It’s the little things.
Burglars like them. Rings, gold chains, earrings, medicine bottles, cell phones, and iPods are small enough to stuff into pockets, so they are the things burglars take out of a house with ease.
And in the 15th Police District, the city’s largest, burglars have been having a huge summer doing just that.
“There’s been a pretty good increase,” said Capt. Frank Bachmayer, the district’s commander.
From July 1 to Aug. 17, according to Bachmayer, there have been 122 residential burglaries. Two areas have seen the most, he said: From Levick Street to Bridge Street, from Roosevelt Boulevard to the Delaware River; and from Margaret and Arrott streets to Church Street, between Oakland Street and Torresdale Avenue.
No one particular criminal or group of housebreakers is thought to be behind all or most of the burglaries, the captain said.
The crooks have been breaking in through back doors, side doors, windows or cut screens. Sometimes, they kick in window-mounted air conditioners and crawl in. And, particularly galling to police, some burglars have had it easy. They’ve slipped through unlocked windows or simply walked in through unlocked doors.
So what do burglars do once inside? They race up to your bedroom and dump your bureau drawers as they look for your jewelry, cash and small electronics.
Vacant buildings are popular with burglars, too. They waltz in and dance out with copper pipes that they sell for scrap.
The police do catch some of these guys. Bachmayer said burglary arrests in the 15th district are up 47 percent this year over last. Those caught have been both juveniles and adults, and some have been local. Most burglars hit homes in their own neighborhoods.
Burglars rarely are caught in the act, however. They’re tracked down by detectives, but that is probably small comfort to the people who have been victimized.
Bachmayer has been preaching prevention. Don’t make yourself an easy victim of what is often a crime of opportunity for crooks. Lock your windows, lock your doors and don’t leave your cash and jewelry lying around or stashed in obvious places.
And, anyone who does come home to a burglary scene should keep in mind that it is just that — a crime scene. Call the police right away. Victims shouldn’t tidy up their homes or start fixing any damage done by the burglars until police have gathered any evidence the burglars have left behind.
PRIME TIME FOR BURGLERS
If you plan to go away during the upcoming long holiday weekend, don’t advertise your absence. Suspend delivery of daily papers and your mail, and ask a neighbor to keep an eye on your home.
Use electronic timers to have your lights go on and off, Lt. Robert Casselli said during an Aug. 17 meeting of the 15th district’s Police Service Area 1.
Move your stuff around. If you have a safety deposit box, use it; put expensive jewelry, irreplaceable family heirlooms, credit cards you aren’t taking on your trip, rare stamps or coins and important papers in the box. Don’t leave cash around. If you have a bank account, put your money in it.
If you have irreplaceable information on your computer, copy it to a flash drive and either take that with you or put that in your safety deposit box.
It might be smart to move your prescription medications out of your medicine cabinet before you go away, Casselli said. The lieutenant said there is a big market for painkillers, and burglars know it. It doesn’t take long to empty out a medicine cabinet.
Papers building up on your step and letters accumulating in your mailbox aren’t the only signs you’re not home. Be careful what you or family members put online.
Officer Heather Andrews said all the information that people put on social network Internet sites can be used by burglars.
A determined burglar — who certainly is no friend — will find a way to read the personal information you’ve listed no matter how you’ve limited access. He can find out you’re on vacation, where you are and how long you will be away. Most burglars like to get in and out, but if you tell them they can take their time, they will. Check what your kids have put online and get them to remove the stuff that is just an information bonanza for housebreakers.
Nothing in these warnings is, or should be, news to anyone. Still, some people just won’t believe it is probable, or even possible, that anyone will get into their homes and swipe their stuff.
“It’s denial,” Bachmayer said in an interview. “They think it can’t happen to them.” ••
Reporter John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Get tipped …
The police are willing to alert you personally when crime is happening near your home or work place. Anyone can sign up for ReadyNotifyPa, the 15th Police District’s commander, Capt. Frank Bachmayer, said. Go to www.readynotifypa.org
It takes just a few minutes to sign up for police, traffic and weather alerts to be sent to your e-mail account, cell phone or pager.
When you sign up, you can request information about the neighborhoods in which you live and work and for citywide alerts, too, Bachmayer said.
For example, the captain said, he could put out a notice that there is a burglary trend near your home along with some safety tips.
That heads-up service does not operate 24 hours a day, he said. Notices are sent only between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. ••