Police tips for making your house a tough target for thieves

By Daily News • Last Updated 10:10 pm on Friday, August 17, 2012

LAKEVIEW —Community Service Trooper Keith Disselkoen of the Michigan State Police Lakeview Post encourages Montcalm County residents to take steps to prevent thefts, burglaries and other property crimes.

Disselkoen recently spoke with other troopers from the Lakeview Post about area crimes. Information suggested that Montcalm County is experiencing a high volume of preventable crimes. Most of these crimes are thefts and burglaries that occur at unlocked or easily accessed property. Many property crimes occur in rural areas where residents believe they are safe to leave there belongings unsecured.

“Thieves actually prefer these areas as there is less chance of witnesses,” Disselkoen  said. “Never think that it won’t happen to you.”

The most effective way to prevent or deter these crimes is to make your property a “tough target.” Most thieves are looking for an easy target that they can spend little time at and create the fewest disturbances. Here are some tips to make your property a “tough target”:

• Install and use good deadbolt locks in your doors (about half of all burglars enter through unlocked doors and windows).

• Secure sliding glass doors with locks or a rigid wooden dowel wedged in the track.

• Lock double-hung windows.

• Trim back shrubbery hiding doors or windows. Cut back tree limbs that could help a thief climb to second story windows.

• Make sure all porches, entrances, and yards are well lit, including motion-activated lights.

• Maintain the neighborhood. Dark alleys, litter, and rundown areas attract criminals.

• Do not hide house keys in mail boxes, planters, or under doormats.

• Do not put personal identification on key rings.

• If you lose the keys to your home or move into a new home, change the locks immediately.

• Utilize blinds or curtains in homes and garages to conceal valuables and vehicles (vehicles tell thieves if the home is occupied and your schedule).

• Lock your vehicle and conceal valuable contents.

• Park in a locked garage or a well-lit area.

• Remember that if someone knocks on your door, they might not be who they say they are, but rather gathering information about your home and your belongings before they break in. Report all suspicious visitors to police. In the recent past, MSP has arrested thieves and learned that they knocked on doors to gather information. If someone answered the door, they lied and told homeowners they were lost, were survey-takers, or were selling something.

• Don’t open the door to anyone you don’t know. Insist service personnel verify their identity before allowing them in.

• Do not give any personal information and keep your personal schedule a mystery.

• Install a peephole or viewer in all entry doors so you can see who is outside without opening the door.

• Do not trust door chains. They can be easily broken.

Thieves prefer an easy target and usually one that is unoccupied. If you are away from home, here are some tips that might make the thief go elsewhere:

• Make your home appear occupied when you go out.

• Leave lights on and the radio playing.

• Keep your garage door closed and locked.

• Use timing devices to turn inside lights on and off.

• If you will be gone several days, arrange to have the mail and papers stopped or picked up. Half of all home burglaries occur during the day when alert neighbors could spot and report the thieves

Disselkoen also wants to remind residents that thieves are willing to take risks if there is a reward. Thieves will be more likely to break in forcefully if valuables are in plain sight. This even includes things that look like they contain valuables as well (cell phone cases, packaging, jewelry boxes, etc.).

“Good locks, simple precautions, neighborhood awareness, and common sense can help prevent most property crimes,” Disselkoen said.

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