By Carole Masters
If the movie, “Home Alone” causes you a bit of trepidation as you make your holiday travel plans, here is some advice to secure your home while you are away and avoid characters like Marv and Harry.
“You shouldn’t be scared but be diligent about locking all doors, windows and cars,” says Lieutenant Timothy Giblin of the Spring Lake Police Department. “The vast majority of times, that will deter burglary or theft.”
The holidays are a time when criminals look for the opportunities of an empty home, concurred Giblin. “They watch for homes where mail or newspapers are left out, lights aren’t coming on at dusk and vehicles aren’t moving. The most common practice we find is that they will knock on doors to see if people are home. If someone answers they will say something like they are looking for a loss dog or they must have the wrong address.” He urges residents to call the police if they experience anything like this. “If it is innocent, we can help them but if it is a criminal intent we can stop them.”
The best precaution is to have someone watch your house while you are away. “Let your neighbors know you are going away, preferably a neighbor on your street as well as a neighbor behind you. If they will do a walk through of your home periodically, its even better,” advises Giblin. “If there is a break-in, it will be spotted sooner than later when forensic evidence may be degraded due to time or the elements.”
Spring Lake Police have a house watching form you can fill out specifying the duration of your absence, how you can be reached in an emergency and other helpful details, if you desire. Check with your local police department to see if they have this service.
Giblin warned, “The worst practice is to hide a key on your property. Criminals are up on all sorts of places people hide keys, especially those fake rocks.”
Its easy to forget things when you are rushing out the door, so have a plan and a checklist.
- Mail and newspaper delivery should be stopped unless you have someone collecting them for you.
- Contact your neighbors about your travel plans the week before.
- Lighting is a big factor. Holiday lights give a home a lived in look so use timers. Multiple switch timers in your home can alternate when lamps come on which gives them a less predictable pattern than what burglars expect.
- If you have a security system company, make sure your contact information is up to date.
- Check all windows and doors including the garage are locked!
If you do not have a watchful neighbor or a home security system, and you are still concerned, check out “home watch companies” on the Internet. If your plans are to be away several weeks or you have a pet that needs care it might be feasible to have a “house sitter.” MindMyHouse and similar websites match you with sitters who do it for free as chance to travel and see new places.
Lastly, don’t forget the kids!