When Harry Wesse made a run to the grocery store to buy some snacks one Saturday afternoon, he didn't think that anyone would break into his Martinez home.
But when Wesse got back from his two-hour trip, he found that someone had stolen his prescribed medication for gallstone pancreatitis, a chronic illness.
"Someone pulled up to the house and let himself in the back door (and) stole my prescription drugs," said Wesse, a resident of Martinez for 25 years.
TIPS TO KEEP YOUR HOME SAFE
- Be sure to close and lock the garage door and also any storage shed or gates.
- Turn the ringer down on your telephone An unanswered telephone is a dead giveaway.
- Don't announce your plans to go out of town on your answering machine, but do let your neighbors and local law enforcement know.
- Give a neighbor you trust a spare key and a telephone number they can reach you at in case of an emergency.
- If you are going to be gone for an extended period of time, have someone mow your lawn or rake leaves so your house looks lived in.
Source: from the Columbia County Sheriff's office
After having his doctors rewrite his prescriptions to get the medication he needed, Wesse decided he would change a few things around the house.
"The whole thing was a nightmare," he said. "I don't leave the back door unlocked when I leave the house and the locks on all of the doors have been changed. Now, I hide my medication out-of-sight when I leave."
While many families are planning vacations and looking for ways to get out of the house this summer, burglars may be looking for ways to break in.
Capt. Bill Probus of the Columbia County Sheriff's Office has seen the number of residential burglaries rise in the past year. In Columbia County, the number rose from 53 in the second quarter (April - June) of last year to 60 during the same time this year .
"There is a slight increase (in residential burglaries) in 2002," Probus said. "Typically residential burglaries are going to occur in the daytime when people are at work and kids are at school or are doing other recreational activities.
"Plus in the daytime, people tend to be out of the house more. They're going on vacations or they may be out doing other recreational activities, which leaves the opportunity for the home to be burglarized."
Maj. Rick Whitaker - who has worked on investigations at the Columbia County Sheriff's Office for 21 years - , shared tips of how homeowners can protect their property when they are away from the house.
"Let a neighbor who you trust know when you will be out of town and have them look for any suspicious cars or activity at your house," Whitaker said. "The important thing is to make your home look as lived in as possible while you are away. If you're going to be away for a while, have someone cut your grass to make the house look lived in. Don't let newspapers pile up near the road. If you are going to be gone for an extended period of time, have neighbors pick up your newspapers or have the post office hold your mail."
While some people have home security systems, there are many less expensive things that people can do to protect their homes.
"It's good to have lights in your home on timers that will turn on while you are gone," Whitaker said. "In Columbia County, the sheriff's department offers a House Watch program. We have officers who patrol by the house several times a day and look for suspicious activity. The program does help to deter theft."
The Columbia County Sheriff's Office started the House Watch program in 1996 and has continued to expand the program.
"A resident can call and let dispatch (541-2800) know when he will be gone from home for several days and for how long, the location of his house and emergency contact numbers he can be reached at," Whitaker said. "We want to encourage people to use this service that we are able to provide. We have had lots of people use the program already... It just gives you a little added piece of security."
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