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Vacation to-do list: Protect home from burglars

Monday - 6/9/2014, 12:48pm  ET

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Police urge vacationers to take a few steps to protect their home and belongins during their trip. (Thinkstock)

WASHINGTON - Crime rates are down in a number of local communities.

But in Prince William County, 93 percent of crimes are considered property crimes like burglary, theft from cars and pickpocketing. But when resident take action, they can make themselves less attractive to would-be thieves, police say.

Many area police departments, including Fairfax County's, offer free home safety audits and tips help make home burglar-proof.

Burglary prevention suggestions include:

  • Install deadbolts and flood lights.
  • Use barrier latches to keep windows from opening too widely.
  • While on vacation, resist the urge to post real-time pictures of out-of-town adventures.
  • Use timers or ask neighbors to turn on radios and different lights on different nights.

The Prince William County Police Department also suggests that homeowners who don't live in a "Neighborhood Watch" area consider starting the program.

Beware crooks looking for five-finger discounts.

Women's purses often present a friendly target for thieves and pickpockets. Among the recommendations from the Metropolitan Police Department:

  • Don't leave purses on chair backs, counters or in grocery carts.
  • Bags with long straps should be placed diagonally across body.
  • Use purses with zippers or snaps that are less easy to open.
  • Hold shoulder bags forward across the front of the body.

Men's wallets are less-friendly targets for pickpockets when carried in a front pants pocket. A rubber band wrapped around a wallet creates noticeable friction if someone tries to remove it surreptitiously.

To discourage thefts from cars:

  • Park in an area with good lighting.
  • Keep valuables out of sight.
  • Lock the doors.

"If you see something, say something," is a universally espoused philosophy of law enforcement. Police would rather respond to check out something seemingly suspicious that turns out to be benign than for someone to ignore a potential warning sign that ultimately turns out to be a crime.

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