Local police and security experts caution residents to be wary of greedy grinches out to steal Christmas this holiday season and are offering tips on how to lessen the risk of becoming a victim.
“The most commonly reported felony crimes we deal with are burglaries,” Hinesville Police Department Detective Doug Snider said.
A home burglary happens every 15 seconds in the U.S., according to Nationwide Insurance. The company reports a home burglary costs home-owners, on average, $1,600. About 30 percent of all burglaries are considered unlawful entry, which means a thief got into the home or business without using force, often through an unlocked door or window, the company website states. Nearly 66 percent of all burglaries are residential, and of those, 62 percent occur between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., when most people are at work or school. Only 13 percent of reported burglaries are ever solved, according to nationwide.com.
Last December, Liberty County tallied five robberies, 79 burglaries, 125 larcenies and seven vehicle thefts, according to crime statistics released by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation on georgia.gov. Long County had 42 burglaries and six larcenies in December 2012, according to the GBI.
Snider said if people practice common-sense precautions, they are less likely to be targeted.
“We had one burglary where the homeowner was gone for a period of time,” he recalled. Snider said when police caught the thief he informed them he knew the residents were gone from the home because he saw cobwebs hanging from their parked vehicle’s tires.
Snider said thieves might target homes by driving around and seeing valuables, like big-screen TVs, through a window, or they live near the homeowner and watch that resident’s comings and goings. Other would-be thieves even might be acquaintances who have been in the home, he said.
Snider said if residents plan to be away for the holidays, they should do what they can to make their residence appear occupied. Have the lights on a timer come on and off at different hours of the day, he said. Keep mail picked up, and don’t leave boxes that expensive electronics came in sitting by the garbage can.
He advised residents to close curtains and blinds to keep valuables out of site of would-be thieves who could be casing homes. In addition, Snider recommends home and business owners maintain proper outside lighting.
Security experts with Nationwide also suggest placing garage-door release cords away from garage windows. The experts say homeowners should lock pet doors when they’re not in use, as this could give thieves a way into a home. The insurance company also recommends storing tools and ladders in locked garages or sheds so burglars can’t use them to break in.
“Burglaries are a hard crime for police to solve,” Snider said. “Oftentimes, there’s limited physical evidence.”
Snider suggests residents document items they own, photographing jewelry and other valuables, and keeping a hard-copy list of serial and model numbers in a secure place.
“Don’t just save them on your computer, because that could get stolen in a break-in,” he said.
Snider also asks residents to be observant and do what they can to take care of their neighbors.
“We constantly go to burglaries where somebody in the neighborhood saw something suspicious that day, and they didn’t call the police,” he said. “If you see something suspicious, call 911. If you look out for each other, you will deter crime in your neighborhood. Today, they may break into your neighbor’s house. Tomorrow it might be yours.”
Snider added there has been an upswing in thieves entering automobiles. Too often, vehicle owners leave their cars and trucks unlocked, he said. Lock car doors and windows and place packages and purses in the trunk when shopping, he said.