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Protect your home and car from holiday thieves
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

You may not want to, but you should shovel your driveway, or ask someone to if you cannot: burglars are watching.

Earlier this year, Salt Lake City Police Detective Cody Lougy shared that tip with a room full of residents at a Yalecrest community council meeting: Thieves are looking for driveways that are not shoveled to figure out who is not home. His is just one piece of advice that can help keep the bad guys out and your possessions — including those precious presents — in, at a time of year when burglary spikes.

"There are people watching, unfortunately, that are waiting for you to go with an armload of packages, drop them in your car and then walk away," Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank says in the latest Chief's Message, a monthly video spotlighting a certain kind of crime. This month's — holiday theft — was released Tuesday and taped at The Gateway mall, full of shoppers.

Shoppers can be distracted and inadvertently leave their car doors unlocked, so Detective Brett Olsen — also in the video — urged people to keep gifts out of sight from any passer-by, even at home.

"These are crimes of opportunity, and if the criminals see any opportunity where they have the chance to go and grab a gift that you've left there in your car, they're going to take it," Olsen said. "Don't leave those packages right there underneath the windows so that everybody can see that you have gifts there for the taking."

Essentially, the police's message is to not make life easy for the would-be burglars. Particularly at this time of year, more people are prone to leave their cars running and unattended so that they can warm up — which is poor timing, because this is also the time of year when the police see a spike in car prowls. Not only is the car a target for an opportunistic thief, idling is against the law.

The police urge everyone to not leave garage doors open — even when you are home. Also, lock your doors, keep valuables out of sight and make sure your home does not look vacant.

"Lighting is important, as well as even leaving a radio on occasionally," Burbank said. "We want to be conscious of how much energy we use, but we also want to make sure that people believe that we're coming and going and that somebody's home."

In the same vein, the police advise that you stop your mail or newspaper deliveries or arrange for a neighbor to pick them up while you're out of town. At the Yalecrest council meeting, Lougy also advised that people should get safes that are three times bigger than what they think they need; otherwise, if the safe is lightweight enough, a burglar can carry it out and crack it later.

But Burbank emphasized that he is not talking about becoming paranoid.

"We want to enjoy the holidays," the police chief said. "Just be aware … pay a little extra attention. As you travel, let your [trusted] neighbors know."

Don Malaup knows just what Burbank means. He returned from a trip in September to find his television stolen from his Sugar House home. Even though the burglar had apparently unplugged Malaup's indoor security camera, which only caught an indistinct, ghostly image of the burglar beforehand, one of Malaup's neighbors saw the whole thing — including the burglar leaving with Malaup's TV.

Police arrested the burglar a month later.

"You feel violated, and it's really scary, but we kind of have something to be thankful for," he said, grateful that the burglar did not take anything sentimental.

Since the break-in, Malaup installed more locks and improved his electronic security, including some loud alarms. Next time someone tries to burglarize his house, "it's going to sound like the Fourth of July."

But his biggest takeaway and message to anyone else was to be diligent in telling your trustworthy neighbors about when you are not going to be home.

mmcfall@sltrib.com

Twitter: @mikeypanda —

Protect your property

If you cannot be home to receive deliveries, ship to a work address or have a neighbor remove packages from your porch and keep them safe.

Stop your mail or newspaper or arrange for a neighbor to pick it up while you're out of town.

Leave your lights, TV and/or radio on at home when you are not there.

Do not leave valuables in plain sight or unattended in a car. While locking items in a trunk helps, it is a good idea to do so before arriving at your destination.

Thieves are watching for people who unload packages and continue shopping. If possible, consider moving your car to another parking level or spot between drop-offs.

For more tips, including a checklist of strategies to protect your home from burglary, visit slcpd.com.

Source: Salt Lake City Police Department

Crime • SLC police offer tips to keep your stuff safe from thieves.
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