public restroom alone.
  6. Don't leave your child alone in the car.
  7. Don't put your child's name - first or last - on hats, caps, jackets, bikes, wagons, etc. Remember, a child responds to a first name. A person using that name will automatically not be thought of as a stranger.
  8. Teach your children to avoid strangers. A stranger is someone they don't know very well.
  9. Don't leave your children in the toy section of a store or wandering in a mall. If they get lost or bothered, tell them to go to the cashier for help.
  10. Know your child's friends.
  11. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the hours from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. are the time that juvenile crime jumps 300%. So, encourage kids to have after school activities.
  12. Be involved in your child's activities.
  13. Practice with your child ways he/she may walk to and from friends' homes or school.
  14. Make it clear to your child to whose home he/she may go to play or visit.
  15. Teach your child which homes are "safe" to go into near your home when you are not around.
  16. Listen when your child tells you that he/she doesn't want to be with someone. Find out the reason.
  17. Notice if someone pays undue attention to your child.
  18. Encourage parent-child communication.
  19. Never belittle any fear of concern your child has - real or imaginary.
  20. Tell your children that if anything happens, you will look for them no matter how long it takes to find them.
  21. Organize safe houses in your neighborhood with signs in the windows. Teach the children to go there if they are frightened.

More Resources

Protecting Yourself

Citizens Law Enforcement Academy

The Citizens Law Enforcement Academy is jointly operated by the Columbus Police Department, the Muscogee County Sheriff's Office and the Muscogee County Marshal's Office.  This is a rare opportunity for private citizens to obtain first-hand knowledge about law enforcement and public safety operations. Instructors from all areas of both departments discuss the "hows" and "whys" of law enforcement.

During the academy, students are exposed to a variety of topics in an assortment of settings.  Emphasis is placed on "hands-on" subject matter to give everyone a more in-depth understanding of law enforcement.  Subjects presented include the following:

  • Patrol Operations
  • Criminal Investigations
  • Crime Scene Investigation
  • Radar Operation
  • Traffic Accident Investigation
  • Professional Standards
  • Drug/Vice Investigations and DUI & Drug Recognition
  • Juvenile Operations and Gang Task Force
  • SWAT & Hostage Negotiations
  • 911
  • Child Abuse
  • Sex Crimes
  • Jail Operation
  • Muscogee County Courts
  • Evictions and Civil Processes
  • Firearms Familiarization
  • Much, much more

Students will also be offered the opportunity to ride along with on-duty Police Officers or Sheriff's or Marshal's Deputies during normal patrol operations.

The goal of the Academy is to enhance the relationship between private citizens and the law enforcement community.  This will provide the citizens a better understanding of law enforcement to dispel suspicions and misconceptions and to increase police/community rapport.  By the same token, law enforcement becomes more aware of the feelings and concerns of the community.  All this helps to establish open lines of communication and cooperation.

Anyone 21 years of age and older may apply.  Preference is given to Muscogee County residents and those who work in Muscogee County; however, substantial numbers of others have been accepted.  Participants will be screened for suitability.  Persons with a known criminal history will not be considered.  Also, persons with an extensive driving record will be examined to determine if their reasons for wanting to attend conform to the goals of the academy.  A "printable" copy of the application is available by clicking here.  The application should be mailed to Lt. Herman Miles, Columbus Police Dept., Box 1866, Columbus, GA  31902.  A copy of some form of an official photo ID should be included to facilitate a background check.

The Academy is free to all participants.
Classes are held twice a year, in January and July.  The Academy is 16 weeks long and includes orientation, instruction, and graduation.  Classes begin at 6:00 P.M. each Thursday of the class term.  Most classes are held in the training facilities of the Columbus Police Department, 510 10th St. In addition, some classes meet at other areas including the Government Center, the Muscogee County Jail and the SWAT training facility.

Download an Application »

Identity Theft

Credit Bureaus Contact Information
Equifax Experian Trans Union
www.equifax.com

To order a report:
tel: 1-800-685-1111
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

To report fraud:
tel: 1-800-525-6285
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
www.experian.com

To order a report:
tel: 1-888-397-3742
P.O. Box 949
Allen, TX 75013-0949

To report fraud:
tel:1-888-397-3742
P.O. Box 949
Allen, TX 75013-0949
www.tuc.com

To order a report:
tel: 1-800-916-8800
P.O. Box 1000
Chester, PA 19022

To report fraud:
tel: 1-800-680-7289
Fraud Victim Assistance Division
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834

Identity thieves use a variety of ways to gain access to your personal information. Some of the most frequently used ways include:

  • Stealing your wallet or purse.
  • Using e-mail or phone scams, such as phishing or pretexting.
  • Stealing a pre-approved credit card from your mailbox, to go on a shopping spree. To opt out of pre-screened credit card offers, call 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688).
  • They may have access to your information through where they work.
  • They may steal credit and debit card information through a process known as skimming.
  • Rummaging through your trash, in a practice known as dumpster diving.
  • Complete a change of address form to divert your mail to another address.

After the thieves have gained access to your information, they may do one or more of the following:

  • Open new credit card accounts in your name. Which they will use and never pay and that information will be recorded on your credit report.
  • Use counterfeit checks or your credit or debit card to drain your bank account, cash transfers.
  • Give your name to the police during an arrest. When they don't appear for court a warrant will be issued in your name.
  • Charge or purchase items until there is no money left in your account(s).

Minimizing the Risk of Identity Theft

  • When setting a credit or debit card password don't use easily available information such as your birth date, last four digits of your phone number or social security number or a series of consecutive number (example 4567).
  • Keep birth certificates, social security cards and financial information in a safe and secure area.
  • Ask companies, that you give your personal information, who has access to the information, what information security measures they use, if they will share any of your information with anyone else and ask about their information disposal procedures.
  • Don't give out personal information over the phone, the mail or the internet unless you initiated the contact.
  • Deposit your outgoing mail in a post office collection box or at your local post office, rather than in an unsecured mailbox.
  • If you are out of town, ask someone you trust to collect your mail or call the post office and have them hold your mail until you get back in town.
  • Tear or shred all documents with personal or financial information before throwing them in the trash.
  • If your wallet or purse is stolen, immediately contact your credit and debit card issuers and the Columbus Police, (706) 653-3000.
  • When checking e-mail, never open e-mails from people you don't know. These e-mails could contain viruses that could lead to comprising the security of data on the computer.
  • When disposing of a computer use a "wipe" program to completely remove all information from the computer. Manually deleting or formatting the computer will not erase all the information.
  • Make online purchases rarely, and when making an online purchase look for indicators that the site is secure. Two indicators are the lock icon on the browser's status bar at the bottom of the screen and a URL address that begins with https: (the "s" stands for secure).

Are You a Victim?

The following is a checklist of ways to monitor your financial accounts to determine whether or not you are a victim of identity theft.

  • Order a copy of your credit report, if new accounts have been opened they will be shown on this report. You can receive one free credit report per year by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com or calling 1-877-322-8228.
  • Failing to receive bills or other mail.
  • Denial of credit for no apparent reason.
  • Receiving calls from debt collectors about merchandise you didn't purchase.

If You Are a Victim

If you are a victim of identity theft, complete the following four steps as soon as possible. Keep records of all your conversations and correspondence. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also has a publication, Take Charge: Fighting Back Against Identity Theft that describes what to do if you are a victim of identity theft.

  • Place a fraud alert on your credit reports, and review your credit reports. To place a fraud alert on your credit report call one of the credit bureaus listed at the top of this page.
  • Close all accounts you believe are fraudulent. Ask your financial institution about the process for disputing charges; also notify the companies where the fraudulent charges were made.
  • File a report with the Columbus Police.
  • File a complaint with the FTC. Contact the FTC by visiting www.ftc.gov or call 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338).

Burglary Prevention

Burglaries constitute the largest and most rapidly increasing law enforcement problem in Columbus. Thus, the Columbus Police Department has created this web page to provide residents with some basic home security techniques that can significantly reduce the risk of home invasion.

Most of the residential burglaries are committed not by professional criminals, but rather by casual criminals who take advantage of situations created by carelessness or oversight on the part of residents.

While there is no simple or sure solution to the problem of home burglaries, it is possible to make the burglar's task more difficult, and in some cases to discourage the burglar altogether.

Doors

  • Lock all outside doors and windows before you leave the house or go to bed.
  • Make sure every external door has a sturdy, well-installed deadbolt lock with a minimum of 1 1/2" throw.
  • Make sure all doors are metal or solid, 1 3/4" hardwood. They should fit tightly in their frames and the hinge pins should be on the inside.
  • If you have just moved into a new house or apartment, have the locks changed.
  • Change locks immediately if your keys are lost or stolen.
  • Install a peephole or wide-angle viewer in all entry doors so you can see who is at the door without opening it.
  • Keep the garage door closed so no one will know whether there is a vehicle in there or not.
  • Secure sliding glass doors with commercially available locks. Supplement that with a broom handle or stick wedged in the track to keep anyone from prying the door open.

Windows

  • Put lights and a radio on timers to create the illusion someone is home. Leave shades, blinds and curtains in normal positions.
  • Secure double-hung windows using key locks or by sliding a bold or nail drilled at a downward angle in the top corners of the inside sash and partway through the outside sash. The hole should be large enough so the nail or screw slides out freely in case of an emergency.
  • Don't install bars on the windows. Adding bars to windows makes it very difficult to get out in case of a fire.

Yard

  • Keep your yard well maintained. Store ladders and tools in a locked area when not using them.
  • Keep gate entrances padlocked. The best padlocks to use are casehardened steel with at least a 9/32" shackle. Other useful features include a double locking mechanism...heel and toe, a five-pin tumbler and a retaining feature that prevents your removing the key until the padlock has been locked. Also, remember that the padlock is only as secure as the hasp. The hasp should also be made of hardened steel, mounted with the heaviest bolts and screws.
  • Have adequate exterior lighting. A motion-sensitive light is recommended for backyards.
  • Plant shrubbery around windows, this will make getting to a window more difficult from the outside of the house. If you live in a two-story house, cut off tree limbs that could help a thief climb into the house through an open window.

Mailbox

  • Don't hide keys in mailboxes, planters or under doormats. These are the first places burglars look. If you have a trusted neighbor, give them a key.
  • Don't allow daily deliveries of mail, newspapers or flyers to build up while you are away. This is a sign to burglars that no one is home and on one is watching the house. Make arrangements with the Post Office to hold your mail, or make arrangements for a friend or neighbor to take them regularly.

More Tips

  • Homes without a home-security/alarm system have a significantly higher break-in rate, so invest in an alarm system to protect your home. There are two main types of security systems available: a local alarm (makes only noise, up to 200 decibels) and a monitored system (may make some noise, but is monitored at a centralized location). Make sure that it will sound off whenever a door is forced open and when a window is broken or opened without a password entry.
  • Develop a rapport with your neighbors. In today's society, we often do not talk to our neighbors, but they are essential to good home security. They can keep an eye on your house when you are away.
  • Clearly display your house number so police and other emergency vehicles can find your home quickly. This is required by city ordinance.
  • Keep the windows of a shed building covered with a curtain or blinds. This will keep people from being able to see what you have inside your shed.
  • Maintain an inventory of all valuables, including serial numbers. Take photos or videos of them. The Community Relations Unit has engravers available to inscribe identifying information on valuables. To barrow an engraver contact the Community Relations Unit at (706) 653-3173.
  • If you return home and think your home has been entered, don't go in. Call the Columbus Police (911 or (706) 653-3000) from a cell phone, a neighbor's home or public telephone.

Domestic Violence

domestic cycle diagram

Dr. Lenore Walker of the Domestic Violence Institute has devised a theory of violence that aids in explaining the phases of domestic violence. Dr. Walker is a nationally recognized clinical and forensic licensed psychologist. She specializes in the psychological impact of trauma on victims, particularly battered women and sexual assault victims.

Phase 1

Step 1: Minor battering

Victim's denial of anger helps them cope with a situation they desperately will change. Victim blames outside factors; takes guilt for battering incident; apparent passive acceptance spurs on the abusive behavior and batterer doesn't have to find control.

Step 2

Batterers don't want behavior made public, causing fear in them the victim will tell, thus increasing the oppression. Batterer's brutality keeps victim captive. Learned helplessness syndrome.

Step 3

As Phase one progresses, battering incidents increase, anger escalates, victim realizes next phase is coming and works hard to control external situations: keeping children quiet, no phone calls, etc. Soon, coping techniques fail.

Step 4

Batterer increases possessive smothering and brutality. Victim is less able to defend themselves against the pain and hurt. Victim withdraws; batterer moves in more oppressively. Unbearable tension builds up. Victim sometimes triggers next phase in order to break the tension, to "just get it over with."

Phase 2

Two IMPORTANT characteristics: lack of control and lack of predictability. Acute battering with major destructiveness takes place. Usually lasts from 2 to 24 hours, with some reports of a week or more of terror. Only batterers can end Phase 2. There's an element of overkill and victims express extreme futility in trying to escape. Victims suffer emotional collapse 22 to 48 hours after acute battering. They seek isolation; thus, doctors often do not see them until a natural healing time has passed. There is extreme sexual abuse during this time.

Phase 3

There is an unusual Period of Calm. Batterer is extremely loving, kind and contrite. Batterer is sorry and promises never to do it again. Batterer believes they can maintain control. Believes they have taught victim a lesson so they won't have to beat them again. Promises to give up drinking. Convinces victim they're needed, makes them feel guilty for leaving; makes victim feel the responsibility. Promises they will get help if victim just stays. The victim sees the batterer as being sincere and loving. Victim chooses to believe this is what they are really like and if they help the batterer, they will change. Phase Three is a time when most of the rewards of being married take place thus making it difficult for the victim to end the relationship.

Resources

  • Columbus Alliance for Battered Women call (706) 324-3850
  • CONTACT (from Columbus Phone Area) call 211
  • Domestic Violence Hotline (Georgia Only) call 1-800-334-2836
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline call 1-800-799-7233
  • National Center for Defense of Battered Women call 1-800-903-0111
  • National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Vacation Checklist

  • Mow the lawn.
  • Stop all deliveries.
  • Arrange with a trusted neighbor to:
    1. Bring in your mail.
    2. Watch your house for suspicious activity.
  • If you have an open carport leave a second car (yours or a neighbors) positioned so that a van cannot pull in.
  • Use an automatic timer to operate your inside lights at night.
  • Turn the ringer down on your telephone so that someone outside cannot hear your phone continually ringing.
  • Don't inform anyone of your departure except those whom you contacted to watch your house.
  • Participate in Operation Identification. Engrave all valuable personal items and place Operation Identification decals on doors and windows.
  • The day before you leave, call the Columbus Police Department at (706) 653-3205 and ask for a house check. A patrol car will periodically check your house during your vacation.
  • Lock all exterior doors and windows including the garage.

Travel Safety Tips

The information below contains helpful precautions to minimize the chances of becoming a victim of a crime while you are traveling.

  • Get recommendations for lodging in safe areas. Talk to a travel agent you trust or your auto club. Get a guaranteed reservation, if possible.
  • Choose hotels that have electronic key systems where the rooms are re-keyed after guests check out.
  • Do not pack anything that you cannot afford to lose. Traveler's checks are a safer alternative than cash.
  • Dress conservatively when you travel. You do not want to appear too affluent or "touristy". Both looks attract thieves.
  • When checking into your hotel, ask the clerk to write down your room number, not announce it so that others can overhear.
  • The second to sixth floors of a hotel are the safest choices. Because they are above ground level, a break-in from the outside is unlikely, but they can still be reached by fire and rescue equipment.
  • Do a security check of your room when you check in. The door should have a peephole, a deadbolt lock and a safety chain or latch that operates from the inside. Make sure any doors to connecting rooms are locked. Check that all windows or sliding glass doors are closed and locked. Make sure no one is hiding in the closets.
  • Never open your door to let anyone into your room without first looking through the peephole and verifying the person's identity. If it is not someone you called, such as room service or housekeeping, do not open the door. Call the front desk and ask a manager to confirm the purpose of the person's visit.
  • Do not leave money, jewelry or other valuables in your room while you are out. Use the hotel safe, and be sure to get a receipt.
  • Tell a neighbor or a friend (someone you trust) that you are leaving town, and could they keep an eye on your house.