Obvious steps can bolster home security (Aug. 28, 2008)

Aug. 28, 2008
By Greg Elias
Observer staff

Crooks are an opportunistic bunch. So to reduce burglaries, experts say, eliminate easy avenues for thieves to enter your home.

Lock your doors and windows. Keep valuables out of sight. Consider installing an alarm system or starting a neighborhood watch.

Detective Mike Lavoie of the Williston Police Department said living in a rural state offers no sanctuary from crime.

“In my opinion, what people used to say, that this is Vermont, so I can leave my windows open and doors unlocked, has kind of gone out the window,” Lavoie said.

Thefts are among the most common crimes in Williston and elsewhere, although residential break-ins here are infrequent and tend to come in sporadic outbreaks.

One recent spate involved four burglaries of homes on Old Stage Road, Spruce Lane and along U.S. 2 near the Richmond line. All occurred in the early morning hours of Aug. 6.

The circumstances surrounding the break-ins bolster Lavoie’s advice to keep entries locked and prevent easy opportunities for criminals. In each case, entry was made through an unsecured door or window.

In one of the burglaries, the thief or thieves entered an unlocked garage, checked a vehicle parked inside and found a purse containing a “large amount” of cash, Lavoie said. He declined to say exactly how much was taken or where the home was located because the crime is still under investigation.

The Web site www.homesecurity.com also emphasizes commonsense measures homeowners can take to protect belongings.

“When people think of protecting their homes, they often think of fancy, expensive security systems with lots of bells and whistles,” the site says. “That is certainly an option, but there are measures you can take that won’t break the bank, too.”

The site advises homeowners to avoid common security mistakes: failing to repair broken locks, leaving security systems off while you run a quick errand and hiding a house key near the door.

“Many homeowners, afraid they will lose their keys and lock themselves out, choose to hide a key somewhere on the property,” the site says. “They think they are being sneaky by placing the key under a rock, under a doormat, in a potted plant, or above the door. Burglars absolutely know about all these commonly used hiding places.”

Lavoie said another pitfall to avoid is leaving valuable items where they can be seen through a window. In one of the recent break-ins, a laptop computer sitting in plain sight inside the home was stolen.

Home security systems and neighborhood watch programs can also deter thieves. Lavoie said he prefers security systems, and he has one at his own home.

They can cost anywhere from $100 for the least expensive, do-it-yourself kit to thousands of dollars for professionally installed systems. Types offered by large national companies such as ADP also require remote monitoring for a monthly fee.

Vigilance also can help prevent thefts. Lavoie encouraged residents who see anything suspicious to immediately call police.

He said homeowners should not worry if the tip turns out to be a false alarm. After all, it helps no one to tell police days after the crime that you saw a stranger in your neighborhood on the night of the break-in.