As anyone who has been victimized by a robber or burglar knows, there are few feelings as disturbing as the sense of loss and violation that accompanies having your personal possessions stolen. The bad news is that while the police always take these crimes seriously, resources are limited and your loss of items worth $50, $500, or even $5,000 is not likely to trigger a huge police manhunt. The good news is that modern communications technologies are making it more and more possible to carry out an effective search for your stolen items.
Before You’re Burgled
Hindsight is 20-20, of course. But although it’s not possible for you to know for sure when or if you’ll be burgled, you can still take common-sense steps ahead of time to increase the chances of getting your things back.
- Copy down serial numbers on electronics and similar devices.
- Take quality digital photographs of high-value items, as well as of items with great personal or sentimental value.
- Install or sign up for a discreet home security system with video surveillance capability.
In The Aftermath
- File a police report immediately upon discovering your victimization. Not the next day, not the next week – right away.
- Start visiting the pawn shops in your area. Despite laws to discourage it, pawn shops are often the fences of first resort, especially for novice criminals. If you find your stuff, don’t try to buy it back or confront the pawn shop workers; ask the shop to hold it for you and then call the cops.
- Follow up at least weekly with the local police to see if their investigation has made progress.
In The Long Term
- Work your social network. Post pictures of the missing item(s) and ask your friends (especially those in geographical proximity) to keep an eye out for items for sale matching yours.
- Check eBay, Craigslist and Backpage daily. These sales sites have become the fences of first resort for the NON-novice thief, because they are difficult to track and the volume of ads makes it easier to hide stolen property. If you spot your items for sale, again, do NOT try to get them back; call the cops. You’ll find a much warmer response from the police when you’ve already found the perpetrator for them.
- There are a number of web sites that facilitate the search for stolen goods. One good one is Stolen911.com, which does automated searches for your items on a variety of different sales sites. There are also specific sites that specialize in one type of stolen item, like StolenBicycleRegistry.com
You may or may not be able to get back what was taken from you, but if you play smart and keep an ear to the ground, you do have at least a chance of seeing some of your property again.
For millennia, people have made major investments in securing their homes and businesses against theft, intrusion, and other breaches. The security-minded have sought out stronger building materials, more secure locks, increased lighting; animals and men have been trained to guard, to ward off the inattentive or malicious stranger wandering onto a property. Walls and ditches, locks and bars – we have radically improved our ability to secure a building, and to keep our property and our loved ones safe, but for many years it has been a case of “more of the same” rather than major innovation. Even such developments as sensors and cameras aren’t really new; they are simply lower-cost replacements for guard dogs or security patrols.
The computer era, however, and especially the rise ubiquitous mobile computing, is letting security providers draw a new portrait of what security looks like. The motivations – the canvas – are the same: protect property from loss, protect household members from harm. What can be done on that canvas, however, is genuinely new. Just one device – the ever-more-common tablet computer – can serve as a nerve center for an interactive security system that a homeowner can maintain from inside the home, or from an office 20 miles away, or from the other side of the planet.
In the early 20th century, a John Rockefeller might have had a huge security staff in his mansion – but if a stranger appeared at the gate claiming urgent business while the master of the house was in Europe, there was nothing to do be done. Mr. Rockefeller couldn’t examine his credentials from London and instantaneously inform his guards that the man was an impostor, or a trusted friend – he was isolated and cut off. Today, however, an alert at a protected home can bring any and all information to the direct attention to the homeowner – who can cancel the alarm from Paris when he sees that it is the neighbor’s son, come to water the flowers on the porch as requested.
Home security systems are also likely to become hubs of genuine home automation. Long a staple of science-fiction and of exaggerated projections from futurists, home automation is finally reaching a level where the costs are readily affordable, and the benefits much easier to realize. When 10-year-olds have their own tablets and it no longer requires a $10,000 basement server to keep the house systems in line, things like utility management, supply reordering, calendar and schedule updating, and child or pet tracking will become ubiquitous as well.
There may be some downsides to the coming innovations. Since this is a new world to most people, there are likely to be false starts, failed experiments, and expensive compromises that end up not working well. To a degree this is an inevitable part of technological process, but homeowners can minimize disruption and unnecessary cost by putting their home security and automation needs in the hands of a company with extensive experience and a large user base to keep per-unit costs down. ADT is now offering the Pulse system with a starting price of just $149, which includes door locks, climate and lighting control, remote arm and disarm, and remote secure video. Pulse operates using your existing PCs and compatible smartphones, as well as its own interactive data pad, and is an excellent foundation for a home security and automation suite to meet your needs into the future.
Each year, there are more than 2.15 million burglaries with the majority of home invasions occurring in the peak vacation months of July and August. Going on vacation can be one of the most relaxing things in the world, but before you depart, here are a few ideas to help keep intruders at bay while you’re on vacation.
Keep Your Home Well Lit – Place light timers inside your house to light up your house when it is dark out. Burglars tend to not flock to homes that are well lit and where they will be visible.
Trustworthy Neighbor- Ask a trustworthy neighbor or friend to keep an eye on your house while you’re away. Be sure to tell them if you are expecting any visitors over the course of your trip so that they can be aware.
Stop Delivery of Your Newspapers or Mail – Either put a hold on your mail and newspaper service, or have a neighbor collect them for you daily. A build up of mail or newspapers is a good indicator to burglars that you are on vacation. Another way to hide your mail is by getting a larger sized locked mailbox. This will ensure that your mail is not visible intruders.
Examine Your House Before You Leave- Make a checklist of all possible entrance paths for intruders and ensure that they are well locked and secured.
Hide All Valuables – Be sure to hide all of your valuables so that they are not visible from the windows. This way, intruders won’t have more of a reason to break in.
Security System – Homes without a monitored security alarm system are three times more likely to be burglarized or robbed than those with a monitored home security system. Nightwatch Protection is now offering a FREE home security system that will help keep your home protected even when you’re not on vacation.
Window Decals – Security system decals located on your front door is a great way to help scare off burglars.
Cameras – Weather it is a real camera, or a fake camera, if intruders think they will get caught, they will be less likely to break in.
Home Telephone – Don’t ever leave a voice mail message saying “We’re not home right now” or “We’re on vacation and won’t be back for a week.” This assures intruders that you won’t be home. Also, turn the ringer down on your house phone, or change it to 1 ring. If they can hear that no one is answering the phone, they will assume you are not home.
By following these helpful hints, you are on your way to a better protected home. These tips will help keep your stress levels down, so that you can fully enjoy your vacation.