Unoccupied homes more likely to become burglary targets

Best defense? Stay home

Posted: Tuesday, September 26, 2006


  Grant Perry of Guardian Security installs an alarm system in a home near Soldotna last week. Some homeowners resort to electronic monitorng to protect their property. Photo by M. Scott Moon

Grant Perry of Guardian Security installs an alarm system in a home near Soldotna last week. Some homeowners resort to electronic monitorng to protect their property.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of stories examining burglary trends in the central Kenai Peninsula. Wednesday’s story highlights programs in urban areas than can deter burglaries.

After having been burglarized for the third time in five years, Jim Rhode, of Kasilof, said some of the joy of living in rural Alaska has been lost.

“I start to get upset talking about it because this is supposed to be a recreational place,” he said. “It’s almost stopped being fun, knowing that we’re susceptible to this sort of thing.”

The last of the three burglaries hit his home the hardest, stripping Rhode’s home of more than $2,500 in belongings.

“This spring they got a big, long laundry list of tools, dishes, food — they stole the Saran Wrap for god’s sake,” he said. “The thing that really ticked me off is these guys left me a note.”

Rhodes said he had difficulty reading the illegible note, and did not remember it exactly, but that it said something like “ha, ha” and was signed using street names.

When the burglary occurred in February, Rhode had left for work in Florida. Rhodes found out about burglary after his neighbors noticed someone had been there while he was away.

If you live in a rural home, where thieves can operate outside of the public eye, it can be difficult to protect your property, particularly if you leave it unoccupied for an extended period.

But local law enforcement officers offer a list of how even rural homeowners can stump burglars. Perhaps one of the best pieces of advise is to not leave their home unoccupied for long periods of time.

A surveillance system will alert authorities when someone has broken into your home, but residents who also rent their home out while they’re away may prevent a burglary from occurring in the first place.

An unoccupied home tucked in the woods is a favorite prey among thieves looking for an easy target.

A home bustling with activity, however, offers a strong theft deterrent, particularly if your home is in a rural location, sitting miles away from law enforcement offices, and neighbors.

“That’s probably the single best way to do it right there,” said Scott Briggs, an investigator with the Alaska State Troopers. “A lot of folks don’t want people living in their house during the winter ... but it ensures the water doesn’t freeze up and that there’s at least some activity going on there.”

If someone is around to keep the driveway plowed, turn lights on and off and watch over your belongings when you can’t, chances are more likely a thief will pass your house by.

But whether your home is rural or urban, occupied year-round or only in the summer, Briggs recommended all residents purchase and install a surveillance system, a technology that offers residents a strategic means of protection.

“You can put them in smoke detectors, you can put them in clocks, you can put them on time delay, you can put them on remote, everything,” he said. “They’re extremely small, you’d never even see them.”

When a home is vulnerably located, such as in a rural area, residents are advised to use multiple layers of protection.

For homeowners who have to leave their homes unoccupied for an extended period, Briggs recommended an additional strategy. Extra valuable items can be removed and left in the care of friends or stashed in storage units. Leaving your valuables in a storage unit is likely to be safer than leaving them in an unoccupied home, particularly if the storage unit is fenced and lit.

If your neighbors are familiar with your home and the vehicles that visit, ask them to watch for any unfamiliar vehicles that may pull into the drive while you are away and take down the license number of any suspicious vehicle that may pull into the drive, Sgt. Dane Gilmore of troopers recommended.

And it is never a good idea to leave your home unlocked or valuables in the open, said Sgt. Gus Sandahl, of Kenai police.

“You should lock your door when you’re not home and when you are home. And if you don’t have dead bolts you should get dead bolts,” he said. “The Kenai Peninsula is a safe place to live in general, but there are victims of theft and burglary, and it disrupts your life. And if you can take a little extra effort to protect your belongings so that you don’t have that disruption, the better off you are.”

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