This summer, as HOA residents make plans to hit the shore or go visit relatives in faraway states, it's important to remember one thing as bags are packed and camping supplies loaded into the family car: Thieves never go on vacation. Summertime means long absences from home for many New Jersey residents, and that makes it an especially active time for thieves and other miscreants.
According to statistics provided by police departments across the state, the rate of thefts and burglaries increases significantly during July and August. "The thieves are just waiting for the right opportunity," says Detective Frank Prato of the Hamilton Police Department in Mercer County, adding that the key to coming home to an intact house is removing those opportunities and exercising some common sense.
First Steps in Security
There are plenty of ways to keep crooks at bay—some very simple, others more involved. If your community can make a concerted effort to police itself, and can establish a close relationship with local law enforcement, you're halfway there already.
"Developing a community watch program with your local police department is a great way to go," says Prato. He explains that in his district, he and a resident developed a neighborhood watch program that now includes over 600 members who meet once a month to discuss the best ways to protect the community and develop a better understanding of their surrounding neighborhoods. These meetings also offer a forum for residents to notify their fellow members of vacation plans.
"These programs work," Prato continues. "For example, there is another police officer who lives on my street. Last year, we had a number of car burglaries—even my car was broken into—so we got together as a neighborhood and decided to keep our outside lights on all night. We used low watt bulbs to save money—and you know what, there hasn't been a break-in since."