Lawrence County Sheriff Brad DeLay is offering tips to help area residents prevent thefts and burglaries during the holiday season.
"Every holiday season it seems that we see an increase in thefts and burglaries," DeLay said. "In order to prevent this type of activity, we offer some useful information in how to prevent thefts and what to do in the event burglars do strike."
* Make the home look occupied, and make it difficult to break into.
* Lock all outside doors and windows before leaving the house or going to bed.
* Leave lights on when absent for any length of time. Connect some lamps to automatic timers to turn them on in the evening and off during the day.
* Keep the garage door closed and locked.
* Check door and window locks and replace them if they are the push-button kind.
"Those types of locks are easy for burglars to open," DeLay said. "Install deadbolt locks on all outside doors.
"Sliding glass doors are vulnerable," DeLay continued. "Special locks are available for better security. Windows may also need better locks."
Outdoor furniture and fixtures should also be secured for the winter.
"Lawnmowers, barbecues and bicycles are best stored out of sight," DeLay said. "Curtains should be installed on garage doors and basement windows."
DeLay also said leaving notes, such as "Gone shopping" or "Back soon," are indicators to thieves the house is vacant.
Outside lighting can prove to be a deterrent to thieves.
"A motion-sensitive light is highly recommended for back yards," DeLay said. "Residents should trim trees and shrubs to minimize hiding spots for intruders. Make sure door hinges are on the inside of the frame, not exposed to the exterior."
Windows can be secured by drilling a 3/16th inch hole on a downward slant into the inside frame and halfway into the outside frame. Before placing a nail into the hole to secure the window.
"An alarm system is excellent for home security," DeLay said. "It provides peace of mind to homeowners, especially while they are on vacation."
There is a wide variety of alarm systems on the market, as well as several commercial companies who monitor the home from off site.
DeLay urges caution to residents returning home to find they have been the victim of a theft or burglary.
"If someone finds an unexplained open window or door, they should not enter the premises, but call their local law enforcement agency," DeLay said. "Victims of a crime should not touch anything or disturb evidence before officers have arrived at the scene and inspected for possible evidence."
DeLay said residents should write down the license plate number of any suspicious vehicles and descriptions of suspicious persons.
Other precautions include:
* Never leave a key under a doormat, flowerpot, mailbox or other secret hiding place. Burglars know where to look for them.
* Keep a detailed inventory of valuable possessions, including a description of the items, date of purchase, the original value and serial number. Keep the list in a safe place away from home. This is a good precaution to take in the event of fire or other disaster.
* Make a photographic or video record of all heirloom possessions, antiques and valuable objects. Most insurance companies can assist in making and keeping an up-to-date inventory.
* Be a good neighbor. Report anything suspicious to 911 immediately.
* Mark valuables by engraving a driver's license on them. Marked items are harder for a burglar to dispose and easier for law enforcement to recover.
* Form a Neighborhood Watch group. Law enforcement officials can assist in forming a watch group and make suggestions to improve security and reduce the risk of burglary.
To avoid having a vehicle broken in to, DeLay said keep valuables out of sight.
"GPS devices, laptops, cell phones, MP3 players and wallets all make tempting items for a thief," he said. "Those items should be removed from the vehicle or secured out of sight."
Other tips include:
* Do not leave the doors or sunroof open.
* Do not leave doors unlocked.
* Do not leave keys in the vehicle.
* Do not leave a garage door opener in plain view.
* Do not leave items with personal information in plain sight.
* Do not move valuable items from the vehicle to the trunk while in public view.
"These helpful suggestions might make the holidays a little safer for area residents," DeLay said.