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Officials: Preparation can keep home secure while vacationing

By Staff | Jul 9, 2011

With summer still in full swing, local authorities are offering residents tips on how to keep their home safe from burglars while on that family vacation.
Officials at the Cape Cape Police Department and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office pointed out there are a few things that people can do to decrease the chance that their home will be targeted by burglars while the family is away.
“A central alarm system is always good,” Officer John Tsourkas, with the CCPD’s District Resource Unit, said.
The LCSO suggested checking with one’s home security company to see if it offers extra monitoring or features when away for extended periods of time.
Using timers for outside lights, inside lights or both can also help.
“It gives the appearance that the house is being lived in, that somebody is there,” Tsourkas said.
Residents should never “broadcast” that they will be out of town. The LCSO reported that social networks have made it easy to keep up with what others are doing, but the websites have also opened the door to a new type of thief.
“They know when you’re not home because you just ‘checked in’ elsewhere, or you told everyone you are heading out to your long anticipated vacation,” officials wrote in a prepared statement.
“Even if you only befriend people you trust and keep your account private, it’s important to realize you are advertising to the world that you won’t be home for a specific amount of time,” they reported.
Keep blinds and curtains in their normal position, but make sure that people cannot see into the home to the belongings inside, like expensive electronics.
“Secure any valuable that you have in your house,” Tsourkas said.
By putting valuables in a safe or something similar, it makes it more difficult for a burglar to get to the items if the residence is broken into.
Residents should put away or shred any paperwork lying around that may contain personal information, including bills and receipts.
Make sure all windows and doors are secure. According to the LCSO, doors and windows on the first floor of a home should be protected by burglary-resistant deadbolts and other auxiliary locks. All locks should work properly.
Outside of the home, people can give their landscape a once over.
“Make sure the trees and lawn are nice and trimmed before you leave,” Tsourkas said. “Long grass gives the appearance that nobody’s home.”
Do not forget to bring inside any “secret keys” stored outside the home, under a mat or planter, to prevent burglars from gaining easy access.
“They’re not good anyway, but remove those,” he said.
The CCPD and LCSO suggested having a trusted family member, friend or neighbor pick up newspapers and mail while one is away, or consider stopping mail and newspaper delivery for the period of time that one is out of town.
“That is a big thing,” Tsourkas said, noting that burglars will check a mailbox.
If using a house-sitter, make sure it is someone known and trusted.
“This may seem like common sense, but it’s important to remember you are trusting someone with your home and all of its contents,” the LCSO wrote. “If you need someone to watch your pets, first try to enlist the help of close friends or family members.”
If necessary, pets can always be left at a kennel or “pet hotel.”
Tsourkas explained that the idea of home security is “target hardening,” making it as hard as possible for a burglar to break in.
“They doesn’t want any confrontation,” he said. “They’re not going to kill themselves to get in there.”
Tsourkas added that vacation burglaries are not a “consistent problem” in the Cape, “but you want to follow those guidelines because that’ll help.”
The CCPD has two programs available to help curb home burglaries.
In the Vacation House Check program, residents can sign up to have police volunteers check on their residence once or twice a week to make sure that everything is OK. The volunteers visibly inspect the home from the outside, and citizens can note on the form the exact dates when they will be gone.
Forms are available at the Cape police headquarters or online.
Tsourkas said the CCPD also offers security surveys. Residents can call 945-7832 and have an officer come out to their home and inspect it for any security concerns. The officer will offer tips on how to improve on security.
“We just go in and assess the security situation,” he said.
Both the Vacation House Checks and security surveys are free services.
The Cape Coral Police Department is located at 1100 Cultural Park Blvd. For more information, call 574-3223 or visit online at: www.capecops.com.