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Taking precautions can prevent vacation calamity

Published: Thursday, June 20, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

SYCAMORE – A well-deserved vacation can end on a bad note if the right precautions aren’t taken to protect your home while you’re away.

That’s where local police come in. Some police departments offer vacation check programs for residents who will be out of their homes for a month or even a weekend. If residents want to make sure their home is secure or be reassured that a water pipe hasn’t burst outside the house, they can pass along their vacation plans to the police.

Sycamore Police Lt. Darrell Johnson said the police offer their vacation check program at no cost. Any homes police know are empty will be put on a watch list that patrol officers can pull up in their vehicle computers when they travel through the neighborhoods. 

Although Sycamore police offer this service, Johnson said it’s not used frequently by residents. This year at least three households have registered for the vacation check program, he said. 

“I think more and more people are [using] alternative security rather than giving us a call,” Johnson said. 

Friends or family members usually are entrusted to watch over a home rather than police, he said. 

DeKalb police’s vacation check program, which is free, is used quite frequently by residents, said DeKalb Cmdr. Jason Leverton. About a few hundred families register for the vacation check program a year, he said.  

“For us, this is another additional tool to bring down burglaries,” Leverton said. 

Burglary cases are generally high in DeKalb, he said. In 2012, 215 burglaries were reported to police, and there were 815 from 2009 to 2012. They tend to happen in apartment complexes, where it is easier for burglars to blend in, he said. People do not know each other as well as they would in an area with standalone homes, and seeing someone they don’t know moving in and out of apartments carrying things like TVs is common.

DeKalb police view their vacation check program as a community outreach effort that helps them know what houses in neighborhoods are empty, Leverton said. The police will keep an eye on registered homes and will even leave their cars to check around the homes for any signs of suspicious activity at the owner’s request. 

Even with the vacation check program, residents may want to secure their homes better than keeping the doors locked and windows shut. 

Johnson recommends making sure newspapers and mail don’t pile up and lawns are mowed so the homes appear occupied. Timers that turn the lights on and off in their home at set hours also are a good investment, Leverton said. 

“The best advice is to make it look like someone is present in the house even though they might not be,” Johnson said.

Vacation Safety Tips

• Suspend or forward mail and newspaper delivery.

• Have someone mow your lawn or remove snow.

• Put lights and radios on a timer so they can be turned on periodically to make it appear as someone is home. 

• Be sure vehicles are not parked in the street for more than a week so they are not ticketed or towed. 

• Make sure electronic home alarm systems are working. 

• Don’t indicate on your phone voicemail message that you are on vacation. 

Source: Sycamore, DeKalb and Genoa Police

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