Experts offer advice to help keep your home safe during a vacation

By: Samantha Shriber | C&G Newspapers | Published June 21, 2017

METRO DETROIT — Vacation season has arrived, and the suitcases have finally been packed after a long winter. 

But before you walk out that door, is your largest investment as secure as your travel schedule? 

Lt. Eric Reincke, of the Clinton Township Police Department, said that one of law enforcement’s biggest concerns during the vacation season is breaking and entering. 

“There’s a pattern, and people take advantage of that,” he said.  

An unlit and unkempt appearance is a quick way to make a home attractive to intruders. Having mail and newspapers stopped or handled by a neighbor can help avoid a “telltale sign” that you’re absent, said Chief Daniel Roberts, of the Franklin-Bingham Farms Police Department. 

Some police departments offer vacation house checks for their community residents. 

The Franklin-Bingham Farms Police Department encourages residents to leave residency and contact information with the department before departing on vacation. 

Officers will stop by the home when available to check for window and door damage and other signs that the home has been tampered with. 

Actions as simple as keeping the lights on or putting up an alarm sign are said to keep a house out of harm’s way. 

“It’s no question that we are living in a technology world,” Reincke said, recommending that timed lights, alarm systems and security cameras could be worthwhile investments to deter a burglar. 

Deputy Chief Eric Keiser, of the Eastpointe Police Department, said that “obvious and not obvious security systems” are some of the best combinations to keep a household guarded. 

Signs that warn of ownership of an alarm system, security cameras or dogs can make a home less attractive to burglars, even if you do not actually own any of those things.

Reincke said an obstacle that the summer vacation season brings is that there is a lot more activity outside. Although leaving your home closed up in the heat is not ideal, it is better to “be proactive as opposed to reactive,” he said.

Keep windows and doors locked and completely shut, and place security bars into anything that slides or may be used as an entrance, both Reincke and Keiser said.

Take photographs of valuable belongings, such as jewelry and technology items, and record any serial numbers before leaving, Keiser said. 

Do not place valuable items in obvious places that a burglar could easily attain, he said.  For example, keep firearms in a locked cabinet that would be difficult to move, and put technology items in odd places. 

“The most helpful thing is having neighbors that have their eyes open and will call us in the face of suspicion,” Keiser said. 

“Neighbors know who belongs there and who doesn’t,” Roberts said. 

Leaving your contact information with a neighbor also could assist the fire department in the case of an emergency. 

For Chief Mike Holland, of the Roseville Fire Department, a common challenge with vacationers is that the department is unable to get a hold of anyone when disaster strikes, he said. 

“The most important thing is taking care of things beforehand,” Holland said. 

To avoid mishaps, leave emergency contact information with a neighbor, cut down rotting trees, turn off sprinkler systems and generally eliminate fire hazards from the home, he said. 

“It doesn’t matter if you’re gone for a couple of hours or two weeks; it only takes a minute for a fire to happen,” he said. 

Make sure to turn off all heat sources and take out the trash. It is important to have as few combustibles as possible in the home, he said. 

If you do not already do so regularly, clean out smoke detectors. 

“Spiders like to live up there and clog it up,” Holland said. 

In order to keep your vacation unknown to strangers, reserve making any social media posts until returning. Limit posting on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media outlets, Roberts said. 

“Posts can get shared,” Keiser said. “Post pictures up when you return home.” 

Although vacation season emphasizes the risk of leaving your home, destruction and invasion can happen at any time. 

“A very common method of breaking and entering actually happens in the daylight,” Keiser said. 

Intruders use knocking on the front door as a way to clarify that no one is home. Once this is proven, they will move on to kicking open a side door or breaking open a rear window with some sort of landscaping brick, he said. 

“People prepare better for going on vacations than going to work,” Holland said.