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Burglary Prevention

As Lupe Valdez of the Albuquerque, New Mexico WestSide Crime Prevention Unit looks at the 3" stack of residential burglary reports on his desk, he reflects on the importance of home-burglary protection. "If homeowners would take just a few steps toward protecting their home against burglaries, this stack would be a lot lower."

There are several ways the homeowner can begin to prevent a burglary by making the outside of the home less of an inviting target:
1. Never leave that extra set of house keys in a hiding place you think no one will find; the burglar's business is to know those places.
2. Always keep your garage door closed and locked. Never leave those three inches open for the family cat. The opening will allow the burglar to accumulate even more "loot" from the house without neighbors noticing anything out of the ordinary.
3. Keep all your hedges and bushes trimmed. The burglar will have less chance to conceal his entry into the home.
4. Install outside lighting to brighten areas around doors and windows. Install a motion detection light around corners of the home.
5. Plant thorny shrubs under windows that could provide easy access into a home. Why not pit that perpetrator against an extra thorny pyracantha bush.
6. If you plan to be away from your home for an extended time, always remember to give your home the "lived -in look." Ask a neighbor to collect newspapers and mail, to turn your outside lights on and off, and to even cut the grass.

When it can take as little as six seconds to break into a home through the front door, a solid core or metal-clad door fitted with both inside hinge pins and a minimum 1" throw deadbolt lock is the best deterrent. Decorative window panels on either side of a door should be equipped with non-breakable glass. Otherwise, the burglar could reach up to 40" for easy access to an inside door handle. All other outside doors, such as sliding glass door should be burglar-proofed with special locks and bolts. Both sliding windows and double-hung windows should be secured with either a sturdy pin secured in the window sill or an extra lock for the best protection. In the some areas, homeowners opt for grill work on lower floor doors and windows as a determent to burglary. This mode of deterrent must allow quick and easy exit for the residents of the home in case of a fire.
One last tip: It is estimated that 25% of burglaries are "free" because of a door or window left unlocked. Homeowners should make it part of their routine to check that all doors and windows are securely locked before leaving home.

Also, visit the Crime Prevention Units at your local police stations. Often times they have a wealth of information on the prevention of residential burglaries. They can supply a homeowner with booklets, pamphlets, and pertinent information to assist them in helping to burglar proof their home. In some cases officers will meet with both groups of concerned homeowners or individuals. As one officer tells us, "We can't emphasize enough that we are always ready to make either single home visits or visits to small neighborhood gatherings." These visits can provide a home security check guaranteed to bring an approach that will be both individualized and professional. They can help identify "security leaks" often overlooked; encourage neighbor awareness and cooperation to protect against home burglaries; and assist them in joining Operation Identification.

OPERATION IDENTIFICATION

According to the Albuquerque Neighborhood Crime Prevention Program, Operation Identification can reduce the chances of a home being burglarized by 50% with three simple steps.

1. Engrave all valuables with your social security number. Engravers are available from each Crime Prevention Unit for a modest deposit fee.
2. Place Operation Identification stickers on doors and windows.
3. Record the home address, SS#, and telephone number with the Police, and this information will be put onto the NCIC computer system. Confiscated property can then be traced back to the owner. It's also recommended that homeowners prepare a videotape of their valuable. Recently, these kinds of tapes have been used successfully in burglary cases.

NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH PROGRAM

Another important aspect in preventing residential burglary is for homeowners to be good watchers and to alert the police about any suspicious occurrence. Doug Apperson, a staff member of the west side Crime Prevention Unit tells us, "Elevate your concern or suspicion, don"t hesitate to call the police if you see something out of the ordinary." You could possibly deter a burglar from breaking into a home in your neighborhood. "Put the pressure on the crook!" says Apperson. Being aware can help both you and your neighbors lessening home burglaries.

Being a member of the Neighborhood Watch Program helps neighbors help each other. Just ask Jim, head of the crime prevention committee for his neighborhood association and a member of his Neighborhood Watch Program. One morning, Jim was suspicious as he noticed an unfamiliar van driving slowly down his street. He had the police number close on hand in the event he need to notify the authorities. While going outside to check on the van"s whereabouts, Jim noticed an abandoned bike by the edge of the sidewalk. He was fairly sure it didn't belong to any neighborhood children and wondered why it was there. Then he noticed the van reappearance and decided to call the police. After the police completed their investigation, they stopped by to inform Jim that there had been a break in on a nearby street and and two suspects had been arrested. By being aware of something suspicious happening in his neighborhood, Jim helped his neighbors and, really, himself.

For the past 12 years, neighborhoods all over the US have participated in an annual National Night Out wherein neighbors plan an activity during the first weekend in August to encourage awareness and cohesiveness to each neighborhood. Neighborhoods showing their support with this event are giving a message to criminals that they are organized and are fighting back.

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