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Published 12:00am Sunday, July 31, 2011

Experts say you can reduce the chances of a thief targeting you

Sue Avery of Coal Grove and her husband, Sonny, went to a birthday party Monday night, but the real surprise was waiting on them when they got home.

“They broke in, took my safe. I had my rings in it, Mom’s rings in it. They took my husband’s wallet and credit cards. I have lived here 22 years and this has never happened before,” Avery said.

And she is not alone. Lawrence County Sheriff Jeff Lawless said his office has seen an increase in property crimes recently.

What can homeowners do to protect themselves?

What’s going on?

On Thursday, Lawrence County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a call in which a Chesapeake couple surprised burglars at their home. Two of the alleged burglars were apprehended shortly afterward in Huntington, W.Va.

Lawless said, from Rome Township to Pedro, his office has seen a rise in property crimes.

“We’re seeing it in all areas of the county,” Lawless said.

When the grand jury met earlier this month, 15 of the 25 people indicted were charged with property crimes.

Avery said in the last month there have been six break-ins or burglaries or attempts at such in her neighborhood.

“They tried to get into my neighbor’s basement and the alarm went off,” Avery said. “It’s not safe to be in your own home anymore.”

Ironton Police Chief Jim Carey said, so far this year, there haven’t been any more burglaries than last year in his city. Last year there were 65 reported burglaries in the city. As of the end of June this year, there were 32 reported burglaries. In 2009, there were 104 reported, Carey said.

Lawless said the items most likely to be taken are items that are easily sold or pawned such as electronics, jewelry and anything metal that can be scrapped. Elderly people are likely to have medication stolen.

But Lawless said he has seen thieves snatch about everything, from gemstones to, once, a set of giant pink curlers.


Carey said it is his experience that, while there are definitely more arrests made during the summer season, there is not a particular time when burglaries are more prevalent in his city.

Lawless said he thinks the economy has a lot to do with it. Plus, the sheriff said, drug addiction and property crimes are closely related.

“I think you could probably tie 90 percent of property crimes back to drug addiction,” Lawless said.

The devil you know

While most people think of strangers when they think of someone burgling their home, or taking their treasured possessions, Lawless said sometimes the criminal is a friend or relative or someone who knows the victim’s habits or household goods.

“At the home invasion Thursday (in Chesapeake), one of the people we arrested had been a friend of his and he knew what they had when he went there,” Lawless said.

People should be careful who they let inside the home, Carey said.

So what do you do?

As far as keeping a home from being burglarized to begin with, the key is making it as difficult as possible for thieves to break-in, Carey said.

“Burglars are interested in an easy target,” Carey said. “The harder it is to get in to the less likely (homeowners) are to be a victim.”

The police chief recommended having a solid core door and deadbolt locks. Locks on doorknobs can be unreliable. People should not rely on chains on the door to keep it shut, Carey said.

Homeowners with sliding glass doors should have a lock on them that requires a key, he said.

The chief also said people should keep their curtains drawn so that potential burglars cannot see what items are inside the house.

A few years ago in Ironton a woman sought out potential theft victims by looking in their windows, Carey said. The woman would walk the streets looking through windows for elderly people. Once she found them she would knock on the doors asking to use the bathroom. Once inside, she would steal things.

Lawless said valuables should be kept out of sight of visitors, in a room that is off-limits to everyone but the occupants.

Lawless also said lighting can be a deterrent to burglaries. Keeping the outside of homes well lit can make a burglar think twice.

Lawless said elderly people should not leave medication laying out in the open for people to see; medication should be kept in a cabinet or drawer, not out on the counter where it is easily seen and taken.

Carey recommended that people keep track of their valuables. Write down the serial number and model of valuable items. Otherwise, use an etching tool to mark the item with your initials or take pictures of the item.

One of the problems police run into is that they may recover stolen property, but they often can’t identify it, so it cannot be returned to an owner, Carey said.

Carey said that the police department is willing to speak to groups about what they can do you prevent burglaries. Anyone interested should call the IPD at (740) 532-2338.

Lawless said neighborhood watches are another way to reduce property crimes, with people watching out for each other and paying close attention to who is in their neighborhood and why.

And man’s best friend may indeed be man’s best friend. A dog can be a deterrent to burglars and thieves. Lawless said criminals may not be as concerned about being bitten as they are about being spotted once the dog begins to bark.

The knock at the door

Carey urged people to be cautious about who they allow into their homes.

Often a thief is someone who has come to the victim’s home under false pretenses but then steals items on the way out the door or returns later with a mental list of what they want to take.

If someone knocks on your door and claims to be with a certain company or agency, Carey recommends asking for identification and then calling that company to be sure they are who they say they are.

If someone comes to the door asking for help or to use a phone, don’t let the person inside, Carey said. Instead, make the phone call for the person while they wait outside.

If it happens to you

If a person comes home to find their residence burglarized, timing is everything, Carey said.

The sooner that crime is reported, the better the chances are that the police will find who is responsible.

However, Carey said anyone who finds burglars in their home should not confront them, but go to a neighbor’s home to report the crime while giving the burglars enough time to flee.

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