Does Sharing Your Vacation Plans on the Internet Make you Burglar-Bait?

In May 2009 an Arizona man’s home was burglarized while he was on vacation. He suspects his updates to 2,000 followers on social media may have tipped off a burglar. In August 2010, vacation posts on Facebook were blamed for at least one burglary in Pennsylvania — possibly through posts from residents’ children. This past November, a Florida man was the victim of a burglary while away and wondered if his posts and photos on Facebook were to blame.

We really can’t know if these burglaries were due to social media, were completely random or if there were other possibilities. For example, did newspapers pile up outside the houses? Did they have a neighbor taking flyers off their front door each day? Did the residents broadcast their plans in other ways which may have tipped someone off? Had there been other burglaries in the area at homes where people were not on vacation and these were coincidence?

I once saw an instance where the neighbors of a couple who had taken a taxi to the airport saw the taxi driver return shortly after to burglarize the house. So anything can happen and probably has somewhere in the country.

It may not be possible to know why a particular burglary has occurred. But there are simple things you can do to avoid being a victim. To start, have someone pick up mail & papers and watch your house, use good locks and an alarm system, cut back shrubbery, use timers on lights.

Crime Prevention Tip: Take a walk around your block while trying to think like a burglar. Look for houses where you wouldn’t be seen if you kicked the front door in; houses that seem to advertise big-ticket items to steal; garage doors that are open; houses with flyers on the door or newspapers out front. Imagine trying to break into a house and how you would want to get in and out quickly. Is there a dog that you would be afraid of? Is there an alarm sign so you know the cops will be on their way?

Now look at your house. How does it compare? Do you have deadbolts on the doors and are they always locked? Are your windows secure? Is there an alarm? Would neighbors notice – and call – of there was a strange car in your driveway?

(Two good places for more-thorough lists are at Tempe PD and the National Crime Prevention Council)

The classic burglar needs to break into houses and steal items they can sell for drugs. This is due to heroin and other addictions. However, they are fundamentally lazy; so if there are obstacles at your house they will move on. These obstacles can be grouped as: hard to get into, hard to hide, hard to get away and alarms. Movie burglars are very savvy (except in Home Alone) and are not defeated by any “target hardening” measures. Real burglars are not sophisticated, dedicated or suave. They take the path of least resistance. If there is a dog or alarm, deadbolts and clear sight lines, then they will move on to another house. And real burglars probably aren’t on your Friends lists.

So will you be burglar bait if you tweet about a vacation or post it on Facebook? Probably not, as long as you don’t Friend addicts and burglars.

Share your thoughts and Stay safe,

Sgt. Mitchell

A tip of the LAPD Class A hat to David Bickford, of PhxRailFood and Twitter’s @ext2lef, for suggesting today’s topic.

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