It’s that time of year again, when most of us are turning our attention to the holidays — and away from one of the biggest security risks: burglaries. And while it seems sensible that break-ins and certain other crimes are springtime concerns, reality is altogether different. Just ask Washington Township Police Chief Randy Ciocco.
“Historically, this is the time of year [that many] burglaries take place,” Ciocco warns.
After all, you’re going to be running around a lot, and burglars have needs, too. And if there’s one thing a burglar knows, it’s to take the path of least resistance — as in: when no one’s home.
Burglars will avoid having to take time or risk being seen. So their “work” becomes systematic:
They look for soft targets — those that don’t have obvious signs of security, of course, but also those that are obscured by objects. They will then spend no more than a minute’s time trying to get in. If they can’t, they’ll move on. If they can, they’re out of the house inside of three minutes.
Three-quarters of those who do get in have broken a window, jimmied a door, or forced an entrance open. Ask any detective; they’ll tell you the same thing.
So pay attention:
- Make sure all doors and windows are secure, especially in back; use window stops (you can always pop them out when you’re home on a comfortable day);
- Clear windows and doors of any bushes, trees or shrubs so that you, your neighbors — and, if necessary, police — can see them;
- Deadbolts are a no-brainer, but only if the screws are at least a couple of inches long; otherwise, Snooki could kick your door in;
- If you don’t have motion detector lighting outside, get it; if you do, make sure it’s working properly — and don‘t have it close enough to the ground that someone could unscrew the bulb;
- Lock away ladders, other types of boosters or tools lying around the outside of the house;
- Set lights, televisions and radios on timers;
- DO NOT KEEP VALUABLES in obvious places: The first, and sometimes only, destination of any burglar is the master bedroom;
- Inventory your valuables with photos or videos, put the disc in a safe place — and, please, make sure you use an innocuous label (“Billy’s Birthday” will do just fine). It could help police but also comes in handy when you notify your insurance company;
- Lock your car, even when it’s in your driveway;
- If you’re going away for awhile: (a) notify police headquarters to put your home on the vacant list; they‘ll be sure to drive by now and then (b) arrange for deliveries to be suspended or picked up.
- If you know you’ll be away when snow falls, arrange to have someone shovel or plow your walk and driveway. Then it will at least look like you’re home;
- You’ve probably figured this one already, but one of the most tried-and-true burglar deterrents has four legs — and it’s not your coffee table. Could be a Pomeranian (Remember: A burglar doesn’t want to spend time or be noticed).
- Here’s one you might not thought of, courtesy of New Milford Police Chief Frank Papapietro: “Burglars use social networking sites to determine when a home will be empty. Do not announce your day’s activities on those sites. A simple entry such as “going shopping with the kids” tells a burglar that there may be an easy target available. If you want to share your day’s events with your cyber friends, do it at the end of the day.”
Here’s another, from Ciocco: Make sure your house number can be seen clearly from the street at any time of day, just in case you need police, fire or ambulance service.
This also is the time of year, Ciocco noted, that “diversion” burglaries increase: That’s when one or two people convince a senior citizen of a utility company or TV service visit. Don’t allow anyone into your home without 100 percent certainty of who they are and where they come from.
If they are genuine, they will understand if you call a particular utility — or even the police. Don‘t think twice: It‘s all right to call, Ciocco said.
If you have elderly parents, remind them of this.
And if you see something, say something.
“As always, the Police Department encourages residents to call and report ANYTHING suspicious,” Ciocco said. “Your report could stop a crime in progress!”
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