Don't let crime ruin your summer!

Preventing Summer Crime

by Lynn Bulmahn

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Summertime is a wonderful season for sunshine, family vacation trips, and crime. Youngsters are out of school; if parents work, this gives unsupervised kids opportunity for mischief. Vandalism rises. Burglars like to see folks leave town because a lot of time may pass before break-ins are discovered. Luckily, there are free and inexpensive ways to prevent summer crime.

Nothing says "welcome" to a burglar more than mail piled in the mailbox, newspapers or circulars at the front door, and an overgrown/unkempt lawn. Stop deliveries and/or have a trusted neighbor collect the mail and advertising flyers. Arrange to have your lawn mowed and watered regularly while you're away.

When I was a teenager, our next door neighbors asked me to park my car in their driveway while they were vacationing. Since my car was gone part of the time, anyone "casing the joint" might think they were home.

Contrary to our image of a cat burglar prowling in the dark, most crimes occur in broad daylight while folks are at work. Keeping one or more of your dogs indoors will make an intruder think twice about breaking and entering. While large dogs may appear scarier, don't discount the effectiveness of smaller pets. A neighbor's little dogs put up a big howl whenever someone walks by. No one dares come close! The thickness of your doors and walls make a dog's bark sound several octaves lower (and thus more ferocious) to folks who are hearing it outside. But even shrill yapping helps deter intruders.

Don't own a dog? Don't worry. A "beware of the dog" sign is still effective. Burglars don't know you are pet-less. Stickers saying your home is monitored by a security system also help.

Having timers randomly turn on and off lights make folks think you're home after dark. During the day, set a clock radio to run while you're gone. Turn it loud and have it close to a door or window so people approaching the house can hear it. One police officer said that tuning radios to country stations would be especially intimidating to criminals, making it appear a gun-owning "redneck" is in residence.

Padlock the garage and any gates to your backyard. Kids can't easily "explore" your property if they're locked out. Get creative. One homeowner said that teens were climbing his fence and dropping into his garden to take a shortcut home, but not after he fertilized it with wet cow manure!

Motion detector lights eliminate the cover of darkness when people approach. Criminals hate them.

New technology including "nanny cams," hidden video cameras, and smart phone apps allow you to keep an eye on your place electronically. If something happens, take the video to teenaged vandals' parents, law enforcement, and media. Imagine the intruder's image on the evening news!

Years ago, newspapers commonly reported "Mr. and Mrs. Sam Snooty-snoot of 123 Main Street are touring Europe from August 1 to 15." Such articles were of great interest to burglars! Today, it's equally risky to post travel plans on social media, such as Facebook or Twitter. Newsletters, interoffice memos, and notes on your mailbox or door also tip off criminals that the coast is clear. So does gossip. Let folks learn about your trip after you return!

The one exception to this rule is the police. Ask for extra patrols. Officers may also inspect your house with you to point out any security weaknesses.

Have a landline phone? Unplug it or silence the ringer, especially if your number is listed. Criminals use cell phones to call your home; if they hear ringing when they come over, they'll break in. Disconnect your answering machine, set it to not take messages, or remotely dump the voicemail during your trip. A long beep telegraphs you've been gone a while

Consider a house sitter. During this recession, many families have to double up. Perhaps a trusted friend or relative would enjoy staying at your home to take a break from their crowded living situation.

Thieves can't steal what isn't there. Savvy homeowners pawn their valuables. They arrange it so their possessions aren't scheduled to hit the pawnshop sales floor until well after their trip. Of course, they promptly redeem their items when they return!

Lock your doors, close the blinds, secure your house, and enjoy freedom from summer crime!

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