It is getting to be the holiday season, and not everyone is looking to spread holiday cheer. The holidays are a prime time for thieves to target houses to steal Christmas gifts and holiday cheer.
Hillsboro Police Chief Daniel Kinning said the season presents an opportunity for criminals to take advantage of distracted homeowners and shoppers.
“Almost every year we see an increase in property crimes during the holiday,” he said. “There is generally an increase in burglaries and thefts, with most of these being from residences and vehicles.”
He said rather than being paranoid, there are a few simple things people can do to ward off potential break-ins. First is to make it as hard as possible for thieves to break in.
“Usually thefts are a crime of opportunity,” he said.
Most criminals take advantage of unlocked vehicles and houses when residents leave, Kinning said.
Peabody Police Chief Bruce Burke said he recommends not just locking your home’s doors and windows when away, but at night while sleeping too.
Putting a nail or dowel rod in sliding glass doors and windows can stop robbers from entering even if they pick locks or try and force windows open. This means robbers will most likely have to break a window or door to get in, making noise that could alert homeowners or neighbors to the break-in.
Burke also advised that if you leave keys outside, make sure that only a few key people know where to find them.
Kinning said if you are leaving for several days, it is a good idea to cancel your mail and consider postponing newspaper and package deliveries.
When these items pile up outside, it’s a clear indication no one is home and hasn’t been for awhile. It’s also a good idea to contact the local police department and alert them you’ll be away.
“Completing a ‘house watch’ form allows us to know who should be around your residence and a means of contacting you in case of emergency,” he said.
This also allows officers to know where they need to increase patrols, he added.
Kinning’s most important tip comes after gifts are opened.
“Break down the boxes before disposal, then place them in a bag or container that keeps them from being on display at the curbs,” he said. “When criminals go shopping, they too like to see what is available. A cardboard box decorated with the picture of your new 55 inch TV shouts, ‘Come and get me.’”
He also recommends keeping a list of serial numbers of items such as electronics and power tools.
“It makes it easier for us to locate and identify if a theft does occur,” he said.
Marion County Sherriff Robert Craft said homeowners who feel like they could be a target to look at private security alarm systems.
“It’s also a good idea to leave an outside or motion light on at night,” Craft said. “That way people can’t sneak up to main entrances.”
Putting a security system sign in your yard, even without owning a security system, can ward off potential thieves, he added.
Other tips include not leaving things like bicycles laying in yards. Do not have tall bushes or shrubs around your house where thieves can hide, and put thorny bushes in front of windows.
Do not announce when you are leaving home or how long you will be gone on social media. Thieves have taken to sites like Facebook and Twitter to find targets.
Lastly, know your neighbors.
“Remember, crime prevention is a community effort,” Kinning said. “If you observe something suspicious or out of place, call us so we can check it out. We rely heavily on information provided by our citizens and it is important we communicate with each other.”