Desk of the DA: holiday safety

Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore offers tips to stay safe during the July 4 weekend:

As chief law enforcement officer in Westchester County, I would like to wish you and your family a safe summer. With the onset of warm weather there are some safety concerns that I would like to remind you about, particularly with children out of school and families going away on vacation. Taking measures to protect yourself and your family is just as important as using sunscreen and drinking plenty of water in the hot and humid weather.

Playgrounds, parks and beaches are great places to relax, but, as always, watch your children carefully while they play or swim. Sexual predators use lures such as asking for help finding a lost dog or offering enticements to children, so it is important to explain to your child the importance of checking with the adult in charge before going anywhere with anyone, even someone they know.

With school out of session, children are also out playing and riding bicycles more often. Motorists should exercise caution and parents must make sure their child is following the rules of the road just as any driver of a motor vehicle is required to do. In New York State, bicyclists and in-line skaters 14 years old or younger are required by law to wear bicycle safety helmets; parents or guardians who break the helmet law are subject to a $50 fine.

As for our older family members we are reminded that hot weather can often pose special challenges for the elderly, so be sure to check on older family members and neighbors. We are also reminded that unlicensed home contractors and scam artists often target older residents during the warmer weather. Trust your instincts! Do not open your door to someone you don’t know unless the person can provide proper identification. Contact police immediately if a person who comes to your door unannounced makes you feel uncomfortable. Let the police do their job.

As to securing your home, know that burglars and thieves are opportunists, so despite the warm weather, when you leave your home or even when you are in your yard, consider closing and locking your doors and windows. Also while at home, lock your car, close the windows, and don’t leave any packages and electronics in plain view. If you are going away on vacation, tell a trusted neighbor how long you will be gone, set up lights on a timer in your home and stop mail and newspaper deliveries.

And last, safeguarding children to avoid falls from open windows is a high priority for all parents and caregivers. Window guards are recommended by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to prevent children from falling out of open windows. Tenants in New York State have the right to ask their landlords to install window guards if a child under the age of 10 is living in the home. Check with your building’s management to find out more. In general, consider putting window guards in rooms where children under the age of 10 spend time, open windows at the top rather than the bottom or install window stops that prevent a window from opening more than 4 inches. Keep furniture away from windows to discourage a child from climbing up to gain access to the window.

We wish you a safe and fun summer with your families. Always remember if you see something suspicious or if you have been a victim of a crime, do not hesitate to contact your local police department. For more information about our office and the services we provide, visit our website at www.westchesterda.net .