Tag: "burglars"

Tis the Season

Tis the season to be cheerful, jolly and in the holiday spirit but it’s hard to be cheerful when you come home and find your home burglarized. Drawers emptied, missing electronics, jewelry, money, all your belongings gone and your house ransacked.

The poor economy has resulted in an increase of burglaries. Not a day goes by where we don’t have at least 5 or more victims calling in to report a burglary at their home. Sometimes we get dispatched to a burglary in progress but for every burglar we catch there are hundreds more roaming neighborhoods looking for a target. If you read the crime stats burglaries are on the rise and are a problem everywhere.

How they decide on a particular home is each burglar’s decision but most of the time they are not alone. One of them will ring a doorbell and if someone answers, they ask for a fictitious person or say they have the wrong house. If no one answers, they go into the yard looking for an open or unlocked window. Sometimes they will break a window to gain access but most of the time they find a window or door unlocked. Once inside they ransack your home looking for money, jewelry, laptops, guns and other easily concealable items. Sometimes they will take a pillowslip off your bed to carry their haul. If they find keys to a car in the garage they may help themselves to your televisions, computers and other larger items and simply drive off with their loot.

You come home to relax after a hard day at work only to find your home ransacked with your belongings scattered throughout the house and your personal property missing, some of it probably irreplaceable. Not a fun evening cleaning up the mess, trying to do an inventory of what’s missing for the police, and trying to get over the feeling of being violated knowing someone was roaming free in your home going through all your belongings.

There are a few things you can do to lessen your chances of becoming the victim of a burglary:

1) Get an alarm system. There are several companies that offer free or low cost installation of an alarm system by signing a 2-3 year contract for alarm monitoring. If an alarm activates, the monitoring service calls you or a designated person and then the police. You can get door and window sensors, motion detectors, smoke detectors, whatever you want. Alarm systems are great because a burglar won’t stick around long with loud alarms blaring drawing attention to your home. If you have an alarm system, USE IT! I’ve gone to alarm calls where a home was burglarized and when I ask about the alarm panel on the wall, the victim said they were only leaving for a short time and didn’t use it. It only takes the push of a button to arm the system, if you have it, use it!

2) Get a camera system. These are great! The cost has come way down on these systems. You can put small motion activated cameras inside or outside your home and when they sense movement they began recording to your PC or hard drive. They can even send pictures to your cell phone of what is being recorded. We’ve caught burglars in the act after homeowners called the police and gave a description of the suspects after their camera system sent pictures to their cell phone. Even if a burglar gets away, they are recorded and we know who to look for.

3) Dogs are great. Very few burglars will break into a home where a dog is going ballistic on the other side of the door. A timid miniature Chihuahua probably won’t deter a burglar but a larger dog certainly will.

4) Alert neighbors. If you have neighbors that are home during the day, ask them to keep an eye on things and to call you if they see something unusual. If a burglar sees someone watching them they are less likely to stick around.

5) Most importantly; DON’T leave windows or doors unlocked. If you must leave a window open for ventilation, get a window lock that will let you lock the window ajar a few inches. Burglars can squeeze through even small bathroom windows, don’t leave them open. If a burglar sees an open window it makes you a target. Lock the door leading from the garage into the house; if it has a lock, use it. If a door has a cheap lock on it get a good one with a deadbolt. It’s not a guarantee to prevent a burglary but make it as difficult as possible for a burglar to gain entry. It could make the difference between them getting into your home or giving up to find an easier target.

6) Lights. If you will be gone in the evening or during the night, light up your home. Leave porch lights on and a light or two inside. Burglars hate lights. You can get motion spotlights that come on when they sense movement. Get bright spotlights to light up your doors, windows or yard if someone comes on your property and when the motion stops, the lights go off. If your home is dark inside and outside, burglars can approach and get in undetected but if they walk up to a home and the night turns into day, they won’t stick around long.

7) Christmas time brings out even more thieves. Nothing looks more tempting than a ton of wrapped gifts under a Christmas tree. When you are gone, close the blinds or drapes and don’t give thieves a sneak peek of goodies inside. The same goes for your car; don’t leave bags from stores or wrapped presents in your car. We get numerous reports of gifts being stolen from cars while people are shopping or if items were left in a car overnight. Lock items in the trunk or at least cover them so they are not in view.

8 ) Report any suspicious activity. If someone unfamiliar to your neighborhood comes to your door asking for someone who doesn’t live there, make a note of their description(s) and vehicle and call the police to report a suspicious subject. You may end up preventing a burglary in your neighborhood or helping the police catch a burglar with a car full of stolen property.

There are other precautions you can take but these are some of the important ones. If you use some of the above listed tips, you will greatly reduce the chances of finding your home ransacked when you come home.

Story: Car Burglaries are off the hook!

broken window

Car burglaries are off the hook. Not a day goes by where we don’t get at least 5-6 calls of car burglaries being reported. Shouldn’t be a surprise though, what easier way is there to get free stuff to sell or trade for drugs? After most responsible people with jobs have eaten dinner, watched the evening news and dozed off to sleep, the scum of society comes out of the woodwork, just like roaches. They walk or cruise through neighborhoods looking for free stuff, stuff you left out for them. They look into cars to see what’s there; maybe a laptop, a nice phone, a briefcase, a nice stereo that someone didn’t take the faceplate off, a purse, wallet, backpack, anything that might have value. They try door handles because a lot of people make it easy for them by leaving cars unlocked.

My daughter used to leave a book bag in her car telling me it was a hassle to bring it in each night and that nothing of value was inside except books. I’d tell her that she might know nothing of value was inside but thieves don’t know that. To a thief, a book bag or backpack might contain a laptop or something of value so they break in to "check". If a thief looks inside your car and sees nothing, they move on. A thief usually doesn’t waste time breaking into a car just to "look" for something, they break into cars to grab what they see. If a car is unlocked they may rummage through an ashtray looking for loose change or car keys.

While most car burglaries occur during the night (less traffic, most people asleep, less potential for witnesses, thieves able to see approaching headlights etc.), there are some bold thieves that target shopping centers during the day. Where else can you find hundreds of cars all parked together with many containing laptops, purses, wallets and more? These thieves walk through rows of cars looking inside all the cars. If they see something, they grab it. If the car is locked they break a window. If they see nothing they keep walking until they see something in another car. Again, they don’t waste time breaking into a car "just to see" if something might be inside, they target cars where they know something is inside.

What prompted me to write about this topic again is that I went outside this morning to get into my truck to go to work. The windows were frosted over from the cold but I saw the "telltale" sign that the "roaches" were out that night. My drivers window had a clear "wipe" mark on it where someone had wiped the frost off and looked inside to see if anything was visible. Luckily I keep nothing in view so they moved on to other cars in the neighborhood. If I had left something of value in the car I would have found broken glass on the ground and my stuff missing. I’m sure if I took the time to circle my block I would have found cars broken into.

So take the precautions;

Lock your doors and most importantly, don’t leave ANYTHING in view in your car. If a thief looks inside your car make sure they don’t see anything and they’ll just keep walking on to the next car.

Motion lights over your driveway are GREAT! Thieves don’t like light, get a million watt bulb to light up the roaches when they approach your driveway and most of the time they’ll keep walking.

Car alarms, if you have one use it! A thief isn’t going to take the time to rummage through a car if a blaring alarm is going off drawing attention.

But keep in mind, even with lights or alarms, if something is in view they’ll smash a window and grab it, it only takes a second. The best protection is to not leave anything of value in your car.

So take precautions and keep your stuff safe. With the economy the way it is, burglaries and thefts are skyrocketing. If you leave stuff in your car it’s not a matter of "if" your car is broken into, it’s a matter of "when".      

13 Things Your Burglar Won’t Tell You

1.  Of course I look familiar. I was here just last week cleaning your carpets, painting your shutters, or delivering your new refrigerator.

2. Hey, thanks for letting me use the bathroom when I was working in your yard last week. While I was in there, I unlatched the back window to make my return a little easier.

3. Love those flowers. That tells me you have taste … and taste means there are nice things inside. Those yard toys your kids leave out always make me wonder what type of gaming system they have.

4. Yes, I really do look for newspapers piled up on the driveway. And I might leave a pizza flyer in your front door to see how long it takes you to remove it.

5. If it snows while you’re out of town, get a neighbor to create car and foot tracks into the house. Virgin drifts in the driveway are a dead giveaway.

6. If decorative glass is part of your front entrance, don’t let your alarm company install the control pad where I can see if it’s set. That makes it too easy.

7. A good security company alarms the window over the sink. And the windows on the second floor, which often access the master bedroom-and your jewelry. It’s not a bad idea to put motion detectors up there too.

8. It’s raining, you’re fumbling with your umbrella, and you forget to lock your door-understandable. But understand this: I don’t take a day off because of bad weather.

9.. I always knock first. If you answer, I’ll ask for directions somewhere or offer to clean your gutters. (Don’t take me up on it.)

10. Do you really think I won’t look in your sock drawer? I always check dresser drawers, the bedside table, and the medicine cabinet.

Story of the Week: Neighborhood Watch Groups

Neighborhood Watch Groups

Why does it work?

To understand the value of neighborhood watch in a community, you must first understand that your local law enforcement agency is limited in their available manpower. A neighborhood watch program in your community will greatly help your local police overcome their manpower shortage. This is done by the use of alert citizens within the community who are constantly observing their neighborhoods for suspicious activities.

On a national average, there is approximately ONE police officer for every 2,000 citizens.

Here’s an example; a police department in a city of 65,000 citizens might have a force of 85 sworn police officers. That may sound like a lot but remember that includes ALL personal including the Chief, captains, lieutenants, sergeants, administrators, evidence personnel, traffic officers, narcotic officers, detectives, etc. Those officers are not on the streets patrolling. A force of 85 sworn police officers may have a patrol force of only 35 officers that regularly patrol the streets. Of those 35 officers, they are divided into different shifts and work days. Depending on how many officers are assigned to a shift, there may be 6-8 police officers on duty during the busiest time of the day or evening. Take away officers for vacations, sickness, injury, court appearances, training etc and there might only be 4-5 officers on the street. As you can see, that’s not a lot for a city of 65,000.

Police officers in high crime areas or busy cities usually have to be reactive, responding to calls and incidents AFTER they occur. There is not much time to be proactive to try and PREVENT crime from occurring. I used to work a very busy graveyard shift running from call to call to call. High priority calls such as fights, robberies, injury accidents etc and most in-progress calls always take priority over a “cold” call where the suspect is unknown or already gone. I’d show up at “cold” theft or burglary call 2 hours after it was called in and the homeowner would be furious at our response time. I’d ask how many officers they thought we had on the street and people would usually say 20 or 25. They would be shocked when I told them that we only had 4 or 5 officers on the street and that there were over 15 calls still waiting to be dispatched.

That’s why neighborhood watch is so important. An alert citizen’s call can be the difference between police responding to an in-progress call such as a burglary and apprehending a suspect versus police showing up hours later to write a “cold” report with unknown suspects. Obviously there are many more citizens than there are police officers. Citizens become an extension of the police department’s eyes and ears.

Here’s an example;

A burglar pulls onto a residential street and cruises slowly through the street. A few open garages with tools and bicycles in view but no one around. He parks near a house and watches for a few minutes. After seeing no one around, he pulls up to an open garage, quickly grabs the toolbox and bicycles and drives off undetected. Or he might have even knocked on a door to see if someone was home, went into the backyard and broke in through a window. After taking jewelry, cash and a gun, he walks back out to his car and drives off unnoticed. The homeowner later arrives home from work to find their house ransacked. The police are called and check the neighborhood for witnesses and a few people say they saw some unfamiliar cars come and go during the day but they didn’t pay attention and couldn’t provide any information. The crime will be unsolved with the suspects unknown.

With a neighborhood watch group in place;

The same burglar pulls onto the same street and slowly cruises through. He sees some people looking out their windows watching him. He parks for a few minutes and he sees another person standing in their driveway writing down his license plate number. There’s no way he’s going to stick around and try to commit a crime with people watching him or with his license plate written down by a neighbor. He knows someone is probably calling the police to report a suspicious car in the area. He starts his car and drives off to find a victim on another street where he goes unnoticed.

Here’s something else: The license plate jotted down by a neighbor can help solve a crime committed elsewhere. Police may be investigating a burglary on one street and check a nearby street for witnesses or leads. A neighbor who reported a suspicious vehicle in the area earlier and provides a license plate number might be the one lead police need to solve the crime. Remember, a thief might cruise through your neighborhood and leave if he is noticed, but he will be going to another neighborhood, probably nearby. That one call of a suspicious vehicle or person in an area can make the difference between burglars being arrested or getting away and committing more burglaries.

How to form or join a neighborhood watch group:

Most police departments have someone assigned to set up neighborhood watch groups. If you are new to a neighborhood there may be one in place already. If there is no neighborhood watch group in place, the police department can help you set up a meeting in your neighborhood and have neighborhood watch signs installed on your street. A police officer assigned to that area or “beat” usually attends the meetings to update citizens of the crimes occurring in their neighborhood and to address the concerns of the residents.

Neighborhood meetings allow residents to get to know each other, know who drives which cars, know who should be home or not. This allows people to call in suspicious activity. For example, if a neighbor knows that you work during the day and that no one is usually home, they would be more likely to call the police if they see a strange vehicle in your driveway or people hanging around your home while you are gone. The police would rather respond to find out it was unfounded rather than get a call from the homeowner hours later reporting that their home was burglarized.

Neighborhood watch groups are not formed for people to take the law into their own hands; they are formed for the residents to be alert and to report any suspicious people or activity in their neighborhoods. Residents should refrain from interrupting suspicious activity and should call the police immediately as a witness. Have a notepad handy by the telephone or window. You might remember a license plate number for a minute or two but it could get mixed up trying to remember it later. Write down a description of suspicious vehicles or people in your neighborhood and save it for a few days. It may be nothing but then again, you may read about a nearby burglary in the paper a few days later and the license plate number you copied down just might be the burglar’s car. Calling the police department and providing the license number of a suspicious vehicle just might help solve a burglary that has occurred. Or an officer on patrol might spot the car “casing” a neighborhood and know from your call that the same car was called in as suspicious hours earlier in another neighborhood.

The bottom line is that neighborhood watch groups work as long as they stay active. Groups usually meet once a month at different residents homes to discuss the things occurring in their area. Some groups even have their meetings on the street during a neighborhood BBQ. Getting to know each other and knowing what belongs in the neighborhood and what doesn’t is the key to a successful neighborhood watch group.

If you don’t have a group formed yet, contact your local police department for information on how to form one. Most departments have booklets with all the information you need to get started!

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