The Arlington County Police Department has put into effect a program designed to tell senior citizens and others how to avoid becoming the victims of crime.
The department's security survey of houses, apartments and businesses is free and confidential, and recommendations are given in writing.
Lieutenant John B. Quade, who heads the Crime Resistance Section (CRS), said that the department does not report crime-victim statistics by age brackets. However, he added, seniors are frequently targets because:
-They spend more time in their homes than do younger people, and thus more likely to encounter dishonest people who work door to door.
-They need more home maintenance services, but are often unable to inspect repairs - such as roof repairs - or even determine if home repairs are needed at all.
-They are more lkely to own property and to have accumulated savings, often targets of bilking operations.
For such reasons, he said, the CRS has gone to great lengths to reach older people. Officers have given talks at all the county senior-citizen centers and cooperates with apartment development where many seniors live.
"Older folks," Quade said, "sometimes are the victims of fear-sell tactics. Fear is a great salesman."
He said people peddling unneeded repairs to furnaces, gutters or electrical wiring often create the feeling that "if you don't take corrective action, there's going to be a catastrophe to your house."
He urges people to deal with established repair firms, to get competitive bids and if in doubt, to call the county Consumer Affairs Office at 558-2142, or the License Bureau at 558-2511.
In his talks to denior groups, Quade frequently alludes to the dubious values being offered by some "drive-way sealers."
Typically, he says, two workmen appear at a home in the late afternoon and offer to seal a driveway, which they say they have noted is in need of repair. The standard sales pitch is that they have just done a driveway in the general area; they have left-over material in their tank that will go hard overnight, and they therefore can offer a bargain rather than spray it out as waste.
The spray mix, he noted, is normally nothing but a cleaning fluid colored with roofing tar - with an astronomic rate of return on investment for the applier.
More costly are the bunco-artist tricks - "the bank examiner" and "the pigeon drop" - of which he also warns.
In the former, the swindler appeals to a person's sense of civic duty. He claims to be a bank examiner trying to trap a bank employe suspected of dishonesty. He persuades the victim to withdraw funds to be used in the supposed trap, and provides a receipt for them - before disappearing.
"The pigeon drop" is employed as a film-flam far more often than the "bank examiner." Ancient trick that it is, it was nevertheless used in Arlington, in variation, as recently as July.
In this, the con artist appeals to the human instinct of wanting something for nothing. One stranger engages the victim in conversation. A second stranger appears and announces he has found a large sum of money. "It probably came from gambling," says Stranger No. 1. The second stranger offers to divide with the other two, but the victim has to put up "earnest money." When he withdraws it from his bank, envelopes are switched and he winds up the one containing blank strips of papers.
In Arlington, Quade reported, larcenies now are up; burglaries are down, and the level of most other forms of crime is about static.
For calender year 1977, he said, there were 6,326 larcenies, of which 3,579 involved parts or accessories of autos, or personal property taken from them. THe latter figure has caused the unit, with an assist from Kiwanis International, to begin a new campaign to urge motorists to take their keys and lock their cars.
In 1977 the six-officer prevention force that Quade heads distributed 111,483 pieces of crime-resistance literature and, in the first half of 1978, another 42,996. More than 18,000 people attended the officers' talks to groups during the latter period.
The section, created in mid-1976, conducted 665 security surveys during 1977. In 1678 it performed almost that number - 665 - in just the first six months. The survey included an explanation of the differing types of door locks.
The section is strongly urging seniors and others to participate in "Operation Identification," which includes marking of high-value and often-stolen items with Social Security numbers.
The police number to call for details and an appointment for a security survey is 558-2976.