Late yesterday afternoon I had a knock on my door. The clean-cut young man standing on the other side said he had recently graduated from college and had started a window cleaning business. I politely told him I wasn’t interested and closed the door. It never occurred to me that something might have been amiss, but Lt. Sean James of the Southborough Police Department told me the visit might not have been what it seemed.
Over the past month, Southborough has seen six home break-ins. James told a group of about 50 residents at a community meeting last night, the suspects are targeting homes when they know the residents aren’t there.
Police believe the criminals knock on the front door of a home. If someone answers, they pretend to be solicitors. If no one answers, they make their way around the side and back of the home looking for a way in. They may kick in a door, or break a window. Once inside they move quickly and are gone in a matter of minutes, James said.
Detective Sean McCarthy said they believe most of the break-ins are drug-related, committed by people who are stealing items to feed their habit. Chief Jane Moran said Southborough’s location along major commuter routes like Route 9 and Route 495 make it more attractive to these types of criminals.
“Addicts can hit a couple of houses on the way to work, then hit a couple on the way home,” she said.
Moran said she believes having more officers on the street would help prevent break-ins, but acknowledged it’s a hard case to make to taxpayers. “You can’t prove prevention,” she said.
I don’t know whether the young man who stopped by my home yesterday was a legitimate solicitor or not, but police said the most important thing is to call police if there’s anything suspicious. “The Southborough Police Department is open 365 days a year, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day,” James said.
“Call immediately,” McCarthy said. “If you call and say it happened last Tuesday, it’s hard to investigate.”
Here are some more tips police shared to keep your home and property safe.
- Lock your doors. McCarthy said in about one-third of the recent home break-ins, the doors were unlocked. Lock car doors to prevent vehicle break-ins, even when the cars are parked in your garage.
- If you have an alarm system, use it. In one recent break-in, James said the homeowners had an alarm but had not turned it on because they were concerned their dog would trip the motion sensors. Those homeowners lost thousands of dollars in possessions during the theft. James said an audible alarm is often enough to scare would-be burglars away.
- Keep valuables in a safe deposit box. When was the last time your wore Great-Aunt Edna’s emerald necklace? Instead of keeping it around the house, stash your jewelry and any other precious items in a safe deposit box.
- If you have a safe, bolt it to the floor. If you have a safe in your home, but it’s not secured to the floor, James said thieves will just take it with them and attempt to crack it at their leisure.
- Take photographs of your jewelry. Having pictures can help police match your items to those being pawned or otherwise offloaded.
- Write down the make, model, and serial number of your electronics. Having information to identify your electronics goes a long way to helping police recover them. It can also help link a suspect to the crime if they’re found with the stolen goods.
- Enable finding features on your portable electronic devices. Features like Apple’s Find My iPad/iPhone can be used by law enforcement to track down stolen electronics. Locator apps are also available for Droid devices.
- Don’t hide keys outside your home. Leave them with a trusted neighbor instead.
- Get organized. Residents in some Southborough neighborhoods have organized watch groups. Moran said while there’s no funding available to support such groups, the department is happy to help neighbors get set up.
- If you’re on vacation, let police know. The Southborough Police Department keeps a house check list. If you’re on vacation, let them know and patrols will go by your house every day and make sure it’s secure.
- Keep your eyes open. If you see someone walking around the side of your neighbor’s house and they don’t look like they have business there, or if you notice unfamiliar cars cruising the street, or if a solicitor comes to your door and it just doesn’t feel legit, call the Southborough Police Department immediately at 508-485-2121.