Newnan Pines organizing to stop burglaries

by Wes Mayer

In light of recent burglaries and entering automobiles cases, dozens of homeowners of the Newnan Pines subdivision off U.S. Highway 29 north of Newnan held a meeting in the Newnan County Club Tuesday.

Lt. Stephen Crook from the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office spoke at the meeting to introduce and help jump start a Neighborhood Watch program.

Crook presented a large list of tips for homeowners to follow to prevent burglaries and entering autos incidents in their neighborhood. The tips were meant to be preventative measures and make it more difficult for would-be burglars and thieves to commit crimes.

In Newnan Pines, he said, the burglaries have been unusual because the victims would report the crimes during the early hours of the day — usually, break-ins occur while the victim is at work, and they return home to find their home burglarized. In the neighborhood, though, the crimes occur overnight and most cases are crimes of opportunity, such as a car door being unlocked, Crook said.

At the meeting, Crook provided the statistics of 2013 for the neighborhood. From Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 of last year, the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office responded 211 times to the neighborhood — 92 of those were residential checks, dispatching deputies to patrol and check on the homes, 57 were to check on alarms, nine to check on a suspicious person or vehicle, six civil cases, five hangup calls, five welfare checks, an animal control, a discharge of firearm and others such as serving a warrant or assisting other agencies. Of these, there were three reported burglaries and 14 reported entering autos.

Because of the increased activity, the sheriff’s office will be patrolling the area more frequently and be on the lookout for any unusual suspicious activity, Crook said.

Crook then spoke about actions the homeowners can take to prevent burglaries and break ins — the best thing, he said, is getting to know one’s neighbors and looking out for one another. A neighborhood watch program is centered around homeowners being nosey and watching the neighborhood for suspicious activity.

“You can’t be paranoid, but you have to be cautious,” Crook said. “If unsure, call us.”

Crook said burglars often target the homes or vehicles they believe they can break into and leave in less than four minutes. He said if a homeowner takes steps to protect their property and make it harder to burglarize, offenders are not going to bother.

“They are looking for a soft target,” Crook said. “I am here to give you ideas on how to make your home a hard target.”

First, Crook said homeowners need to invest in more locks. Deadbolts should be installed, and utilized, on all exterior doors. Doors leading to the basement, from inside the home, should also have deadbolts, along with doors to the garage.

Spare keys should not be left in conspicuous places, he said — meaning under the floor mat, under a flower pot or fake rock, or on top of the door trim. Crook recommended placing any spare keys in plastic bags and hiding them under real rocks in the backyard or somewhere a little farther away.

Crook said it is a whole lot easier for a burglar to break in if they have a key.

Crook suggested homeowners always make sure their windows are closed and locked, even on the second floor. Blinds and curtains should also be placed on windows to make sure potential offenders can’t look inside homes when the owners are away. If a home has shrubs in front of the windows, they should be cut down below the window sill to prevent burglars from being able to look inside without being seen, Crook said.

For garage doors, Crook said it is best to keep them closed at all times unless the homeowner is actually outside and needs the garage door open. Leaving the garage door open often leads to potential offenders seeing what type of items a homeowner possesses. Same with the windows; it is best not to let a burglar scope out what they could steal.

Even homeowners who leave their garage door cracked to allow pets in and out should be careful, Crook added. A skinny burglar could squeeze his or her way through, and then they have privacy to look around and steal valuables.

Crook said any and all extra lighting is a good thing, and homeowners should invest in motion-sensored exterior lights. Inside the home, especially if the homeowner is away, lamps, radios or other electronics can be set up with timers to go on and turn off at certain times of the day.

“You want your house to have that ‘lived in’ appearance,” Crook said.

If a homeowner is away, Crook said, they should be sure to tell their neighbors, if they trust them, and stop their mail. The Coweta County Sheriff’s Office also provides a service of checking on a home daily if the owner is away — they just need to provide their travel and vehicle information, and be sure to tell the sheriff’s office when they return home.

Homeowners can also invest in an alarm system, Crook said, but they should make sure they are well maintained — that is, they won’t cause false alarms and passcodes aren’t given out to anyone. Alarms may go off accidentally, but homeowners should always be cautious just in case.

Of course, if a homeowner ever believes their life is threatened, and calling for emergency assistance is not an option, using a weapon to defend themselves is justifiable, Crook said.

“You have a right to protect your life and the life of your family,” Crook said.

Otherwise, if a homeowner hears or sees anything, they should report it to authorities and let them do their job, Crook said. Residents should try to get the best descriptions of suspects they can, but they shouldn’t themselves in harm’s way doing that.

Other suggestions Crook gave were to remove valuables from vehicles, especially GPS units. For GPS units, he suggested making the “home” address something other than your actual home, such as the nearby Walmart or the sheriff’s office — homeowners should be able to navigate to their home from there. Burglars will often steal GPS units, find the owner’s home address and burglarize it when they know they are away.

Inside the home, owners should document their valuables, such as jewelry and firearms. For this, the owners can videotape or photograph them and give information on their price and description — for insurance purposes. If they have a serial number, such as on a gun or certain jewelry, the owner should document it multiple times so it can be traced by investigators.

Crook gave those attending the meeting Neighborhood Watch stickers to post on their property, and he said signs will be placed at the entrance to the neighborhood.

For more information and tips given out by the National Sheriff’s Association, homeowners may visit usaonwatch.org.



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