Thieves are looking for opportunities to steal during the holiday season so people need to be vigilant about home security, Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart said during his weekly interview.
The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office received three reports of burglaries and 15 reports of theft in December 2017 and received one report of a burglary and nine reports of theft in December 2018.
“Overall the FBI estimates over 400,000 burglaries take place during the holiday season,” Lenhart said.
Criminals often will break into cars and homes or steal items from the porch of a home.
“They look at our homes,” Lenhart said. “We have the Christmas tree in front of our picture window with all the gifts, and it’s tempting for them.”
People should be careful about disposing of packaging. Items left curbside with the trash such as a television box or computer box lets thieves know what is inside a house.
“That is a written invitation for persons to see what your trash is and know that you’ve got that in your house,” Lenhart said.
Thieves also will watch social media to scope out potential targets.
“Watch what you post on social media,” Lenhart said. “Potential burglars are like hawks on social media.”
Items delivered to a house also are vulnerable to theft before they’re retrieved by the customer.
“We get lots of porch pirates in our area,” Lenhart said. “The solution to that is have it perhaps mailed to somebody you know is going to be home or perhaps go pick it up from where you ordered it from.”
To deter thieves, residents should ensure that their homes are well lit.
“Thieves and burglars love operating under the cover of darkness,” Lenhart said.
Residents should consider getting timers for their lights.
“They’re relatively inexpensive,” Lenhart said. “Those all are very protective.”
Motion sensors, which were available for $10-12 on Black Friday, also can be a good investment.
“Those were not as expensive as I thought they would be,” Lenhart said.
When decorating, don’t run external lights through a window as that could create an opportunity for thieves to gain access to a residence.
Individuals also should be wary of people who go door to door to solicit donations. It’s possible they’re casing homes for robberies, Lenhart said.
“Be very careful about somebody knocking on your door for donations,” he said.
Lenhart suggested giving to established charities instead of giving to people who go door to door. He likes giving to college funds, he said.
Technologies such as a Ring doorbell are very useful, Lenhart said, as they allow a resident to see who is at the door with their smartphone.
“The technologies today are so unique that you can tell who’s knocking on your door,” Lenhart said.
Homeowners also can hire someone to install a home-monitoring system or install one themselves.
Individuals should be careful about leaving keys outside their home. People often hide keys under a doormat, on top of a doorway or under a flower pot, which can be found in less than a minute.
Inside a home, valuables should be locked up.
“Most folks have a safe or certainly a hiding spot where you can lock up those valuables,” Lenhart said.
Along with keeping residents safe, the holiday season is a time for the Sheriff’s Office and police officers to participate in events such as Shop with a Cop. Shelby County law enforcement assisted 82 families that needed help this holiday season, Lenhart said.
“We appreciate the support we get from the community to reach out and help those kids who perhaps don’t have as much as the rest,” Lenhart said.
The Sidney Daily News conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.