October and the beginning of fall means the end of summer and the winding down of the busy vacation season.  It also means it is time to close up and winterize your seasonal properties.

We usually see an increase in thefts and burglaries countywide during these months and would like to offer some ideas to help protect and secure your property and belongings during the time that you may be away. A trip to or spending time at the “cabin” or seasonal residence can be the highlight of a vacation for the whole family. It is less fun to arrive and find that burglars have broken in while you were away during the winter months.

Seasonally occupied cabins are an attractive target for thieves since the owners are not likely to discover the crime until months have gone by with few clues left behind to investigate

• Lock up by securing doors and windows. This may seem like an obvious rule of security, but sometimes the most obvious rules are the ones we forget to follow. Make sure every door and window in your home is properly shut and locked. Use dead bolts and 2 or 3-point locking mechanisms. Often, burglars walk around a cabin they are thinking about breaking into and try the weak points to see if getting in is easy or difficult and time consuming. If a cabin feels like it is secure, many burglars just give up and move on while looking for more vulnerable targets.

• Avoid posting your whereabouts on social media. Some people post everything on Facebook. It is only natural that you would want to post a status on Facebook or social media about your wintertime vacation. You may want to think twice about this. You never know who may be searching and looking at your social media sites and you do not want strangers knowing that you are away.

• Put lights on a timer. Consider setting a few indoor lights on timers to help your residence look lived in even when you’re not there. There are many devices on the market to control both indoor and outdoor lighting using your homes Wi-Fi and a smart phone app that can be controlled from anywhere with an internet connection.

• Don’t leave a key. Having a spare house key is a must. However, it is crucial to be careful about where you store that key. Do not leave it in a fake rock or place it under your doormat because these are locations criminals will look. Instead, leave a key with a trusted friend or neighbor.  Then you will have it if you need it, but your key won’t end up in the wrong hands.

• Ask someone to pick up your mail or stop your mail. Ask a neighbor to pick up the mail or any packages that may be arriving while you are away. Mail and packages stacking up is a giveaway that the home is not occupied. You can also easily temporarily stop mail delivery on the U.S. Postal Service website. Thieves look for package deliveries and stacks of mail during this time of the year.

• Keep valuables out of sight. Go through each room to see if there are any valuable items that are out in the open. Even if these items can’t be seen directly from a window, you should find a safe place for them. If someone does break in to your residence, you don’t want to make it easy for them. Store your valuables in unexpected locations or, preferably, take them with you.

• Utilize a security or camera system. We recommend installing and maintaining a security system that is remotely monitored and reports to a monitoring company or our office. With today’s Wi-Fi and high-speed connections. the options are endless.  Indoor and outdoor cameras are becoming very popular and are inexpensive. They are also easy to install yourself to keep your home and property safe.  Some cameras use your homes Wi-Fi signal and are able to be monitored via your cell phone or tablet. We are often able to quickly identify suspects when these cameras are used. In some cases, solving crimes and charging suspects wouldn’t be possible without these images.

• Your absence will be obvious when snow begins to build up around your house. Hire or ask someone to plow the driveway, shovel the sidewalk and make tracks in the property if you going to be gone during the snowy months. This is an easy way to make your house look lived-in.

• Don’t leave expensive items in the open or in sight. Try to put things away in secured cabins, buildings or sheds.

• Be aware of your neighborhood and your neighbor’s house. If you see something that looks odd, report it. What may not seem like anything at the time may help with future investigations. You know your neighborhood the best and if you see something suspicious or out of place, it probably is. We would rather investigate something and find it to be okay than have a crime occur because it was overlooked.

You don’t have to be a victim of break-ins like this; we investigate far too many theft and burglaries that are easily preventable. By using all or some of these steps you can secure your property and ensure that it will be left in place upon your return.  

If you have specific questions that you would like answered in this column or in person, contact me anytime: e-mail tom.burch@co.cass.mn.us; call (218) 547-1424  or (800) 450-2677; or mail Cass County Sheriff’s Office, 303 Minnesota Ave W, P.O. Box 1119, Walker, MN 56484

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