Lock your doors when you leave the house. But first, make friends with the nosiest neighbor on your block. Those steps, police officials told Lincoln Park residents on Wednesday evening, are your best shots at protecting your place from burglary.
In response to an uptick in near North Side burglaries, police officials and 43rd Ward Alderman Michele Smith held a meeting with community members to advise them on how to protect their homes. And the officers brought backup: four convicted burglars and one identity thief, who described how they target vulnerable homes.
Captain Mike Ryan, the executive officer of the 19th Police District, which encompasses the area directly north of Fullerton Avenue, told community members at the meeting that burglaries are among the neighborhood’s biggest concerns. When he asked the crowd if they had ever been victims of burglary, nearly one quarter of the 40 or so attendees raised their hands.
“We have nice homes here, we have people who work, we have nice things in those homes, so we have to protect them,” he said.
The panel of criminals, who are all in the final two years of their sentences, said breaking into an empty home in the dead of night is often easy, and it takes a skilled burglar no more than ten minutes to sweep through a house and be gone. All but one said not even an alarm system or a loyal family dog would deter them.
“I carry food with me. I’ll feed your dog,” one forty-two year old man who identified himself as Tim said. And as for the alarm, “if the alarm goes off, the [security company] calls the house first. No response, then they call the police, and it takes ten to twelve minute for them to get here.”
If your home is burglarized, the men said, common hiding places won’t usually protect your valuables.
“I check the master bedroom, closet, suit pockets...under the mattresses, under the lamps,” one said. And, “that safe you bought from Walmart? If you walked in with it, I could walk out with it just as easy.”
Officers shared a set of steps homeowners could take to protect themselves. Some of the highlights:
*Make friends with your neighbors, and agree to act nosy around them. That means keeping an eye out for strangers who look like potential intruders, and then talking to them.
*Lock the doors to your houses, apartments, and cars when you leave, even if you’ll only be gone for a few minutes. Several burglars said they canvas neighborhoods pretending to leave business flyers on front doors, when really they’re jiggling the knobs and checking the locks.
*Make sure your door and door frame fit each other and are made of a similar, strong material so your door can’t be kicked in. The same goes for window panes and frames.
*The busiest month for burglaries in the 18th and 19th Districts is December, because during the holiday season many people are travel ling out of town and storing expensive new merchandise in their homes.
*Don’t display expensive possessions near your windows, including your TV. Make sure they can’t be seen from the street.
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