With no fewer than a dozen burglaries in their borough the past three weeks, Fair Lawn police are urging citizens to be vigilant — and to especially report anything, or anyone, suspicious to them.
“In most cases, entry was gained through rear, unlocked windows,” Detective Sgt. Brian Metzler said this afternoon. “Items taken from homes include jewelry and electronics.”
It’s a message repeated to home and business owners by police throughout the county, state and country.
The number of murders, rapes and robberies have held steady in New Jersey in recent years, but two crimes increased dramatically: burglaries and car thefts. Police say this reflects heightened desperation by drug addicts and other unemployed members of the lower class.
Nowhere is that explanation clearer than in the total value of stolen jewelry and “precious metals” — from $62.6 million in 2010 to a whopping $77.1 million the following year. Or consider: Throughout the United States, the number of burglaries last year remained roughly the same as the year before — but if you subtracted New Jersey, break-ins nationwide would be down.
Police in Bergen County say they’ve devoted more and more resources to solving property crimes in recent months. So they urge residents to both protect their property and to do their part to help solve crimes — or stop them before they occur.
It helps, they say, to know that burglars will avoid having to take time or risk being seen. So their “work” becomes systematic:
They look for soft targets — those that don’t have obvious signs of security, of course, but also those that are obscured by objects. They will then spend no more than a minute’s time trying to get in. If they can’t, they’ll move on. If they can, they’re out of the house inside of three minutes.
Three-quarters of those who do get in have broken a window, jimmied a door, or forced an entrance open. Ask any detective — they’ll tell you the same thing.
Some useful tips:
- Make sure all doors and windows are secure, especially in back; use window stops (you can always pop them out when you’re home on a comfortable day);
- Clear windows and doors of any bushes, trees or shrubs so that you, your neighbors — and, if necessary, police — can see them;
- Deadbolts are a no-brainer, but only if the screws are at least a couple of inches long; otherwise, Snooki could kick your door in;
- If you don’t have motion detector lighting outside, get it; if you do, make sure it’s working properly — and don‘t have it close enough to the ground that someone could unscrew the bulb;
- Lock away ladders, other types of boosters or tools lying around the outside of the house;
- Set lights, televisions and radios on timers;
- DO NOT KEEP VALUABLES in obvious places: The first, and sometimes only, destination of any burglar is the master bedroom;
- Inventory your valuables with photos or videos, put the disc in a safe place — and, please, make sure you use an innocuous label (“Billy’s Birthday” will do just fine). It could help police but also comes in handy when you notify your insurance company;
- Lock your car, even when it’s in your driveway;
- If you’re going away for awhile: (a) notify police headquarters to put your home on the vacant list; they‘ll be sure to drive by now and then (b) arrange for deliveries to be suspended or picked up.
You’ve probably figured this one already, but one of the most tried-and-true burglar deterrents has four legs — and it’s not your coffee table. Could be a Pomeranian (Remember: A burglar doesn’t want to spend time or be noticed).
Here’s one you might not thought of, courtesy of New Milford Police Chief Frank Papapietro: “Burglars use social networking sites to determine when a home will be empty. Do not announce your day’s activities on those sites. A simple entry such as “going shopping with the kids” tells a burglar that there may be an easy target available. If you want to share your day’s events with your cyber friends, do it at the end of the day.”
Here’s another, from Washington Township Police Chief Randy Ciocco: Make sure your house number can be seen clearly from the street at any time of day, just in case you need police, fire or ambulance service.
Ciocco says citizens should also be on the lookout for “diversion”: That’s when one or two people convince a senior citizen of a utility company or TV service visit. Don’t allow anyone into your home without 100% of who they are and where they come from.
If they are genuine, they will understand if you call a particular utility — or even the police. Don‘t think twice: It‘s all right to call, Ciocco said.
If you have elderly parents, remind them of this.
And if you see something, say something.
“As always, the Police Department encourages residents to call and report ANYTHING suspicious,” Ciocco said. “Your report could stop a crime in progress!”
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