As the holiday season fast approaches, the Columbia Police Department would like to remind community members to safeguard their valuables before leaving home.
In 2017, 16 residential burglaries were reported during Thanksgiving break (between Nov. 17 and Nov. 28, 2017) and 54 residential burglaries were reported during Christmas break (between Dec. 13, 2017 and Jan. 16, 2018). The Columbia Police Department is happy to report that these statistics are the lowest in nine years. Though the burglaries were not concentrated to a certain area of town, it's important that all residents remain vigilant before they begin their holiday travels and keep these burglary prevention tips in mind:
- Keep all doors and windows closed and securely fastened. An open window or door is an invitation for burglars. Thieves are also quick to spot weak locks that may be easily forced open. Doors should have deadbolt locks with a one inch throw and reinforced strike plate with three inch screws. All windows should have window locks.
- Secure sliding glass doors by placing a metal rod or a wooden dowel rod in the track and install vertical bolts. This will help prevent burglars from forcing the door open or lifting it off the track.
- Always lock the door to an attached garage. Don't rely on your automatic garage door opener for security.
- Drop all blinds/shades over windows so criminals cannot look inside.
- Create the illusion that you are home by using timers on lights, radios and TVs. Make your residence appear occupied, even when no one is home, to help deter criminals.
- Keep the perimeter of your home well lit. Installing low voltage outdoor lighting is a cost-effective way to discourage intruders as well as highlight a house.
- Never leave clues that you are away on a trip. Have a trusted neighbor collect mail and newspapers while you are away so delivered items do not accumulate. You can also ask a neighbor to park in your driveway or parking place to make it appear that you are present.
- Never leave a message on your telephone answering machine telling people that you are away from home. A message that you will return at a certain time leaves your home vulnerable in the interim.
- Keep shrubbery trimmed away from entrances and walkways. Large and ornate hedges may be beautiful but they also provide a hiding place for burglars who need only a minute to break in through a window or door.
Community members are encouraged to keep track of their valuables using several different methods. This can range from photographing your items and saving them on a thumb drive. If you chose this method it might be a good idea to have two thumb drives that are stored in two separate locations. Another tool is a free online system, ReportIt.LeadsOnline.com. Through this service, residents can record serial numbers and upload images for phones, electronics and other valuables. Should your items ever be stolen, having this information inventoried will go a long way in accurately and quickly identifying the property in investigations.
Officers, focused on burglary suppression, will be patrolling areas throughout Columbia. Join them in keeping neighborhoods safe - if you notice suspicious activity or people in your neighborhood, report it to law enforcement immediately, by calling 874.7652 or CrimeStoppers at 875.TIPS (8477). You can find burglary prevention tips and videos on our website at CoMo.gov/Police/Burglary-Prevention-Tips.