How to protect your valuables, and 3 reasons the Seahawks will win the next Super Bowl

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJune 29, 2014 

I admit I don't have three reasons why the Seahawks will win the Super Bowl again, other than they're a heck of a team. But I figured putting the Seahawks in the headline would get you to look at this story, and after all, what's more important - seeing Seattle win another title, or increasing the likelihood you won't come home after vacation and find your personal property stolen?

It's summer, when many people leave for travel vacations. The Seahawks are taking a break, too, so it's a good time to make your home more burglar-resistant before you hit the road or fly away.

Full disclosure: I assumed residential burglaries would skyrocket during the summer. That's not always the case, at least in Bellingham. Neighborhood statistics show no big bump in summertime residential burglaries over the past several years. Still, it's smart to be safe anytime of the year.

However vehicle prowls are more likely to jump during the summer. John Courtney, crime prevention officer at Bellingham Police Department, said many break-ins occur at trailheads, when hikers leave valuables in their vehicle while enjoying the great outdoors (which are not so great when they return to find their property gone).

Courtney said there's no way to guarantee you won't be the victim of a burglary, but common-sense precautions can tip the odds in your favor. Helpful steps include:

Use your locks: More than half of vehicle prowls and residential burglaries involve doors or windows left open or unlocked, Courtney said. Sometimes people forget to lock up or think they'll be gone just a short time and don't need to. Sometimes they pay the price.

Turn on outside lights: Anonymity is a thief's best friend, so let the light shine by your doors, decks and patios. Motion-sensitive lights can help, if the burglar can't readily unscrew the bulbs.

Know thy neighbors: Whether by casual contact, friendships or Block Watch membership, it helps when neighbors know each other enough to watch and listen for questionable goings-on where they live.

"If they see any suspicious activity or people or vehicles, call 911," Courtney said.

Don't tempt thieves: When using your vehicle, leave valuables at home or stowed in the trunk. If you have to put items in the trunk while in public, make sure no one is watching.

Keep your home looking lived-in: Before you leave for vacation, make sure your mail, newspapers and deliveries don't pile up during your absence. If you don't have a neighbor or friend to collect them, put a temporary stop on your mail and newspapers.

If you will be gone a long time, have someone mow your lawn.

Have a friend turn your inside lights on at night, varying the pattern. If that's not feasible, use light timers, or look into apps that let you control your lights from afar.

If you can, have a friend move your car while you're away, rather than have it sit in the driveway for days or weeks on end.

Don't be too social in the media. Announcing vacations on social media can be fun, as is posting photos from the beach. But doing so might let unscrupulous people know you're gone. Try to wait until you return before you share your vacation photos online.

Courtney said people might check out nextdoor.com, where people can register to receive news, comments and crime alerts from other people in your neighborhood.

Let the police help you: Bellingham police and other law agencies promote crime prevention by, for example, supporting Block Watch groups and senior volunteers who check on homes when owners are on vacation. Call your local police agency to learn what's available.

FIGHT CRIME

- Bellingham vacationers can have a senior volunteer check their home while they're away. Call the Bellingham Police Department: 360-778-8622.

- To join or start a Block Watch group in Bellingham, contact John Courtney, 360-778-8657 or jcourtney@cob.org.

- Attend an event for National Night Out Against Crime, Aug. 5. Police agencies, businesses and neighborhood groups in Bellingham will hold numerous events, including barbecues, ice cream socials and neighborhood cookouts. For details, contact Courtney.

Reach Dean Kahn at 360-715-2291 or dean.kahn@bellinghamherald.com .

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