Easy tips for vacationers to thwart burglars

On May 11, Deborah May returned to her Duluth home after visiting her sister to find her back door pried open, her house ransacked, and her flat-screen television, laptop computer and digital camera gone.

"It was just an overwhelming feeling of violation and just feeling very insecure and very vulnerable," said May, a 29-year-old pediatric nurse.

Burglars had taken advantage of May's absence to break into her house on Brooke Farms Court and swipe expensive electronics. Now May can't help but wonder whether there's more she could have done to deter intruders and make it easier to track her stolen property.

Police say with the arrival of warmer weather comes an uptick in burglaries. But adding a few measures to your summer vacation checklist could save you a lot of heartache upon your return home, according to crime prevention experts.

One of the easiest ways to ward off burglars is to make it appear as if you are home, said Cobb County Police Officer Mike Bowman, who works with Neighborhood Watch groups.

That means taking some common-sense measures, such as stopping newspaper and mail deliveries, adding light timers indoors and out, and having neighbors take your trash cans off the curb.

Another precaution you may not have thought of is making sure not to post updates about your vacation plans on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

"You just don’t want that out in the public's eye," Bowman said. "We're trying to lessen the opportunity, not increase the opportunity.

Most police departments allow people to request that an officer check on their home when they're away. To set up a residence check, police first go through a checklist of questions with the resident to determine their departure and arrival dates, as well as who has a key and is allowed access to the home, Bowman said.

It's also a good idea to let a neighbor know you'll be gone, so he or she can keep an eye out for trouble.

According to FBI crime statistics, most residential burglaries occur between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., and the average cost per victim is $2,096.

You can minimize the impact of a burglary by backing up computer data and making a quick run through your home with a video recorder, listing valuables. That simple task makes it easier to remember what's missing when your home is in disarray and report stolen items to an insurer.

May said that since the burglary, she has become more mindful about locking her doors, closing her blinds and putting valuables out of sight.

"I think I might actually invest in an alarm system," May said. "Because even though it's a ground-level house and it's in a relatively safe neighborhood, obviously these things happen."