Avoiding Theft from Break-ins, Advice from the Ferndale PD
(Crystal A. Proxmire, Jan. 3, 2013)
December tends to be a big month for consumer purchases, and the Ferndale Police want to make sure residents have the knowledge to protect those purchases –and themselves – from falling into the wrong person’s hands.
Sgt. Baron Brown has seen a lot of people victimized over the years by perpetrators out to steal. There are about 200 home invasions and business break-ins each year, with burglars generally keeping to the same patterns. Understanding what criminals look for can decrease your risk of being a victim. Brown explained how residents and business owners can reduce the likelihood of a break in, and what one can do to make it easier to identify stolen property should it be recovered.
Here are some things you should know:
1. Visibility. “Bad guys like to go to places where people can’t see them. Keep your doorways well lit and keep landscaping down so windows and doors are visible from the street,” Brown said. He explained that when people have a lot of landscaping, burglars are more sheltered from neighbors seeing someone breaking in.
2. Look like you’re home. Brown explained that having some lights on, especially on a timer, can trick a potential home invader into thinking someone is home. He said there are even motion-sensor devices that make dog-barking noises if someone comes to the house. “Thieves don’t like anything that will slow them down or bring attention, so if they hear a dog they may decide not to go in,” he said. “If you’re going away on vacation, have neighbors park in your driveway sometimes. Have someone get your mail and keep your grass cut or your walks shoveled. They’ll look for places where it looks like people are away.” He said that leaving on a TV or radio can trick people into thinking someone is home.
3. Be careful what you highlight. When windows are visible, people can see inside. Residents should take care that their valuables aren’t being showcased to anyone that is outside. “It’s a bad sign to me if I can see your big giant TV screen through the window,” he said. “The TV is what they want. In most home invasions the TV is the first thing they take.” He said that if you are using lights for security purposes to make sure they aren’t putting the focus on your things. One easy way to check is to turn on the lights you’d normally have on, and walk around outside to check what is illuminated.
4. Advertising what you have. In addition to lights that may spotlight your valuables, another way residents can attract burglars is by advertising the stuff they have. Especially around the holidays, some thieves will take note of what boxes people are throwing to the curb. One way to avoid this is to flatten boxes into bundles, which makes them easier to recycle anyway.
5. Assisting burglars with outside stuff. One thing people don’t realize is that things they have in their yard can be used to help home invaders. “In most breaking and enterings we found something you owned was used to climb into the window, like a five gallon bucket turned upside down, or lawn furniture,” Brown said. For example, in the recent attempted break-in on Edgewood Place – where the resident fired shots at the burglar – the thief took an old dining chair from by the shed and used it to climb up to the window. Removing those items makes it harder for a burglar to get in.
6. Locking up. Brown said that in many cases intruders come in through unlocked doors and windows. Another problem he’s found is that locks that come on windows are not very effective. “Locks that come on windows are useless. You need to have pins that go into the window frame. This can be as simple as putting a large nail into a hole you drill yourself, or buying a manufactured kit, but with a pin they can’t open the window and they’ll have to make the decision if they want to break the glass or move on,” Brown said.
7. Knowing how burglars think. Brown said that most break-ins have similar characteristics. The TV is generally the most-taken item, and the drawers are almost always pulled out. People think they are being cleaver when hiding valuables in the bottoms of drawers or under beds, but burglars know this. “You have to look at your own house and think of creative places to hide things,” Brown said. One idea is to have a safe that bolts to the floor. Safes can even be hidden in walls or behind false walls in closets. “They don’t spend a lot of time in a house. They grab what they can and go.
Anything that slows them down helps.” He also explained that leaving electronic items out make it much easier for them to be stolen. “Thieves go for the office where the electronics are. People always think jewelry, and they will take it if it’s lying around. But that is hit or miss and harder to get rid of. The electronics are what they go after.”
8. Making it easier to recover stolen property. Sometimes stolen property comes up in arrests, raids, and in pawn shops. For many items, such as TVs and other electronics, the serial numbers go into a nationwide database to help figure out who the rightful owners are. Brown recommends keeping a list of valuable items and serial numbers. This is good for item tracking and recovery, plus it can help in insurance claims. Other ways to track valuables include taking pictures of the items, and having the items engraved. The Ferndale Police have an engraver that they will loan to people who want to mark their property. They also have a form which lists typical valuables that one may have in their home. Residents can use the form as a checklist so that if something happens they won’t need to remember everything under stress. Any records should include the serial number as well as the make and model of the item.
9. The police are here to help. Brown said that his biggest pet peeve is when people tell him after the fact that they saw something suspicious, but they weren’t sure so they didn’t want to call the police and bother them. “We’ve got police here at the station or out driving around waiting to help people. Our job is to answer calls, whether it turns out to be something or not. It’s better to be safe than sorry,” Brown said. The police will also come out to your home and do a security walk-through upon request.
In 2011 there were 167 break-ins (residential and commercial). This number was down from the years before, when there were more vacant homes and thieves would break in to steal copper pipes and fixtures. In 2010 there were 252. In 2009 there were 213. In 2008 there were 234. And in 2007 there were 219. The annual report for 2012 has not yet been released.
To schedule a security walk-through or for non-emergency matters contact the Ferndale Police Department at (248) 541-3650. If you see someone breaking into a home or business, or any other emergency, call 911.
The Ferndale Police also have a Twitter page, full of useful information for residents. This is NOT a place to report crime. Check it out at https://twitter.com/FerndalePolice.