By: Timothy Kays
THE VILLAGE REPORTER
Times are tough. I know that that information can hardly qualify as news, but tough times can bring about desperate times for some. That desperation can sometimes force people into criminal acts of theft. Both Williams and Fulton Counties have seen upticks in thefts, and they are not of the Robin Hood variety…these people are looking for quick turnover items to fence for ill-gotten cash. What can you do to prevent yourself from becoming a statistic? Plenty, say your local law enforcement offices.
Sheriff Steve Towns of Williams County said, “Short of having an alarm system, you don’t have too many ways to monitor yourself 24/7…and even alarm systems can occasionally be compromised. There’s of course also having a neighbor check in, and deadbolts; every deterrent helps. Security lights are helpful. Motion lights are helpful.”
Some modern technology helps, he said. “Nowadays, you’ve got the internet, where you can put up the camera systems, and when you’re not at home, you can check your smartphone and see your house. Some of that stuff is not super-expensive. There’s even one alarm where you don’t have to pay a service…it rings back to your cell phone. Security lights are helpful. Motion lights are helpful.”
“Document your valuables,” Sheriff Towns continued. “Serial numbers are always a big help to us. Take photographs of your valuables.” Another area that he mentioned was putting your valuables on display. Sure, we always like showing off that prized piece, but is it necessary to show where it is kept? “Do a diligent job to make sure that they are in some place where nobody knows. So many of our cases, well over half of our break-ins, are done by someone who knows who you are. They know your routine. They either know where you keep your stuff, or they’ve got a pretty darn good idea as to where you keep your stuff. Most of our break-ins aren’t people getting in, ransacking the place and tearing everything all to heck… they know what they’re looking for. They go in and get it. Don’t let people know where you keep your valuables.”
Sheriff Towns suggests breaking up the monotony and keeping it fresh. “If you’re retired,” he said, “…don’t keep the exact same routine all the time. People will know when you’re gone, when you’re coming, and going. If you have a set routine, it leaves you vulnerable to anybody that figures that out.”
“A lot of our thefts are drug-related,” Sheriff Towns added. “You’ve got a family member or somebody they know with a drug problem. A high percentage know whose house they’re getting into, and a high percentage that we are dealing with are people trying to get money for drugs. The home invasion is very rare for us, but if they know the people and the routine, they can get by with that.”
Sheriff Roy Miller of Fulton County says, “If you’re going away from your home for a period of time, have your mail held, and let your newspaper carrier know so that you don’t have five or more papers lying in your driveway. They drive by, look, and say, ‘That’s nice.’” Another thing Sheriff Miller pointed out is becoming epidemic is modern society. “With today’s social media,” he said, “…people want to post all their vacation photos online. You don’t have to tell them you’re on vacation…they now know that you’re on vacation. People mean well, but they don’t think of the potential criminal side of it. If you are going away for a while, ask someone that you trust to house sit. If you have a neighbor close by, ask them to keep an eye on your house, and maybe park their car in your driveway.”
“Another thing that we talk about,” he said, “…are things that block the line of sight from the house. Hedges, fences and things like that. If there are prowlers, it makes it easy for them to hide in the bushes and things like that. Obviously you need to lock your doors and windows. The biggest thing that we find a lot of though, is even though the doors and windows are locked, things that are left around the outside of the house are used to gain entry. They could break a window with a baseball bat that they found in the backyard. Tools that you leave for them means that they don’t have to bring their own. We just had a burglary…the house was very secure with deadbolts. They couldn’t get in if they tried, so they just walked around the front, picked up a rock from a rock garden, and knocked a window out. Face it…if they want in, they’ll get in. The harder you make it for them though, the better.”
Security systems and security lights are also recommended by Sheriff Miller, “…especially around the back of the property. We find that a lot. Find a pole or a building to mount a night light on, and that would be awesome. Another thing is putting electric timers on the lights in your house…they still make those things. We also like to see deadbolt locks installed. I know it takes extra time to put them in, but if you do install them, make sure that they go all the way through to the stud… not just the doorframe.”
If you should see or suspect that someone may be casing a neighbors house, get a description of the person, the vehicle, and the license plate number, and call your local law enforcement agency. When neighbors watch out for each other, malefactors have no choice but to sound the retreat.
Timothy Kays can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.