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Sheriff's Corner: Protect your home and valuables from theft

As the seasons quickly change and we start preparing for winter, many of our residents head for warmer climates. I would like to offer some helpful reminders for those that go south for the winter to help secure properties and ensure that when they return things are in place as they left them. These reminders on what you can do to prevent criminal activity are also good for our residents who are here year-around.

While some of the following tips may seem simple, some are often overlooked. It is sometimes difficult to protect your home from professional thieves; however, most home burglaries are done by amateurs.

• Plan to “burglarize” yourself. You’ll discover any weaknesses in your security system that may have previously escaped your notice.

• Lock up your home, even if you go out only for a short time. Many burglars just walk in through an unlocked door or window.

• For the most effective alarm system, conceal all wiring. A professional burglar looks for places where he or she can disconnect the security system.

• Your house should appear occupied at all times. You can purchase inexpensive timers to switch lights and radios on and off when you’re not at home.

• Instead of keeping a spare key in a mailbox, under the doormat or on a nail behind the garage, think of a less obvious place to “hide” it.

• If you lose your keys, change the locks immediately.

• Don’t leave notes for service people or family members on the door. These act as a welcome mat for a burglar.

• Lighting can be the single most important change to make. If the entrances to your home are dark, consider installing lighting with a motion detector.

• Trees located near windows or shrubbery that might shield a burglar from view can be major flaws in your home-protection plan. Consider trimming up, pruning or removing trees that block a view.

Talk to your neighbors about any plans to leave the area or what to watch for at your residence. If you are leaving your home for a period of time, let a year-round neighbor know that you will be gone and what to expect at your residence.

We also request that you leave your contact information with a neighbor so that if we do respond to an incident at your residence we have a way of getting in contact with you.

Talk to your neighbors about suspicious people or strange cars you notice in your neighborhoods. If you observe something suspicious, attempt to write the license plate down or the make and model of the vehicle, as well as descriptions of passengers. If you can do it safely, take a photo with your cell phone. Even if something doesn’t appear suspicious at the time, make a note of it. It could be very helpful for law enforcement in the future.

The Cass County Sheriff’s Office participates in the Operation ID Program. Operation Identification is nationally recognized by law enforcement as a citizen’s burglary prevention program for use in the home or business. This program has existed for more than 30 years.

The Operation ID program allows law enforcement to detect, identify and return stolen or lost property to its rightful owner. The Operation ID program involves marking or engraving your property with an identifying number and displaying a window decal to discourage burglary and theft. Some agencies use your driver’s license as your identifying number and other agencies may assign a specific number for you. Avoid using your social security number.

There are three easy steps in participating in Operation ID:

• Mark property or valuables with an identifying mark. This may vary from agency to agency. Our identifying number uses our agency number (ORI) MN0110000, your initials and an assigned case number (ICR).

• Inventory your marked property on a form with descriptions including brand, model number and serial number. Keep it in a safe place and you can also file a copy with the sheriff’s office.

• Display the Operation ID decal on windows only after items one and two have been completed to show your participation in the program and to discourage burglary.

To keep your tools and other personal property easily identifiable in the event that they are stolen, it is very important to label them. The Cass County Sheriff’s Office recently investigated several area burglaries, one of which was several thousand tools from a construction trailer. The victim had his name written and engraved on all of the tools. The tools were located at three separate sites and were easily identifiable to law enforcement officers who were specifically looking for stolen property.

If the tools and equipment weren’t labeled so well, they could have been easily overlooked. This is a simple task that does take some time, but by labeling and inventorying items it can be easy to get your personal property back in the even that it is located when stolen.

You may want to consider a cabin security system. Security sensors on locks and windows, and sensors for flooding and fire can be installed. These systems can be operated from your smart phone or your home computer.

Heat and lights can also be controlled from these apps. If you have an alarm system with a faulty alarm that frequently goes off, get it fixed immediately and tell your neighbors that it’s been repaired. Many people ignore an alarm that goes off periodically.

Cass County does have an Alarm Permit Ordinance and you are required to register your alarm with the Cass County Sheriff’s Office. The annual alarm fee is $20. The Cass County Sheriff’s Office will respond to your residence or business for a report of an alarm. The sheriff’s office will respond for free to two false alarms per year. The third false alarm is $25 and it is another $25 for each false alarm after that. While responding to alarms the sheriff’s office will check the perimeter of the residence or buildings, including doors or windows. It is very important to identify a local key holder who can respond with keys and gain access into the residence to assist with checking any issues inside.

I hope these tips are useful. A bit of prevention is worth a lot of problems. If you want some additional ideas on a cabin or residence security, give us a call and we will show you the many options to give you peace of mind about your summer property.

Be safe.

(If you have specific questions that you would like answered in this column or in person, contact me using one of the following methods: email, call 218-547-1424 or 800-450-2677. By mail or in person: Cass County Sheriff’s Office, 303 Minnesota Ave. W., P.O. Box 1119, Walker, MN 56484.)