Police report uptick in vacant home invasions

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published April 26, 2016

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SOUTHFIELD — Although crime in Southfield has been relatively quiet as of late, police said they are seeing an increase in home invasions at vacant or for-sale homes.

Chief Eric Hawkins said that even though the numbers of some crimes are decreasing, home invasions are on the rise.

“Our larcenies from auto — where cars are being left on blocks and broken into — they’re starting to kind of level out. We’re not seeing much of those,” Hawkins said at a community meeting recently. “Home invasions, though — that’s where we’re starting to see an uptick, and most of it is home invasions of unoccupied, vacant dwellings — usually these ones that are being renovated and being sold.”

Hawkins said thieves are pulling up in what look like work trucks and are stealing copper pipes and appliances left inside the homes. Deputy Chief Nick Loussia said criminals are targeting water heaters and furnaces.

Once police arrive at the crime scene, it’s usually too late, Hawkins said.

“A lot of times it’s happening at night, and when we get the call, (the thieves) are gone by the time the owners get there and discover the stuff missing,” Hawkins said.

However, there are some precautions that homeowners can take to try to deter theft. Residents should notify their neighbors of a change in the status of their home, police said.

“No. 1 is speaking to your neighbors and advising them to contact the police if there’s anything suspicious at your home, like a work truck that doesn’t belong, individuals walking around the exterior of the home,” Loussia said.

Tricking thieves into thinking somebody still lives at the home could also prevent them from targeting your property, Loussia said.

“Maintain signs of activity, making sure (the home) is being checked on and somebody is at the home frequently, making sure the lawn is mowed, leaves are raked, newspapers are brought in,” Loussia said. “Putting lights on timers so they go on at different times of the day and night, and set up motion sensor lights.”

Both Hawkins and Loussia said looking out for neighbors is a good way to try to prevent theft.

“Be a good neighbor. If you do see something suspicious, contact the police and have us investigate,” Loussia said.

The Southfield Police Department can be reached at (248) 796-5000.