More holiday safety tips from Brown County Sheriff

I would like to share more tips to help you this holiday season. Please let your local law enforcement know if you have questions or concerns.

Home Security

Protecting your home and family from criminal intrusion should be a top priority for county residents. The most common criminal threat to our homes is burglary.

The most recent statistics state that approximately every few seconds a burglary happens somewhere in the United States. This type of crime usually happens when the home is unoccupied. Being a victim of burglary leaves a family feeling vulnerable and unsafe in an area where they should have the most comfort.

To avoid becoming a victim of this crime, it is important to better understand who commits it, why they do it and the differences between burglary and theft.

There is a huge difference between a theft and burglary. In short, burglary is defined as “without authority; entering into or remaining within any dwelling, other structure which is not a dwelling or vehicle with the intent to commit a felony or sexual battery.” Burglary is a felony.

Theft is “obtaining or exerting unauthorized control over property or services.” If the item taken is valued at $1,000 or more, it would be considered a felony. Anything less than $1,000 is a misdemeanor. In most cases, an arrest cannot take place on a misdemeanor unless it is committed in the presence of an officer.

Statistically, most burglaries happen during the day when people are working or at school. Those who work night shifts are also at risk in smaller communities. The peak months are June, July and August, but increase again in November and December due to the holidays.

According to statistics, burglaries are most often committed by males under the age of 25. Burglars usually go for cash, jewelry, watches, guns, ammunition, CDs and electronic devices such as computers, flat screens, cell phones, etc. These items can be sold for quick cash used to buy drugs or supplement a lavish lifestyle.

Generally, burglars use tools like screwdrivers, crowbars, hammers, pliers or even objects to batter a door or window to gain entrance to an unsuspecting home. The preference is through an unlocked door or window.

By statistics, law enforcements clear about 13 percent of all burglaries since thieves are rarely caught in the act and often leave few clues. This is one of the more difficult crimes we try to solve.

At first glance, people assume burglaries are random. However, there’s a selection process involved. The residence is usually chosen with the easiest access, the most cover available and with multiple escape routes. Homes in remote locations with few neighbors, dim lighting and no outside yard dogs are also at risk.

Tips to improve home safety:

By statistic, most burglars enter through the front, back or garage doors. The weakest door is usually the garage door followed by the back door. It’s important to remove your keys and any valuables from your vehicle, even if it’s inside a garage.

“Beef up” areas in your home to make it harder for burglars to enter. If a suspect has to work too hard to enter your home, they might not have the tools or means to gain entry and give up to move to another location. To do this, it’s recommended to:

• Use a solid core or metal door for all entrance points;

• Upgrade protection by using Grade one or Grade two deadbolt locks in conjunction with doorknob locks with more resistance to prying and twisting;

• Install a wide-angle 160 degree peephole at a height of no more than 58 inches;

• Use heavy-duty strike plates with at least three-inch screws;

• Use a heavy-duty lockset with a dead latch mechanism.

The most common way of entry through a door with a wooden frame is to kick it open, since the strike plate is the weakest point. Since most door jambs are encased with a light-grade wood molding with very little holding power, beefing up that area will make it harder for burglars to enter. Upgrading the strike plates is a very effective option to strengthen doors.

Some county residents have stated they would rather leave their home and vehicles unlocked, so the thieves will not do damage to their property. We are urging residents to secure their homes, vehicles and other buildings to make entry harder for the burglars. By doing so, there is a chance that clues could be left behind from the criminals struggling to gain access. Also, they could give up and move on to an easier target. There have been many cases throughout Kansas in which burglars have broken into garages and have stolen vehicles, because the car keys were left inside.

Windows also are a primary target of home invasion. If a window is left unlocked, it is a potential entry point. A secondary blocking device can allow a window to be opened approximately six inches for ventilation, but not allow someone to enter. Such devices need to be removed easily as not to impede an exit in case of fire. Crime prevention or alarm decals in windows have proven to be crime deterrents as well.

Interior lighting can make a big difference when burglars are looking for a place to break into. A dark home at regular hours indicate that no one is home. From this, burglars can figure out when a family is home and when they’re not, which will help the criminals plan for a successful break-in.

To alter this, you can purchase inexpensive timers for lamps which indicate activity in the home and simulates occupancy. Radios and TVs also can be put on timers. Trusted family or friends also could turn on your lights, radios or TVs throughout the day or night to give the appearance that your home is inhabited.

Exterior lighting itself deters burglars. It also gives the family a well-lit path to their home and illuminates a possible threat. Most potential burglars will not choose a well-lit residence to break into for fear of being identified. There are several lighting choices available. Motion detection and heat-motion detection are at the top of the list, followed by dusk to dawn “eye” lights and then lights controlled by a switch in the home.

Some homeowners use security cameras with exterior lighting in the perimeter of their home. Decoys, such as placebo security cameras that look realistic, also are available. Trail cameras are also an option. There are some models on the market that have a “black flash,” which means they are almost undetectable at night.

Home safes also are a plus, as families can store valuables in them with a greater peace of mind knowing they will be secure. Better-quality home safes are a good investment if they are properly anchored within the home. Make sure to anchor these safes as recommended by the manufacturer. If safes are not installed properly, intruders could carry them out of the home. Never keep the key or combination to these safes where an intruder can easily find them.

Alarm systems are an ideal form of protection, but response time can be a major factor, especially in rural areas. Alarm company signs and decals in windows help deter criminals. Most burglars will not attempt home invasions where alarms systems are in place. A loud, audible alarm is very effective when the secured area of the home is breeched. This usually sends the burglar running. It’s also important to keep your alarm call list current.

Burglars are also not fond of gate fences that have to be manipulated for entrance or exit, inside or outside dogs that alert the whole neighborhood and driveway alarms that sound when vehicles drive over them.

Good, trusted neighbors are a definite benefit. This is the original version of “neighborhood watch” — neighbors helping neighbors. They look out for each other and are able to watch out for your home when you are away. Neighbors can help in many different ways such as picking up mail, mowing yards or shoveling snow to give the illusion of occupancy, doing a walk-around outside the home to check for damage and parking in unoccupied driveways to deter burglars.

It’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with your neighbors and build a network of friends to help each other in an emergency. Neighbors typically know what goes on in their neighborhood, whether it’s rural or city. If you get suspicious of strange or unusual vehicles or people wandering around your neighborhood, call your local law enforcement and give as much information as possible.

If you have a vacant house or property in a remote area, make sure to check on it often or have trusted relatives or friends look after the area. Many scrappers search for locations “off the grid” where they can sneak in and steal items such as copper wire, metal, antiques or anything else of value. To keep remote properties safer, use guard dogs, security or trail cameras and fences with locked gates, and make routine visits to the property at different times so a pattern is not established.

Engraving your name on your valuables such as TVs, computers, electronics, etc. is a sure way to identify your stolen items when found. Do not engrave your social security number on your property.

Important personal information such as credit card numbers, vehicle identification numbers and receipts of larger or more valuable items should be recorded and put in a safe place for insurance and identification purposes. Use photographs or videos to document anything of value. These records should be kept in a safe place at home and another location in case of fire or misplacement.

While nothing is ever a sure bet, these tips and pointers can help families feel more secure against intrusion. If residents see anything out of the ordinary such as vehicles or people wandering late at night or in areas that seem strange, try to safely gather any information you can and call your local law enforcement at once.

Any identifiers such as license plate numbers, color or type of vehicle, number of occupants and person descriptors will help us in locating the individuals in question. We are very fortunate to have 24-hour patrol in Brown County and the assistance of tribal and city police departments, but we cannot be everywhere at once. For this reason, we rely on the public to assist whenever they can. Please contact your local law enforcement with any questions or concerns.

Pets

Make provisions for your outside pets during the winter months. Sometimes, they can become neglected with all of the festivities happening. Make sure they have shelter and plenty of food and fresh water. With freezing temperatures, water becomes frozen in a short period of time.

Holiday Shopping

Remember, when you are out and about shopping this holiday season, crooks are always on the lookout for an easy target. Lock valuables in your trunk and never leave items such as cell phones, purses and major purchases in plain view. It only takes a minute for thieves to break into your vehicle and steal these items. Also, it’s a good idea to keep track of your valuables while shopping. Don’t leave them unattended in your shopping cart or they will get stolen.

Always take advantage of well-lit areas and think twice before parking your vehicle somewhere you don’t feel comfortable. Always be aware of your surroundings. If you have immediate concerns while shopping and are afraid to go to your vehicle alone, contact store security or the local police.

We here at the Sheriff’s office would like to wish everyone a safe, happy and healthy holiday season!

John Merchant22 Posts

John Merchant currently serves as Brown County (Kansas) Sheriff.

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