You were outside mowing your front lawn and then you headed to your backyard. What did you do wrong?
A. Left your front door unlocked
B. Left your garage door up or shed door open
C. Left your car unlocked in your driveway
Not really a trick question, but, yes, the answer is D, everything.
Burglaries are crimes of opportunity, said Michael O’Hanlon, the 7th Police District’s crime prevention officer. That you’re right there on your own property is no deterrent to burglars, especially if you’re making their professional lives so easy, he said.
If you can’t see your garage, then don’t leave it open while you’re just around the back, O’Hanlon said. Burglars can be in, out and walking down the street with your snow blower in a matter of moments. Ditto if you’ve left a shed open or unlocked.
Similarly, if your front door is unlocked, somebody can be in your house and swiping your wallet, jewelry and prescription meds while you’re too busy attacking the crabgrass to notice. And that smartphone you figured you’d put on the charger in your car while you’re doing your yardwork? Well, that’s an easy target, too.
Welcome to spring in the big city.
There are more people out on the street as the weather warms and not all of them are out there for fresh air. They’re looking around for easy scores. If you keep in mind where you are and use a little common sense, you might dodge being one of them.
This is not the first time this newspaper has published an article with some common-sense anti-burglary tips, and it probably won’t be the last.
Ask any cop about home or car break-ins and you’ll hear comments like, “We’re getting killed on burglaries.” Property crimes are a citywide plague. Sound advice is worth repeating.
There are some obvious things anyone can do to keep the housebreakers out, O’Hanlon said.
• Keep your doors and windows shut and locked. All your doors -— in your house, your car, your garage, your shed.
“About a month ago,” O’Hanlon said in an April 25 phone interview, “we were getting killed with shed burglaries in Fox Chase.” Burglars were grabbing lawn mowers and snowblowers and “whatever they could get,” he said.
• Don’t leave anything in your car that can be seen from the outside. O’Hanlon means anything. Phones, laptops, wallets and purses are not the only attractive objects, he said. Burglars will go after anything, even loose change.
“There are guys who go down the street at 2 or 3 in the morning, trying door handles,” he said.
• If you can afford outside lighting, video surveillance systems or alarm systems, get them.
• Get into the habit of looking around your house before you leave it. As the weather warms, you might pull your windows up and your screens down to cool off your house. Shut and lock those windows when you leave. A window screen is no real obstacle. Even if you’re home, don’t leave windows unlocked in rooms you or your family are not occupying
• Look for vulnerable spots and take some steps. Here’s one you might not have considered: Burglars will push in window air conditioners to gain entry, especially if that unit is out of sight from the street. That might not seem obvious to most people, but it is a way in. O’Hanlon said he places a pole at the top of the bottom window to the top of the sill to make it difficult for burglars to get the window up even if they do push in the air conditioner.
• Get a heavy board to put inside sliding doors so they can’t be pushed open.
“Most burglars are junkies,” O’Hanlon said. They want to get in and out with whatever they think is valuable and easily hidden, and they want to turn that stuff into money so they can score their drugs.
The more desperate they are, the more determined they are to get in your house. They will break down locked doors and they will smash through windows.
Still, you shouldn’t make it easy for them even if they do get inside. If you have a safe, use it. If you have a safety deposit box, use it, especially if you are going to be away for any length of time.
If you have neither, then be a little creative. Don’t leave your valuables where burglars will be apt to look for them. Find other places for your cash and jewelry other than your bedroom bureau. Store your medicines somewhere besides your medicine cabinet.
Burglars like small but valuable things they can put in their pockets. Rings, bracelets, necklaces, cash, coins, small electronics are as easy to keep out of sight as they are to fence.
There are steps to take, O’Hanlon said, if you are a burglary victim.
If you come home to find a door open, don’t go in, he said. If you have a cell phone, call 911 from outside.
Don’t clean up. Don’t touch anything, the officer said. You might mess up the evidence the police need to catch the burglar. Just call police.
In fact, O’Hanlon said, call the cops if you see anyone or anything suspicious in your neighborhood. A pickup you’ve never seen in a neighbor’s driveway or strangers walking around, knocking on doors in the middle of the day? Report things like that, O’Hanlon said.
“You’re not bothering us,” he said. ••