Going on Vacation?
Summer seems to go by so fast. It’s only four more weeks until we need to begin preparing for a new school year! Along with warm weather and longer days that keep families and children busy, summers are also one of the best times to get away and enjoy a much needed vacation.
While we all enjoy a break, those who’d like to break into our homes also enjoy our absence.
During the summer months, the Ukiah Police Department (UPD) investigates about 15 burglaries and more than 30 significant thefts each month. That’s more than one invasive home burglary or felony theft, every single day .
Along with loosing valuables, most people tell us that being the victim of a burglary is one of the most intrusive events they have ever experienced. Imagine for a moment what it would feel like to have someone you don’t know going through the most private areas of your home, your bedroom or your dresser drawers. That just isn’t right.
To help prevent these crimes, I thought I would review some ways to protect you and your family during the summer.
First, never mention your plans to leave on Facebook or other social networking sites, including the date, destination, duration, and who is going. Posting your travel plans is like taking an ad out in the paper that your house is empty and ready for the taking.
This also applies to your children who may have a tendency to post everything about themselves. Your kids might have great friends, but do you know who their friends’ friends are? Are their Facebook pages private or public? And, even if they’re decent kids, do you want them in your house when you’re not there?
The best time to share your vacation photos and experiences with family and friends is after your return home.
Along with social media sites, don’t advertise your absence by leaving an outgoing message on your answering machine saying you’re out of town. In fact, I recommend forwarding your telephone calls to your personal cellular phone while you’re away. Your phone service provider can set up that feature for you; and once call forwarding is set up, it is easy to activate and deactivate. Having your calls forwarded to wherever you are is a great way to ensure you know what’s going on back home.
Another good indicator to crooks that no one is home is extra newspapers, flyers, and other solicitations left at your house. Before you leave, stop all mail and newspaper deliveries, or have a trusted neighbor, friend, or relative pick them up on a daily basis. Make sure they also pick up any special deliveries from USPS, FedEx, UPS, etc., and take trash cans to the curb on trash day.
Ideally, you should either hire a house sitter or make it appear as though someone is home. If a house sitter isn’t feasible and you trust your neighbor, ask him to park his vehicle in your driveway while you’re gone. If no one will be in your home while you’re gone, place house lights on timers and let a trusted friend know the length of your absence and who, if anyone, is allowed in the residence.
At a minimum, give your neighbors instructions on how to reach you, and make sure they have the police dispatch number, 463-6250, in case officers need to respond.
Lock doors and windows (including second story windows); then double and triple check them before you leave. Think about placing a bar or pole in a window track to prevent the window from being forced open. Also, keep all ladders and stepping apparatuses locked in the garage, so they cannot be used to enter your residence via the second floor
Lock any animal or pet doors, too. Burglars often use these doors to break into a residence. Lock side gates and any entryways to the backyard and use exterior motion lights. These lights are a tremendous theft deterrence. Keep shrubbery, plants, and trees properly trimmed to eliminate any potential hiding spots for crooks.
If your home is equipped with an alarm system, use it! Ensure the alarm system is working properly and tell the alarm company they should immediately notify the police—and not call the residence—should there be activation while you’re away. (Don’t forget to share the alarm information with your house sitter and/or your trusted friend or neighbor so they can respond appropriately if they accidently trip the alarm.)
Along with alarm systems, many people have surveillance systems and CCTV systems so they can see what is occurring at their home while they are away. With smartphones and Internet access, these systems are surprisingly affordable. Consider this possibility if you are truly worried about a possible burglary.
Even with these deterrents and safeguards, many people still get robbed. So the last thing you can do to protect yourself is to make a record of your important valuables. Document all valuables via serial numbers, photos, and videos just in case they are lost or stolen. As with everything else these days, there’s an app for this.
In a recent ABCNews article, author John Matarese tried a number of digital apps that allow people to document their valuables. For Apple devices, MyStuff2 (either the four dollar version or the free version) received good ratings. For Android phones, MyHomePro did well (it’s also in the four dollar price range).
A free app from Liberty Mutual Insurance called HomeGallery provides documentation tools and you don't need to be a Liberty Mutual customer to use it. The app allows you to collect photos, barcodes, and descriptions of your most important valuables, and then send them to your email account for future reference.
Lastly, please utilize the UPD vacation check program. Call 463-6250 and let us know you’ll be away from home. You can also sign up at our website by clicking on the crime reports tab at www.ukiahpolice.com/policereport.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.