Summertime generally comes with an uptick in auto and home burglaries. Here are some precautions to take to assist in the prevention of break-ins.
With extended summer and holiday breaks comes an increase in the amount of time people spend outside their homes and vehicles — therefore leaving them unoccupied and more vulnerable.
According to Orange County Sheriff’s Office records, auto burglaries increased 32% in 2016. Just recently, several neighborhoods in Ocoee and in the Independence and Summerport Village subdivisions have experienced vehicle break-ins.
Ocoee Police Deputy Chief Steve McCosker added that there is always a trend in increased criminal activity, such as car or home break-ins, during times when kids are out of school.
Whether you plan to go on vacation or stay in town this summer, local law-enforcement agencies have myriad security recommendations to help keep residents safe and alert to suspicious activity.
WHEN AT HOME
Although it might seem like common sense, one of the best ways to prevent home or auto theft is to ensure all doors and windows are locked, and all valuables are secured and out of sight. In a vehicle, McCosker recommends putting purses or bags in the trunk.
For those with garage-door openers, be sure to bring them into the house at night if you’re not parking in the garage. If burglars can break into a car with your garage-door opener in it, McCosker said, it’s like giving them a key to the house.
Never leave a key under a potted plant or door mat — two of the most common places burglars look to find spare keys. Additionally, strike plates installed into door frames will prevent a door from being kicked in.
With windows, ensure that they are always locked and keep the blinds closed and shades or curtains down at night and when you plan to be out of town. The idea is to shield what’s inside from a potential burglar.
WHEN ON VACATION
Many break-ins occur when homeowners are on vacation or during the day when homes are unoccupied. One of the first steps to take in preventing such break-ins is simple: See something, say something.
McCosker said the police department recommends getting a trusted neighbor to check your mail before you leave on vacation — that, or ask the post office to stop service during that time. Additionally, have your neighbors check for any newspapers or ads that get placed on the doorstep, and put any lights on a timer so they’ll switch on and off.
Being good neighbors with others is actually crucial in helping prevent crime. Knowing your neighbors and what their routines are allows everyone to look out for each other.
“Home security really relies a lot on being a good neighbor and having a good community.” — Ocoee Police Deputy Chief Steve McCosker
“Home security really relies a lot on being a good neighbor and having a good community,” McCosker said. “People in a community know what’s out of place or what’s wrong, and by them contacting the police, we have a better chance of apprehending somebody or preventing crime from happening.”
In Ocoee’s jurisdiction, the police department also serves watch orders. Homeowners can call the department to let them know when they will be out of town, and an officer will drive by the residence to check on it.
And especially in the age of social media, McCosker said that people often neglect to think twice about what they post on social media while on vacation.
“We caution people about posting they’re on vacation or checking in at locations on Facebook that give the appearance that they’re on vacation,” he said. “Especially if their Facebook page is public, we caution them against posting that they’re traveling or out of town, especially if they’re gone for an extended time. You just advertise that no one’s home to protect your house.”
If you see something, say something: If there is a suspicious person on your property or around the neighborhood, or if you think your vehicle or home has been broken into, call the police.
“The police departments would rather go do 100 calls where something’s not going on rather than respond to one person who’s been burglarized,” McCosker said. “Call early if there’s a gut feeling that something doesn’t seem right.”
Summer is also a popular time for homeowners to purchase and install home-security systems.
Although installing security equipment is another step in the right direction, McCosker warns against having an inflated sense of security because of new technology. You could be less likely to have your home burglarized, but that security signage in the front yard isn’t always going to be enough to deter a would-be thief.
If you are in the market for security-related equipment — whether it be cameras, alarms, signage, recorders, access controllers or something similar — do your research and know what you’re getting before you buy a product.
With cameras, it might be tempting to buy one of the cheapest options on the market, but cameras are only as good as the quality purchased. Resolution is important, because low resolution can capture what’s going on around the house but might not be clear enough to identify a suspect in a break-in.
“Look at the resolution and make sure what they’re purchasing is going to capture what they’re looking to secure,” McCosker said. “Placement is also important. A lot of times we get images of people in or around people’s properties, but the cameras aren’t at a level where we can see their faces.”
And with alarm systems, many police departments encourage using audible alarms rather than silent ones. An alarm going off will automatically alert the neighbors that something is going on in a home and draws attention to it, McCosker said.
If you are looking into buying a home-security system, the United States Federal Trade Commission recommends doing your homework before you buy. Get references from trusted friends and family members and check out the companies online. Verify the contractor’s licenses are current and in good standing, and get written estimates from multiple companies.
Finally, be sure to read the fine print and know your contract, and ask your local police and fire departments whether you need to register your system and if there are fees for responding to false alarms. In OCSO’s jurisdiction, for example, there is no charge for up to three false alarms. However, fees increase and range from $50 to $200 per occurrence depending on how often it happens after.
Contact Danielle Hendrix at [email protected].