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Leaving town? Safeguard home during the holidays

Going away for the holidays? Here are some safety tips for making sure your house does not fall victim to burglars.

Sure, you’re excited about your vacation, but don’t broadcast it.

“Make sure your kids know to be very careful who they talk to and tell of their plans,” said Laura Meltzer, public information officer for the Metropolitan Police Department. “While you may trust your friends, sometimes your friend will share that information whether willingly or inadvertently. … I would recommend not posting it (out-of-town plans) on there. … I’d hold off telling people until you get back, not sharing in real time but after the fact.”

An empty house is an inviting target. Don’t advertise that no one is home. Request that the post office stop your mail. Ask the newspaper to suspend delivery. Have a neighbor pick up random fliers and advertisements left on your doorstep.

Set timers so interior lights are going on and off at various times. Even leaving an interior light on 24/7 is an option.

“It’s always a good idea to have some lights on,” said Chrissie Coon, public information officer with the North Las Vegas Police Department. “If you don’t have the ability to get the timers … don’t want to spend money on the timers, I would err on the side of having lights left on than having everything left off. With that being said, if you can get the timers, it’s a good idea to set the timers so you have some things turn on, some turn off.”

Want a more high-tech solution? Invest in a motion-detector system that clicks on exterior lights. At the slightest movement, the front of your house will be flooded with light.

Have someone put out your garbage cans on trash collection day and relocate them after pickup. Tell your neighbor to park an extra car in your driveway now and then while you’re away, creating the illusion that your house is occupied.

Abandoned homes are conspicuous by their weeds and long grass. Be sure your lawn is kept trimmed, even if it means hiring a landscape company. Similarly, trim trees and shrubs so they can’t be used as hiding places by would-be intruders.

Burglars are getting bolder, risking being seen.

“We had a group of individuals going around in the northwest area … specifically driving through neighborhoods waiting for the homeowner to leave and then approaching the house and knocking on the door. If nobody answered, then they were looking for a way in … breaking into the property,” Meltzer said.

Leaving on a TV or a radio could cause the thieves to presume someone is still home, she said.

Hire a house sitter, making sure it’s someone you trust. Ask a conscientious relative to move in temporarily and handle everyday affairs — watering the plants, feeding the pets and picking up the newspapers. If that’s not possible, there are house-sitting services. This can be a pricey option.

Even if you have locks installed, patio doors can be a concern. How vulnerable are slider patio doors?

“They’re like any opening to your house,” said Keith Paul, spokesman for the Henderson Police Department. “Anybody who is definitely trying to get in can get in. The homeowner’s job is just to make it more difficult. … No. 1 is make sure they’re locked, and No. 2, I’d suggest investing in a security bar. You can pick them up at any of the hardware stores. They’re pretty inexpensive. People also take dowel rods and put them in the part down at the bottom, and then the door cannot open.”

He said for homeowners worried about the door being shattered, films are sold to thwart such attempts.

“People have also found some success in posting ‘Beware of Dog’ signs, even if you don’t have a dog, or alarm signage, indicating that you have a home burglary alarm regardless of whether or not you actually have one,” Coon said.

Her statement is backed up by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, which says most residential thieves stay away from houses posting security system signs.

Don’t undermine your own efforts. According to the Bureau of Justice, roughly 40 percent of household burglaries each year in the United States are committed with no forced entry. Burglars were able to walk, climb or crawl inside. In some cases, the owner left the key in the door.

If you come home to find an unexplained open or broken window or door, do not enter — the perpetrator may still be inside.

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at or 702-387-2949.