A Few Simple Steps Can Protect You From Property Crime

It’s summer in South Florida, and there’s a definite potential for an increase in crime opportunities here in the western communities — but you don’t have to be the next victim.

Many people believe what is considered a general assumption in society: as school lets out for the summer and kids have more freedom and less supervision by adults, bored teenagers suddenly have an inclination to turn to crime. This is heightened by studies that have shown that when school is in session, the most likely opportunity for young adults to get into trouble is between 3 and 6 p.m. — the hours between classes letting out and parents returning home from work.

Usually the summer spike in property crime isn’t large, say officials from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, but it is there. And the best you can do to protect yourself is not be an easy victim. To that end, law enforcement experts in the area encourage homeowners to follow some simple steps that will greatly reduce the likelihood of having to file a police report:

• Install a home security system, and make sure to prominently display a sign in your yard. This scares away potential burglars, even if the security system isn’t active. After all, “perception is reality.”

• Except when actively in use, keep garage doors closed and locked. Open doors serve as a huge, neon advertisement of goods that are easily viewable to passersby, which increases the likelihood of theft. Likewise, keep doors and windows locked when out of the home and at night.

• Team up with neighbors, perhaps in a crime watch program. Homeowners on friendly terms with neighbors are less likely to be victimized by other residents of the community — and it’s usually those in the immediate community who are likely to commit such crimes.

• Keep valuables outside the bedroom — in particular, the master bedroom. A burglar on the hunt for valuables in a home will make the master bedroom the first stop, since that’s where the cash and jewelry are most commonly stored.

• Use less landscaping and more lights. Burglars prefer to target homes that have safe hiding spots and escape routes in the yards, and abundant bushes and trees make for great cover. As a result, yards with less shrubbery and more open spaces aren’t particularly appealing targets. Install lights on motion sensors. Light is a great deterrent for nighttime break-ins.

• Keep a radio or television on at all times, even when away. This relates back to that whole “perception is reality” idea. If music or a TV is on, would-be burglars think that someone is at home.

• As for vehicles, it’s very simple: lock them up and keep valuables out of sight. Vehicle burglary is a crime of opportunity. If you make it hard to get to, and less appealing, the would-be thief will move on to the next target.

Contrary to what residents might prefer to think, those committing most the crimes that occur in the western communities are not from outside the area. “People aren’t typically coming into Wellington to steal,” PBSO Capt. Jay Hart noted. “The thieves are amongst us, and so often they’re in our own neighborhoods.”

Live in a rural community or gated community? Don’t think you’re immune. In fact, gates often give residents a false sense of security. “If we could get people to lock their doors,” Hart added, “99 percent of the car burglaries would just go away.”

PBSO Lt. David Combs stressed the need to keep valuables out of sight. “You spend an inordinate amount of money on a laptop, then you lay it on the front seat of your car, leave your car unlocked, go in the house and come out in the morning and wonder why it’s not there,” he said, stressing that residents should not give criminals the added incentive of an easy windfall.

A little bit of forethought and some common sense goes a long way in making sure you don’t become the next victim.