Individuals, communities can prevent burglaries

Posted: Sunday, September 24, 2006

A break-in could be as extensive as windows being smashed and doors knocked in, or there could be no physical damage at all.

Electronics, tools and prized family heirlooms could be spirited into the night — or nothing more than cash and a CD collection taken.

Whatever the extent of damage or value of items stolen, all burglaries have one thing in common — they are an emotional violation, as well as one against property.

Someone invades your home, your office or your car. Your space no longer feels secure.

As far as crimes go, burglary isn’t murder. It doesn’t generate the shock of a kidnapping or the outrage of child abuse. But it is a problem, one to which Kenai Peninsula communities are not immune.

This week the Clarion is taking a closer look at burglaries in our area. Today’s story outlines burglary rates on the central peninsula. Monday’s story examines what typically gets stolen, how much damage often is done and how long it can take to get stolen possessions back. On Tuesday, law enforcement officers offer suggestions for how homeowners in rural areas can protect themselves from break-ins, even though they may live miles from their nearest neighbor, much less a police station.

Wednesday’s story looks at how residents of more urban communities can ward off burglaries. On Thursday, common motivations for burglars will be discussed. And on Friday, the legal consequences for indulging those motivations will be outlined.

As with any crime, prevention is preferable to trying to solve it after the fact, especially since burglaries can be time consuming and difficult for law enforcement officers to resolve.

Expensive home security systems help, as do locked gates and trained guard dogs. But preventative measures don’t have to be so extreme. Most just involve common sense:

n Lock your doors and windows. Sgt. Scott McBride of the Kenai Police Department says he can’t think of a car stolen in Kenai recently that didn’t have the keys left in the ignition and the doors unlocked. Sgt. Robb Quelland of the Soldotna Police Department reports that Community Patrol members often found unsecured doors and windows while making their rounds.

n If you’re leaving home for days, weeks or longer, don’t let the home look unoccupied. Have someone stay there or at least come by and check on it regularly. Put a hold on newspaper delivery and make sure the snow is plowed. Put lights on a timer. Make sure windows and doors have secure locks — on your home, vehicles and storage sheds. Store valuables out of sight at the very least or put them in a secure location, like a gated storage facility.

There are things that can be done on a community level to prevent burglaries, as well. Neighborhood Watch and Community Patrol programs are excellent crime deterrents. They can be as involved as setting up scheduled meetings and patrols or as informal as just committing to keep an eye out for anything suspicious. Unfortunately these programs tend to peter out over time, even though the effort they require is minimal and is far outweighed by the benefits of a safer neighborhood.

Another way to reduce burglaries is to reduce other crimes. Mitch Langseth, an investigator with the Kenai Police Department, says burglars often have prior criminal records for things such as petty thefts and assaults. By far the biggest commonality among burglars is substance-abuse problems.

The more communities do to reduce drug and alcohol problems, the more they’ll do to reduce burglaries and a host of other crimes. Fighting substance abuse isn’t as easy as remembering to lock the front door. But it has the potential to deter a crime not just against your home, but your neighbor’s, be they next door or in the next town.

All little vigilance from a lot of people goes a long way toward protecting everyone’s security.

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