Keep thieves at bay while you're away

Many area police departments offer free property check services to homeowners heading out of town.

Special to the Packet and the GazetteAugust 18, 2013 

20111026 Home security

300 dpi Rick Nease illustration of burglar foiled by home with many security devices. Detroit Free Press 2011

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  • Lock all doors and windows.

  • Don't hide a key outdoors. Give a key to a trusted relative, friend or neighbor, in case they need to get into the house for you.

  • Use a timer on exterior and interior lights in the house to make it look like someone is home.

  • Turn off or disengage your automatic garage door opener. Some thieves will use a universal remote to gain access to your garage.

  • Be aware of what you post on public sites, including Facebook. Don't say you'll be away, and don't check-in when you've reached your destination.

  • Make sure your yard is being maintained. Cut shrubs short to make it easier for neighbors to watch the house.

  • Do not change your blinds. Closing blinds that are always open is an indicator for thieves who have been watching the house for a while.

  • Ask neighbors to use your driveway for guest parking to make it look like someone is at the house.

  • Stop mail and newspaper delivery.

  • Leave a radio on a talk channel to make it sound like conversation is happening inside the home.

  • Check with local police to see if they have a property check program.

  • Source: The Bluffton Police Department

Coming home from a fun vacation can be depressing. However, coming back and finding something has gone wrong in your house can make the return even more miserable.

From 2006 to 2011, burglaries dropped in the area, according to the Uniform Crime Reporting statistics from the FBI. Police suggest people leaving for vacation do their best to make sure their properties have not been abandoned while they are gone.

Friends, family and neighbors can play key roles in keeping thieves at bay, said Cpl. Hope Able, public information officer for the Beaufort Police Department.

Able suggested cutting shrubs short before leaving so there are less places to hide and so neighbors and friends can see around the house easier.

Many agencies, including Beaufort and Bluffton police departments, also offer property checks. In Beaufort, residents fill out a form at the department that contains basic information. The police, then, monitor the house until the residents return.

Sgt. Donald Chandler, who is on the neighborhood services unit for the Bluffton Police Department, said police check the property a couple times a day or during the night to make sure everything is normal.

"We don't offer any guarantees by any means," Chandler said. "If we find something, we call the owner and let them know."

Able also suggested giving a friend or family member a key in case something does happen.

"That way, if we do need to get in, we can get in touch with someone with a key who is in town," she said.

Chandler said not very many people use the property check service in Bluffton, but many departments offer it.

"It's a good service that people don't take advantage of," he said.

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