Eager to escape the stress of the workaday world, last summer a Florida couple booked a Caribbean vacation, packed their swimsuits, and set sail on a major cruise line. They had a wonderful time wining, dining, and exploring the islands. It was a perfect vacation… that is, until they returned home.
While they were gone, their home had been ransacked – but not by ordinary burglars. They were victims of a Royal Caribbean Cruise employee who fed customer home addresses and dates of travel to a local burglary ring!
Odds are, you won’t fall prey to a sophisticated burglary scam like this one. But if you leave your home unprotected, you’re putting out the welcome mat for burglars, petty thieves and neighborhood vandals.
Whether you are cruising for a couple of weeks, taking a weekend holiday, or summering – or wintering – in another climate, there are common sense steps you can take to keep your home secure while you are gone.
- Lock valuables away in a safe, or a safe deposit at your bank. According to police, a common mistake is to leave decorative jewelry boxes full of valuables on a dressing table, just waiting to be stolen.
- Lock all of the windows, and pull the curtains. This way, passersby can’t see what or who is inside the house.
- If you normally leave a key under the mat or in some other not-so-secret hiding place, pick it up. And if you or your children have lost house keys recently, consider changing the locks before you go in case your keys have gotten into the wrong hands.
- Speaking of children, ask yours – especially teenagers – not to advertise that the family will be out of town. A lot of petty theft and vandalism is committed by teenagers on the prowl or in the mood for pranks.
- Do leave a key with neighbors so that they can check on the house, especially if they spot something suspicious. Ask them to park a car in your driveway every few days so it looks like occupants are coming and going.
- File with the post office a notice to hold your mail until you return. Or, as an alternative, ask a neighbor to pick up your mail every day so that it doesn’t collect in the mailbox.
- Temporarily suspend subscriptions to newspapers and other publications that are delivered daily or weekly – or have a neighbor pick them up. Nothing says “on vacation” like newspapers piling up in the driveway!
- Install motion lights inside and out, turn your porch light on, and put timers on lights in some rooms. Vary the patterns so that lights go on and off at different times – not just every evening and/or late at night.
- Never indicate on your phone answering device that you are away from home. Keep the message vague: “Leave a message and I’ll call you back,” not “I’ll call you when I return.”
- Mow the lawn and tidy up landscaping before you leave. If you will be gone for more than a week or two, make arrangements for regular yard service during your absence.
- If you live in a cold climate, think ahead about the possibility of snow. Line up someone who will shovel your driveway and walkways – and leave footprints – so that accumulated snow doesn’t shout, “They’re gone!”
- In some communities, you can ask police to drive by your house occasionally. If you are going to be gone for several weeks, it would be wise to notify local police.
- If you don’t have a security system, consider installing one that sounds an alarm and/or alerts local police. If you have an iPhone, a new app enables you to view a home webcam and alert police when you spot intruders.
If your neighborhood has experienced a rash of burglaries or you have special concerns about your valuables, you might consider more creative ways to protect your home and your property.
- Sometimes, dog owners will arrange to leave their pets at home, in the care of a dog sitter, so that the barking will deter intruders. You should do this only if you are confident that your dogs will be well fed and cared for.
- Another option might be to purchase a “barking dog” alarm, which can be programmed to go off at a knock on the door or a loud noise in the yard. You might accompany this with a “Beware of Dog” sign at the entrance to your property.
- Garage doors are notoriously vulnerable to forced – or unforced – entry, especially if they are electronically controlled. If your garage contains valuable property and has an inside entry door to the house, you could consider disabling the electronic opener and putting a padlock on the garage. The inside door, of course, should have a deadbolt that locks from inside the house.
As anyone knows whose house has been robbed or vandalized, the impact of a home invasion is not just the financial loss. It’s the emotional loss of keepsakes and memorabilia that chronicle our lives and make our house a home. By planning and preparing before you go away, you can protect your home and the belongings that your family treasures.
It’s not that difficult to make your home your castle instead of a house haunted by safety risks! But if you or a loved one is killed or suffers serious injury because of a product defect or the negligence of another, attorneys at Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley can help you sort out your rights. Just fill out our contact form or call us at 800-780-8607 and a staff member will call you to schedule your free, confidential consultation with one of our attorneys.