Addicts aiming to fuel their fix are accountable for the bulk of break-ins in the area, said Maj. Chris Thomas with the sheriff’s office.
However, most often they don’t want to be seen and hope to get in and out of an empty home without hassle, he added. In order to keep yourself and your belongings safe, here are eight things you can do:
1. If you can legally have a firearm and feel comfortable using one safely, Thomas said to keep one near. It’s your right to protect yourself, he said.
2. If you leave your home for work, errands or vacation, leave a light on and some sort of sound in the house, like a radio. Thomas said he leaves the television on every day and has heard of some people having time-activated lights that turn on and off in different rooms while they’re away to give the appearance of someone being home.
3. Thomas highly recommends a home surveillance system or alarm as well. Just having them is a deterrent for criminal activity, but they become an excellent aid for law enforcement in the event of a crime. If you get a camera, Thomas said to get a good quality one and not to waste money on a cheaper model.
4. Neighborhood Watches are also extremely effective, Thomas said. A sign at the beginning of the neighborhood lets criminals know law enforcement works with the people living there, and neighbors watching out for unfamiliar faces, especially ones walking around attempting to go under the radar, often send up warning signs to criminals and deters them from that area. To set up a Neighborhood Watch in your area, call Community Watch Manager Deputy John Ricker at 910-989-4008.
5. If you’re home alone and have someone knocking on your door, Thomas said feel free to answer it if you feel you can protect yourself — often someone there to break into your home is knocking to see if anyone is inside. When the door opens, they ask for someone random or ask for directions and then leave. If you don’t feel comfortable opening the door, Thomas said to yell through the door that you’d like them to leave the property and that you’re calling 9-1-1. Someone there legitimately, like a Kirby salesman, should leave because you asked them to. Someone there with ill intentions should leave because someone is home and law enforcement is on the way.
6. Never, ever leave your vehicle unlocked or valuable items out in the open, Thomas said. Most often car break-ins happen when someone forgot to lock the doors and a simple handle pull lets a criminal know they can quietly go through the car for valuables. However, if a wallet or laptop is sitting on the backseat, someone may decide it’s worth it to break the glass and get inside even if the doors are locked.
7. If you see someone suspicious in your neighborhood, try to safely get as much information and detail on them as possible, especially car tag numbers, Thomas said. With a tag number they can easily find who the person is, and with a good description, it could match another case and help law enforcement find the person or people involved.
8. Criminals come in every age and size, including individuals working alone, an organized group with a goal in mind, a group of teenagers making trouble, or someone who walks by and sees something they’re tempted to go after, Thomas said. If there is anything suspicious, call law enforcement. Anonymous calls can be made to the sheriff’s office at 910-455-3113 or Crime Stoppers at 910-938-3273. Crime Stoppers offers cash rewards of up to $2,500 for information provided that’s deemed of value or assistance to law enforcement. Callers to Crime Stoppers are not required to reveal their identities. Information can also be anonymously texted via Text-A-Tip by typing TIP4CSJAX and the message to 274637.