With the summer season fully engaged, many among us have planned or are planning a vacation getaway.

In order to enjoy a stress-free, worry-free vacation, it is important to have all details of one’s trip planned to the nth degree unless one just wants to get away on a spontaneous lark.

Planning the vacation itself is important, but not more so than planning for the protection of your home and possessions against burglary and theft during your absence.

It is estimated by the FBI that a habitation burglary occurs in the United States every 15 seconds. Victims collectively suffer approximately $4.6 billion in property damage and stolen possessions annually.

Residential burglaries inflict more than the loss of possessions on the homeowner. Burglars also inject emotional stress and a sense of being violated into the act.

Following a burglary, one’s feeling of safety is compromised, leaving the homeowner fearful and apprehensive when alone and especially during the hours of darkness.

Fortunately, there are relatively simple precautions, which when taken will reduce the odds of an intruder victimizing you and your home in your absence. Most of these are common-sense measures.

First in my mind is to establish friendly relationships with neighbors and enter into a mutual agreement to keep an eye on one another’s property.

Fortunately for Heights residents, the Harker Heights Police Department has established a citizen’s patrol program wherein Heights citizens patrol city neighborhoods and report suspicious activity to patrol officers for investigation. These are extra eyes for the police department. You watching out for your neighbor and reporting suspicious activity are yet another.

The police department also has a house watch program in effect, available to all residents as time and circumstances permit. The city website has all the details.

First and foremost, lock windows and doors whenever you leave your residence, regardless of the length of time you plan to be away. Gone are the days when citizens put total trust in the local population and left doors unlocked and open. Doing so today is an open invitation to a thief to make a regretful victim of you. Apathy on the part of the homeowner is a valuable asset to a thief.

Never leave easily snatched valuables such as jewelry, money, purses or wallets in plain view through a window. Keep these things in your possession or secured in a safe or lockable piece of furniture. Failing to do this would tempt thieves who might have passed up your home for an easier target. It takes mere seconds to break a window and grab your valuables.

Never tell a stranger your daily routine or mention anything about valuables left in your home. Even professional service providers should never be told when you will be away from your residence.

Caution children in the home not to discuss vacation plans, particularly dates of departure and return with anyone. Posting itinerary information on social media is another irresistible invitation to a burglar.

Making your home appear to be occupied at all times is a major deterrent to burglars.

Use random timers on lights. On checking your residence as a potential target, any thief worth his salt will notice repetitive timers being employed. A radio, also on a random timer, should be played sufficiently loud as to be heard outside the residence.

Never leave notes on doors for any reason. These are a certain indicator the residence is vacant. A porch light left on during daylight hours gives the same message. Outside lights should be on a dusk-to-dawn sensor. These are available at low cost in any home improvement store.

Stop newspaper and mail delivery while you are away, or ask a trusted friend or neighbor to pick up and save these items for you when you return. Nothing says “no one home” like a stack of newspapers in the driveway or an overstuffed mailbox, even to a casual passerby.

The average burglar will spend little more than five minutes trying to break into a home. Keep your property safe by making your home a very inconvenient target.

John Vander Werff is a 30-year veteran of law enforcement, with a decade in city and county law enforcement and 20 years with state police.

John Vander Werff is a 30-year veteran of law enforcement and a Copperas Cove resident.​

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