RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Authorities say while it's no secret that property crime rises during the holiday season, there are things you can do to help avoid becoming a victim of a home burglary.
First, remember the scene of the crime could very well start on your smart phone or your computer. As social media continues to grow, so does how the 'bad guys' use it according to Lieutenant Rafael Gonzalez with the Richland County Sheriff's Department.
"I know you want to share information with friends and family, but don't post where you're going be and how long you're going to be there," said Lt. Gonzalez. "You'll be surprised how thieves can get on that social media website and find out, one, where you live at, who you are and how long you're going to be gone."
So Gonzalez says don't broadcast specifics. That includes "checking in" places on certain social media accounts. His second tip, come up with a plan. "Make a list, be ready for your trip, but also when you leave your home, you don't want to come to a home that's been burglarized for vandalized," said Lt. Gonzalez.
He says don't leave signs that show you're not around. "If your mail's not being checked, it's going to have an "over carry" of mail…and once they see 3 and 4 newspapers in the front yard they know that house is empty, so that's free game for the thief," said Lt. Gonzalez.
If you do not have someone who can check your mail for you, a spokesman with the United States Postal Service in Columbia says you can call 1-800-ASKUSPS or go to USPS.com to place a hold on your mail.
Lt. Gonzalez says timed lights are another good thief deterrent around the holidays. "Go to your local warehouse and get a little light [timer] where you can just put it where the lights come on every 30 minutes, every hour, in certain parts of the room [or house]," said Gonzalez. He adds the more movement that appears to be at your home, the better.
Lt. Gonzalez says even if you have a neighbor or friend check-up on your home, don't forget the Sheriff's Department can too. "It's a service we offer free of service because the last thing we want you to do is be away, out of town, enjoying your holidays and come back to a home that's been burglarized or something that's gone wrong at your home," he added.
Many city and county law enforcement around the Midlands offer free property checks. If you do sign up, deputies say don't forget to tell them if you will have someone else checking on your home, as well. "We definitely don't want to run into someone why we're checking your house and not know or not see it on our checklist," said Lt. Gonzalez.
For more contact the Richland County Sheriff's Department at (803) 576-3000 or visit http://www.rcsd.net/prog/propcheck.html.