Live in the Yellow and Don't Hesitate to Call 911

When I was first told that a well-respected and loved centenarian in my city was found deceased in his home under suspicious circumstances, I was heartbroken—and then I got angry. Who would do such a thing and why? Well, it seems motives are often elusive, making it hard to know exactly how to keep ourselves safe in any repeatable way.

As my dad used to say, "Locks only keep out the honest people." I think my dad was right. If a bad guy is determined to do harm, there is not much we can do. But as I learned at the Community Police Academy, what we can do on a daily basis is "live in the yellow."  

National Night Out Against Crime is a great night to get to know your neighbors.


To live in the yellow simply means to be aware of our surroundings, wherever we are, and be aware of who is around us. We might say it is just using common sense, and though anyone can be conned or fooled, the more aware we are, the less likely we are to become a victim.

One of the best things I think we can do in our daily life is to know our neighbors. My husband and I know many of our neighbors and have always watched out for our elderly neighbors. Now some of our younger neighbors watch out for us, which is kind of funny to think about (who's getting older?!), but there you have it.

Following are some examples of how we can each be more aware of our surroundings and what to do when our gut sends us a warning message:

  • Pay attention to newspapers piled up on a neighbor's porch, or a neighbor's car that hasn't moved for longer than usual. If you see an unknown vehicle "cruising" your street or stopping at mail boxes, get a license number and vehicle description and then call 911 to report suspicious activity.
  • Keep your neighbors' phone numbers at hand and check in with them once in a while to let them know you are okay and/or to see how they are doing.
  • If you feel that something is wrong at a neighbor's home, but don't have a contact phone number for the neighbor's family, don’t hesitate to call 911. In this kind of a situation, ask to have an officer perform a welfare check.
  • When you are out in your yard or going to get your mail and you notice someone who seems "out of place" walking by, be sure to nod or wave and say hello. That way they will know that they have been noticed and, if they are up to no good, they will likely move along.
  • If a stranger comes to your door asking for the name of someone you've never heard of, or asks if you've seen their lost pet, he or she could be scoping out the neighborhood.
  • If someone uninvited knocks on our door and you don't want to answer, at least say something like, "Please leave, I am calling 911."  Or simply say, "Who is there?"  Either way, the uninvited person—who could be looking for an easy break in—will know that someone is home and most likely move along.
  • If you see anything you consider out of the ordinary or suspicious, as I have already stated, do not hesitate to call 911 and report what has been observed—even after the fact. It is perfectly OK to dial 911. The police want us to report so they will know there are problems.

It is perfectly OK to dial 911. The police want us to report so they will know there are problems.

In our neighborhood, several mail thieves have been caught because a citizen noticed someone acting suspiciously and called 911. So, to reiterate—it's ok and preferred to call 911 even if an event is not life threatening. Let the police sort out what needs to be done.

Some additional tips: When banking, ask the teller to count your withdrawal out to you quietly so strangers don't overhear. Don't count money in public. Don't leave wallets, purses or other valuable items in the car at any time. If you have a home safe, don't talk about it where strangers might overhear.

Recently, again in my neighborhood, there was a home invasion robbery of a guy who had won a large sum of money gambling and was bragging out loud about it, and that he had it in a safe at home. Yep, you guessed it—it was an acquaintance who overheard the talk who did the robbery—with a weapon.

I don't want to make anyone paranoid, but there are bad guys out there who want what you have and don't mind doing what they can to get it.

But in short, maintain faith in humanity, live wise, live healthy, live in the yellow, and don't ever hesitate to call 911.

P.S. The death of our local centenarian was the impetus for me to write this safety article. To this date, no suspect has been apprehended in his death.

As a SeaTac City Council member, contributor Pam Fernald is a member of the Emergency Management Committee and a past member of the Public Safety and Justice Committee. As a citizen, she serves as a Block Watch captain, graduated from both the SeaTac and Tukwila Community Police Academies, and completed Community Emergency Management Training (CERT). Councilmember Fernald and her husband have hosted Night Out Against Crime events for the past seven years.

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