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Tips to keep your house safe from summertime crime

WASHINGTON

You can almost feel the cool breezes on your face as you finish packing the car, now overflowing, for your trip to the mountains. You carry in the flower pots that have been decorating the front stoop and flick on the porch light so the yard will be illuminated while you're away.

Sheriff's Deputy James Spurlock says you might as well put a welcome mat out for a burglar.

Extended vacations, weekend getaways and day trips to the beach or Orlando's theme parks are also prime hunting season for thieves, said Spurlock, a crime prevention specialist in suburban Loudoun County, Va.

"Various reasons take us out of our homes, and that makes our homes more vulnerable," he said. "Burglary, it's not a random crime. They go out and look for a choice target. The mail is piling up, there are three or four days' of newspapers on the driveway. If you maintain your own lawn and your grass hasn't been cut for three weeks, someone is going to notice."

Simple steps can make it less likely that your home will be the next target.

"Reduce the opportunity," Washington Police Chief Cathy Lanier said. "People don't just walk down the street and decide 'I'm going to hit your home today.' They do some casing."

The key is securing your home and eliminating signs that you are away, police said. Put both indoor and outdoor lights on timers and ask a neighbor with two cars to park one in your driveway. Arrange for a friend or lawn service to mow the grass and unplug automatic garage door openers to prevent a thief from getting in.

"Look at your house a month before you go on vacation," Spurlock said. "What does the outside look like? That's how it should look when you go."

And in the virtual world, don't share your travel plans on Facebook, MySpace or other social networking sites, Fairfax County (Va.) Police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said.

"When you come home you can share your pictures, but do it afterwards," Caldwell said. "There may be people who aren't as close friends as you think they are."

Nationwide, burglars made off with $4.6 billion in electronics, jewelry, cash and other items in 2008, according to the FBI. In more than 30 percent of those burglaries, the thief got inside without forcing open a door or window. Many break-ins occurred during the day.

If someone does break in, don't make it easy on him, Spurlock said. The average burglary takes between eight and 15 minutes, and bad guys grab what is in sight. Spurlock recommends putting precious jewelry or items of sentimental value in a plain box and stashing it in a basement or closet with other storage boxes.

"Any burglar knows that if a woman has a nice tennis bracelet, it's going to be in a drawstring bag or a velvet box, and it's going to be in a drawer with her silky things," Spurlock said. "Make the criminal work for every bit of goods they are going to get out of that house."

. TIPS

Protect yourself

Here are some crime prevention tips from the Montgomery County (Md.) Police Department:

• Close and lock the windows in your home when you are away.

• Install an alarm system and display its signs in the front and back of your home.

• Install exterior lights, such as floodlights, that are motion-sensitive.

• Trim tall shrubs below windowsills and keep them low around entrances. Prune large trees so limbs can't provide roof or second-story access.

• Engrave valuables with your driver's license number whenever practical. Keep a list of all belongings with serial numbers in an easily accessible location in case you need to provide those numbers to police.

• Do not keep large sums of cash in your home.

• Know your neighbors and keep an eye out around the neighborhood. Report any suspicious activities to the police non-emergency number.

• Stop mail and newspaper delivery, or ask a neighbor to handle them

while you are away.

Source: Washington Post

Tips to keep your house safe from summertime crime 08/06/10 [Last modified: Thursday, August 5, 2010 5:13pm]
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