The summer months are the perfect time for vacations and getaway trips. Unfortunately, those trips leave your home and belongings vulnerable to criminals who step up their felonious activities during the summer months. According to the FBI, the months of July and August have the highest rates for burglaries in the U.S. Today, burglars enter a house, apartment or condominium every 11 seconds. Burglars also take advantage of the fact that the majority of people have jobs outside of the home because 60 percent of residential burglaries occur during the daytime. While the statistics make the situation sound dire, there a are a number of ways burglaries can be prevented by paying attention to the simplest security measures.
Clarke County Sheriff Tony Roper suggested, “Common sense is the best approach, and try to think like a criminal-don’t allow newspapers to pile up, have neighbors keep an eye on the house, lock all doors, etc.”
The data reflects the value of the common sense approach. More than 1 million burglaries each year are committed without forced entry because people overlook the simplest safety measure of locking doors and windows.
In addition to the diligence on the part of homeowners, local law enforcement officials offer additional protections. The Sheriff’s Office offers a “watch list” program that provides property checks for residents who will be away from their homes. Properties are added to a list for patrols to observe. Residents can download a form from the county website here to request these property checks. Police use the form to gather baseline information on your property so they will know if anything out of the ordinary is occurring.
In the Town of Berryville, residents have a similar option with a program that provides a way for law enforcement to keep an extra eye out on properties that will not be occupied. Chief Neal White described the procedure saying, “We just ask that the resident supply some information about the property and emergency contacts. A list is generated daily from the requests and printed out for the patrol officers.”
The watch list provides the necessary information for police to observe properties and look for suspicious activities. Chief White described the procedure,”During their shifts officers pay particular attention to properties on the list and denote what time they checked the condition of the property. If any irregularities are observed, the officers investigate further and contact the property owner or their designee if anything is found out of place.”
Citizens interested in this program should contact local police. While the requests do add additional requirements to officers duties Chief White expressed the value of the program saying, “It is just a little peace of mind for the homeowner and it assists law enforcement in keying in on potential problems in the neighborhood with regards to breaking and entering.”
In addition to these “watch” programs, both law enforcement agencies in the county offer seminars and training for residents that will help them avoid becoming victims of property crimes.
So before you pack the car for vacation take some simple, common sense measures to protect your home and belongings. Criminals look for homes that appear unoccupied that offer an open invitation to enter.
Use these simple steps to prevent your home from becoming a “target of opportunity.”
- Get a trusted friend or relative to “house sit.”
- Make sure your neighbors know your plans. They know the normal routines in your neighborhood and can spot something or someone out of place.
- Have a neighbor pick up your newspapers and mail daily.
- Lock all doors and windows and secure the garage door.
- Leave a car parked in the driveway, or ask a neighbor to park in your driveway.
- Leave a house key and a number where you can be reached with a trusted friend or neighbor.
- Have your lawn mowed.
- Use automatic timers for lights, radios and televisions to make the home appear “lived in.”
- Never announce your vacation plans via social networks.
These are just a few things homeowners can do. For a more comprehensive list talk to local law enforcement or download the Home Security Booklet published by the National Sheriff’s Association here.
It’s nice to get away from it all on summer vacation, but it’s even better to return home from vacation and find everything just as you left it. So be safe and secure this summer and enjoy your time away.