Baltimore County Now
Natalie Litofsky, Public Safety Office of Media and Communications
If you’re planning to take a vacation this holiday season, it’s important for you to add home security to your travel safety checklist. There are simple precautions you can take to keep your home protected from both theft and damage. Just a few extra minutes spent securing your home will help give you the peace of mind to enjoy your trip.
Lock all doors and windows
While most people remember to lock the main door of the home, it’s important to check all the entry points to the house. This includes sliding doors, basement doors, and the interior door that leads to the garage. It’s also essential to lock the windows on each level of your home, not just the ground floor.
Turn off electronics
To help save on energy costs and avoid potential hazards, turn off and unplug small electronics while you’re away. Examples would be items such as a toaster, coffee maker, hair dryer or fan. Larger electronics such as computers and televisions should be plugged into a surge protector in case of sudden power loss.
Water and heat
If you live in an area where pipes are likely to freeze, it’s important to make sure your furnace stays running while you’re away. Most programmable thermostats have a “vacation mode” that will keep your home above freezing while still conserving energy. If you plan to be away for an extended period of time, you may want to consider turning off the water supply from outside your home and draining the pipes.
Perform a maintenance check
Check to be sure there are fresh batteries in your smoke detectors. Make sure that exterior lights have working bulbs to keep the property illuminated at night, and use a timer to turn them on and off. You should also prepare for the possibility of snow while you’re on vacation. Arrange for someone to shovel your walkways and driveway while you’re out of town. Not only is this important for the safety of your neighbors, but it also prevents would-be burglars from knowing the home is not occupied.
Notify a neighbor
Tell a trusted neighbor the dates you’re leaving and returning home. If they know you’re out of town, they’ll be more likely to notice and report suspicious activity. If you’ll be away for more than a day, ask if they’re willing to collect your mail and newspapers. A pile of unclaimed mail is a red flag for would-be thieves that nobody is home. If there is no one available to collect your mail, you can also speak with the post office about stopping mail delivery for the duration of your trip.
Don’t broadcast your location
Social media sites are great ways to keep in touch with friends and family, but they’re also great tools for burglars to use in choosing targets. Don’t post photos or statements that would let someone know that you’re away from home. You should also refrain from using a location “check-in” app that places you out of town. If you want to keep in touch with a friend or family member while you’re away, do so using a more private form of communication such as an email or text message.
Baltimore County Police Sergeant Pat Stonko, Burglary Unit
The blog title sums up what some criminals think about this time of year. There are some things to think about whether you’re on your way to the ocean or staying at home.
- Burglars are opportunists and look for the easiest way in. Unlocked doors and windows make life simple for a burglar. If you can, resist the temptation to leave windows ajar at night, or when you go out during the day when the weather gets hot. It’s easy to pry a window open if given a little wiggle room at the bottom of the window.
- You can’t always stop burglars, but you can deter them by making it difficult to enter your home.
- Sheds and garages are targeted more in the summer months. They often have bicycles and lawn equipment inside. Heavy duty locks on sheds slow down a criminal and may deter him altogether.
- Have a family member or trusted neighbor pick up your mail and all other deliveries. Piles of mail in the mailbox are clues to your absence.
- Going away? The world can wait to see your vacation pictures until you get home.
- Share memorable moments with family and friends through texts or emails. Steer clear of social media when you’re on the road.
- Use location spotters on smart phones with caution. The GPS tells your friends and family where you are. The spotter is also a helpful tool for a burglar. He can estimate how long he has to steal your valuables before you arrive home.
- There are people we inadvertently tell that we are we going away: the bank cashier, the cashier at the store, the person at the doctor’s office. We are so excited at the prospect of a vacation, we need to share it. Be careful sharing your plans with people you don’t know.
- If possible, check your credit cards and bank cards while you’re away. This will help you guard against credit card or identity theft while you’re having fun.
- Check your smoke, fire and carbon monoxide detectors before you leave for vacation or that quick, one day get-away. If a fire breaks out, the alarm could save your home and maybe a neighbor’s home as well.
Have a nice summer, have a great vacation and when driving, be sure to buckle up.
Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger
As much as our smart phones and GPS gadgets make life easier for all of us, they also can be a great resource for thieves and other criminals to help them steal from us. Below are some scams which are making the rounds. Don’t become a victim. Read on and protect yourself and your family.
WHILE YOU’RE AWAY
A family went on vacation and left their car in the long-term parking lot at the airport. Someone broke into the car. Using the information on the car’s registration, kept in the glove compartment, the thieves drove to the people’s home and burglarized it.
What should you do?
If you are going to leave your car in long-term parking, do not leave the registration/insurance cards or your remote garage door opener in the car.
Someone had their car broken into while they were at a football game. Things stolen from the car included a garage door opener, some money and a GPS which had been prominently mounted on the dashboard. When the victims got home, they found that their house had been ransacked. The thieves had used the GPS to guide them to the house and then used the garage remote control to open the garage door and gain entry to the house. The thieves knew the owners were at the football game so they knew what time the game was scheduled to finish and how much time they had to clean out the house.
What Should You Do?
DON’T put your home address in the GPS! Put a nearby location (like a store or gas station) so you can still find your way home if you need to, but no one else would know where you live if your GPS is stolen.
A woman’s handbag, containing her cell phone, credit cards, wallet, etc., was stolen. Twenty minutes later when she called her husband from a pay phone telling him what had happened, he said, “I received your text asking about our PIN number and I replied a little while ago.” When they rushed to the bank, the bank staff told them all the money was already withdrawn. The thief had actually used the stolen cell phone to text ‘hubby’ in the contact list and got hold of the pin number.
What Should You Do?
Do not disclose the relationship between you and the people in your contact list. Avoid using names like Home, Honey, Hubby, Dad, Mom, etc. And very importantly, when sensitive information is being asked through texts, CONFIRM by calling back. Or just don’t text sensitive information. Also, when you’re being texted by friends or family to meet them somewhere, be sure to call back to confirm that the message came from them. If you don’t reach them, be very careful about going places to meet ‘family and friends who text you.