This is the time of year when burglars become more active. As the days get shorter, the number of break-ins goes up. And it can happen fast. “Many thieves will spend no longer than 60 seconds trying to break into a home,” said Lt. Col. Raymond Stuhn, the U.S. Army Europe’s deputy provost marshal. “Good locks and good neighbors who watch out for each other can be big deterrents to burglars,” he added. In almost half of all completed residential burglaries, thieves simply breeze in through unlocked doors or crawl through unlocked windows, Stuhn added. He recommended people lock their doors any time they leave their houses, apartments or barracks rooms, even if it is only for a short time. A lock on a flimsy door is as effective as locking a car door but leaving the window down, provost marshal officials said. Stuhn recommends that people inspect their doors and locks, and ask their landlords or housing office officials for assistance if they need upgrades or improvements. Some tips for good security include:
• If doors don’t fit tightly in their frames, install weather stripping.
• Every external door should have a sturdy, well-installed dead bolt lock.
• Instead of hiding extra keys outside a house or apartment, give a key to a trusted neighbor.
• Install outside lights connected to a motion sensor.
• If the front door has a peephole, always use it before opening the door.
• Make a list of valuables, such as electronic components, cameras, computers and jewelry. Take photos of the items and note their serial numbers and descriptions. Check with local military police about engraving valuables through Operation Identification.
• Ask local MPs for a free home security survey.
Stuhn also had several suggestions for keeping home secure when the occupants are away:
• Create the illusion that someone is home using trusted neighbors or timers to turn lights on and off in different areas of the house throughout the evening. Lights burning 24 hours a day signal an empty house.
• Leave shades, blinds and curtains in normal positions.
• Have a neighbor pick up mail.
• Don’t advertise that an empty home or barracks room. Tell only people who need to know, such as a landlord or trusted neighbor.
• Never leave a message on an answering machine indicating that no one is home. Better to simply say, “I’m not available right now.”
• Soldiers living in the barracks should secure their personal belongings in a wall locker.
More tips on home and neighborhood safety are available from the National Crime Prevention Council at www.ncpc.org.