In the last month, there were five burglaries in Palmetto Dunes on Hilton Head Island — four of which were short-term rental properties, according to the community's chief of security Jim Griner.
Various household items were stolen, including TVs, a toaster, an end table, a chair, a shower curtain and bedding, among other things, a newsletter from Palmetto Dunes said.
Griner said it's unclear why the string of break-ins happened this month, but "crimes of opportunity," like burglaries or car break-ins, often happen in waves.
Beaufort County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Capt. Bob Bromage said there has not been an uptick in burglaries.
Griner said the majority of homes in Palmetto Dunes aren't lived in year-round, and there are a large number of homes on the short-term rental market.
There are about 6,000 rental units across the island, according to Charlie Clark, spokesperson for the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce.
With different people coming in and out of those units to prepare the home for new guests, there are plenty of opportunities for a door to be left unlocked or for another slip up that can lead to someone easily entering the home who shouldn't be, Griner said.
Here are steps you can take to protect your rental property:
Be careful what you advertise
Many rental properties are advertised online with videos and photos.
Bromage said it's important that rental owners consider exactly what they are advertising when they list the property online.
Would-be thieves may find advertisements for rental properties that show all of the appliances inside the home. And because online advertisements typically include the home's address, thieves know where it is and what's inside it.
Bromage said advertising is still important, however. Rental property owners should still advertise, but be smart about it.
Check on vacant properties
Bromage said if a rental property is going to be vacant for any period of time, owners should check on it or ask someone else to.
The sheriff's office will check on a home if someone asks, he said. If one lives in a gated community, it's likely security will do routine checks as well.
Griner said Palmetto Dunes property owners can request a free house check through the community's website.
Bromage said having a rental property in a gated community is not necessarily going to deter thieves.
"Crime doesn't have boundaries," Bromage said. "There are ways into these plantations."
Thieves can obtain passes into gated communities, they can come in through the beach or they can access the community some other way, he said.
Take safety precautions
Griner said when it comes to rental property burglaries, police often don't see signs of forced entry.
Only two of the five recent burglaries in Palmetto Dunes had signs that someone forced their way inside, Griner said.
Rental property owners and renters should double check that all doors and windows are locked on all floors before leaving the property, Griner said.
More safety measures to prevent burglaries include trimming shrubbery so windows can be easily seen from the roadways, keeping any valuables out of sight and reinforcing sliding doors, which are more vulnerable than traditional doors, Griner said.
Sliding door reinforcements, like rods to keep doors in place, can be purchased or easily made, Griner said.
Alarm systems and cameras are another way to keep tabs on a home.
Griner said Palmetto Dunes has security cameras throughout the community. A person of interest in one of the recent burglaries was caught on camera, he said.
That footage was provided to the sheriff's office. The security department is still reviewing footage in attempt to identify other suspects, he said.