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Burglary season and how to deal with it

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

SPECIAL REPORT: Hard times, warmer weather and extended holiday vacations have meant increased burglaries. Some police departments are offering residents and businesses free security surveys. Here are some steps you can take right now ….

“Data tracking has shown that residential burglaries are on the rise,” F airview Police Chief Frank Del Vecchio told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “We feel that this has much to do with the hard economic times in the country.”

It’s easy even after Christmas to become very busy, excited — and careless.

So Del Vecchio urged people in town to take advantage of his department’s survey by calling (201) 943-2100 and asking for either Capt. Thomas Juliano or Sgt. John Tory of the borough’s Crime Prevention Bureau.

Folks in other towns should consult their area police departments through their non-emergency numbres.

Meanwhile, chiefs throughout Bergen say there are steps everyone can take right now to avoid becoming a statistic.

All it takes is understanding a burglar’s logic.

For one thing, they always take the path of least resistance. They will avoid having to take time or risk being seen. So their “work” becomes systematic:

They look for soft targets — those that don’t have obvious signs of security, of course, but also those that are obscured by trees and other objects. They will then spend no more than a minute’s time trying to get in. If they can’t, they’ll move on. If they can, they’re out of the house inside of 90 seconds.

Three-quarters of those who do get in have broken a window, jimmied a door, or forced an entrance open.


Make sure all doors and windows are secure , especially in back; use window stops (you can always pop them out when you’re home on a comfortable day). “It seems simple but many people have a false sense of security and will leave doors unlocked and valuables in plain sight,” New Milford Police Chief Frank Papapietro warned. ;

Clear windows and doors of any bushes, trees or shrubs so that you, your neighbors — and, if necessary, police — can see them;

Deadbolts are a no-brainer, but only if the screws are at least a couple of inches long. Otherwise, Snooki could kick your door in;

If you don’t have motion detector lighting outside, get it. If you do, make sure it’s working properly. DO NOT have it close enough to the ground that someone could unscrew the bulb;

Lock away ladders, other types of boosters or tools lying around the outside of the house;

Make sure your house number can be seen clearly from the street at any time of day, just in case you need police, fire or ambulance service;

Set lights, televisions and radios on timers ;

in obvious places : The first, and sometimes only, destination of any burglar is the master bedroom;

Inventory your valuables with photos or videos, put the disc in a safe place — and, please, make sure you use an innocuous label (“Billy’s Birthday” will do just fine). It could help police but also comes in handy when you notify your insurance company;

Lock your car , even when it’s in your driveway, and don’t keep valuables inside. This is one that confounds police: A majority of incidents involve expensive electronics and other items left in an UNLOCKED vehicle;

If you’re going away for a vacation :

Arrange with a neighbor to take in newspapers and mail or have delivery services suspended;
Notify police headquarters to put your home on the vacant list; they‘ll be sure to drive by now and then.

All other times, Del Vecchio said:

• Remember to lock doors and windows when leaving your home/business, even briefly;
• Leave lights, televisions or radios on when you go out at night to make the place look occupied;
• Use automatic timers for interior lights;

• Test your smoke detectors and check to ensure all holiday lighting is working appropriately to prevent fires.

The chief also urged residents everywhere to beware of strangers who say they’re soliciting donations for charity. Be sure to ask for a photo ID and either make a copy or write their information down. If they give you a hard time, consider calling the police. In fact, it doesn’t hurt to contact police whether you give or not. You might present someone else from getting ripped off.

If you have elderly parents, make them aware of “diversion” burglaries . That’s when one or two people convince a senior of a utility company or TV service visit. Make sure you know — and your folks know — that you shouldn’t allow anyone into your home without 100 percent certainty of who they are and where they come from.

If they are genuine, they will understand if you call a particular utility or even the police — who will not be bothered in the least.

Citizens “should never be uncomfortable in contacting the police for something that they deem is suspicious,” Wyckoff Police Chief Benjamin Fox told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . Police would “rather check hundreds of calls that are unfounded than have someone not call us about something that turns out to be important.”

On average, 6,100 burglaries a day occur in the U.S. — one every 14 seconds, according to one home security group.
Of those break-ins, 70 percent are of homes, according to a chart (see below) supplied by .

The country has a median household income of just over $50,000 — which means the $2,100 average haul represents 4 percent of a full year’s earnings.

No surprise that most burglars make off mostly with cash, jewelry, guns, silver and electronics. After all, when you have only 90 seconds to get in and out, you have a pretty good idea of what you need to grab.

They’re good at it, too: Barely 14 percent are ever caught. Decrease that by the number who have sold or successfully hidden your valuables and you have some idea what scant chance you have at retrieving them.

You’ve probably figured this one already, but one of the most tried-and-true burglar deterrents has four legs — and it’s not your coffee table. Could be a Pomeranian (Remember: A burglar doesn’t want to spend time or be noticed).

Finally, here’s one you might not have thought of, courtesy of Papapietro, the New Milford chief:

“Burglars use social networking sites to determine when a home will be empty.  Do not announce your day’s activities on those sites,” Papapietro told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “A simple entry such as ‘going shopping with the kids’ tells a burglar that there may be an easy target available.

“If you want to share your day’s events with your cyber friends, do it at the end of the day.”

And by all means, DO NOT announce your vacation plans.

Finally: If you have been burglarized and are still outside, DO NOT go inside. Call the police immediately.

“Many times the first instinct is to enter and check for pets or missing items,” Papapietro said. “Entering the home before the police could compromise valuable evidence and more importantly the burglars could still be inside causing a confrontation.”

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