You’re not the only one looking forward to the holiday gift-giving season–burglars are too. Vacant homes left empty by holiday travel or stocked with extra purchases as well as packages left on doorsteps provide increased opportunities for thieves.
According to FBI statistics, there were an estimated 1,515,096 burglaries in 2016. Residential properties accounted for nearly 70 percent of all burglary offenses and victims of burglary offenses suffered an estimated $3.6 billion in property losses in 2016. Some areas report higher rates in property crimes during the holidays, but there are ways—many of them simple—to help prevent you from becoming one of the statistics.
- Place a hold on mail and newspaper delivery service while you’re away.
- Leave a couple lights on, or better yet, have some set on timers.
- Turn to technology: Consider video doorbells and security cameras for surveillance as well as smart phone apps that allow you to remotely turn lights off and on.
- Alert a trusted neighbor to your absence and ask them to watch over your place when you’re away.
- Keep shrubbery trimmed to eliminate hiding places for criminals.
- Keep valuables and big purchases out of sight. For example, don’t leave the box to your new big screen sticking out of the trash in view of potential thieves.
- Most importantly, make sure all your doors are locked, even when you’re home. Thieves look for easy entry so don’t give it to them.
If you have a home alarm system, use it. If you don’t have one and would like to install one, DCA’s Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS) offers the following tips before purchasing:
- Ask for referrals from friends and family members who have had successful experiences with an alarm company.
- Verify that an alarm company, qualified manager or agent is licensed with the bureau before doing business with them.
- Use the “License Search” button on the bureau’s website or call (800) 952-5210.
- Get an estimate from more than one BSIS-licensed alarm company.
- The alarm company must give you a written contract. Be sure to read it.
Alarm system monitoring contracts may contain an automatic renewal clause: Effective January 1, 2017, consumers must be provided a written notice if the alarm contract presented to them includes an automatic renewal provision that renews the contract for a period of more than one month. Prior to signing the contract, the consumer must acknowledge receipt of the disclosure by signing or initialing it. For more information, download the bureau’s brochure, Consumer Guide to Alarm Companies.
Don’t count on the State to weed out the unlicensed burglar alarm companies for you. I’ve had them come to my door with slick sales tactics like how my yard sign looked weathered, or my cameras looked obsolete. Of the two salesmen and their supervisor, not one of them had their Alarm Agent credentials required by state law, just their company issued identifications. The supervisor said he had one, but it was back at the office. Most likely they’d been knocking on doors all day to sell systems, and it’s likely they left my house to go try some more. One of them defended his lack of credentials by stating that he wasn’t selling burglar alarms. Instead, he insisted that he was only promoting them. It’s likely that’s what he’d been told to say; next time I’ll have him draw up a contract or proposal before I ask for credentials.
Why should you care? Because this person you’re allowing into your home, you’re sharing your personal identification and possibly financial information with should at least have to pass a background check and prove they are who they say they are… shouldn’t they? Those state credentials are the proof that they’ve at least passed that measure of trustworthiness. Company photo IDs only prove they’ve been to Kinko’s. Even if you’re not buying from them, they need to know they aren’t going to get anyone’s business without the proper license and checks.
I filed a complaint with the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services. To my surprise, this licensee had a file full of complaints against them. At least I haven’t seen them in my neighborhood since their first visit.
Licensed California Alarm Company Operator.
This is why we always suggest consumers check the license before contracting with a service provider. We also regularly promote the tips contained in our “Consumer Guide to Alarm Companies” through social media and our consumer magazine. Thank you for the comment!