That window air conditioner you turned off but didn’t put away after the weather turned cool might let in more than a draft. A burglar could just push it in, crawl into your home and walk out with your stuff.
Don’t worry that this might be a tutorial for housebreakers. They know that trick. Now you do, too.
If you don’t want to be a victim, start thinking like a criminal, Officer Melissa Panebianco told members of the 15th Police District Advisory Council.
The officer knows about burglaries. She’s been working a lot of cases. In 2013, there were more than 800 burglaries in the 15th.
The way Panebianco describes it, keeping burglars out of your home is a common-sense science. Start with putting the air conditioner away for the winter and locking the window.
Get good locks on your doors and windows, Panebianco said, and use them. The same for lighting and burglar alarms. If you have an alarm system and don’t turn it on because you’re just running to the store for a few minutes, you’re defeating the purpose of the system.
None of this should be new to city residents. Police from patrol officers up to district commanders have been trying for years to hammer home pointers that residents can use to protect their property. Burglary stats show, however, more attention should be paid.
Lt. John Ryan said Panebianco will be visiting neighborhood organizations to try to raise that interest level.
“Locks can stop an amateur and slow down experienced burglars,” she said during the PDAC’s Jan. 27 session.
Burglars can be in and out of a home in a matter of minutes. They look for little things that they can just shove in their pockets — cash, jewelry and small electronics like smartphones.
Not only should you not make it easy for them to get in, but you shouldn’t make it easy for them to find your valuables by hiding them in obvious places if they do get inside.
Are your dollars and baubles in your bedroom dresser? Under a mattress? They’ll be no problem to find. Think of better hiding places, the officer said.
Take photos of your expensive jewelry and jot down the serial numbers of the pricey electronics like stereos and flat-screen TVs.
“We can track with serial numbers,” Panebianco said. Using the Internet tracking service, leadsonline.com, she said, “I can get an alert as soon as stolen merchandise is sold.”
Alarms and motion detectors are good, she said, and so are surveillance cameras, which, she said, can be registered with the Police Department’s SafeCam program. Also, residents can sign up for Operation ID, which provides stickers with your driver’s license number or Social Security number so your property can be tracked if it is stolen.
Most burglaries occur during the day while people are at work, Panebianco said.
“They’ll do the knock test,” she said. If you answer your door, they’ll say they’re looking for somebody. Call 911, the officer said, and give a description of the person and a car, if you see one. Even better, give a license plate number.
Some crooks don’t even bother going into a house. They follow UPS and Fed Ex trucks around a neighborhood and scoop up what’s being delivered.
“There was a spate of that before Christmas,” Ryan said.
In 2013, Ryan said, many crimes decreased in the 15th, which includes Frankford, Bridesburg, Northwood, Wissinoming and Mayfair.
There were 22 homicides in 2012, but 13 in 2013, he said. Robberies involving guns went from 328 in 2012 to 258 in 2013. Other robberies dropped, but not as dramatically, from 427 in 2012 to 407 in 2013.
Aggravated assaults with firearms went from 207 to 161, Ryan said. Other aggravated assaults went from 638 to 535. Violent crime totals, the lieutenant said, were down 10 percent.
Residential burglaries went up by one, from 816 in 2012 to 817 in 2013. Nonresidential burglaries decreased from 215 to 115.
Thefts from persons was down 33 percent, and thefts from cars dropped 15 percent, Ryan said. Auto theft slid 12 percent. Total property theft dropped 8 percent, Ryan said.
Because reporting requirements changed to fit the FBI’s definition of rape to include a number of different crimes, Ryan said, rape statistics rose from 2012 to 2013, from 73 to 104.
HONORS, MORE HONORS
The advisory council’s president, Mike Thaete, decided not to stay at his post this year, and was honored during the Jan. 27 meeting for his years of service. Members and officers presented him with a plaque and plenty of praise as “an asset to the community and a friend for everyone.”
Any credit is credit that should be shared, Thaete said.
“It’s not just me,” Thaete said, “it’s a group effort.”
The 15th’s Clive Austin was honored as December’s Officer of the Month. Austin, who works the Frankford Avenue beat, is a familiar face to storekeepers and shoppers in the business corridor.
Treasurer Pete Specos said the organization is hoping to sponsor a “gun buyback” in the spring. No questions are asked by police as civilians turn in weapons in exchange for gift cards provided by event sponsors.
The 15th PDAC’s next session will be at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 24, at the Mayfair Community Center, 2990 St. Vincent St. ••