Thieves may know when you’re away | SierraSun.com

Thieves may know when you’re away

Andrew Cristancho
Sierra Sun
Photo illustration by Dan Thrift/Sun News ServiceA pile of newspapers is an easy clue to burglars that you're not home.
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Many Tahoe-Truckee residents live in the area to get away from crimes commonly associated with more urban environments ” like burglary.

Nestled in a blanket of Sierra snow may inspire a feeling of blissful isolation, but the sense of isolation may disappear if a house remains vacant for too long. That’s something Tahoe-area residents should keep in mind when they leave for the holidays, authorities say.

“What tends to skew it up here is that Interstate 80 is running thorough,” Truckee Police Sgt. Dan Johnston said in a phone interview Monday.

Career burglars prepare just like any other professional: They do their homework, and they case the houses they are interested in, according to Johnston.

He said during the winter of 2002, a rash of about 30 burglaries was reported in Truckee’s Tahoe Donner subdivision. The burglars used a vacant home for their base of operations during the burglary raid.

He said so far in 2007 residents of Truckee have reported 51 burglaries. As Truckee’s population grows, so does the chance of burglary, he said. That’s true in the Tahoe Basin as well.

“Many of these people are down and out and looking for a place to stay,” said Placer County Sheriff Sgt. John Giovannini of criminals who look for homes that stay vacant for long periods of time. “What happens up here is there are a lot of second homes that are too obvious, with for-sale signs, and that are [unoccupied].”

Both the Truckee Police and Placer County Sheriff’s office said the best defense is an informal neighborhood watch.

“The police cannot be as effective without the community’s help,” Giovannini said.

Let a trusted neighbors know if you are leaving town for an extended period of time, Giovannini said. Exchange phone numbers and get to know your neighbor’s habits.

If something strange happens, you should report it to the police immediately he said.

Leaving a radio on, canceling your newspaper delivery and leaving interior lights on with timers can all be great deterrents to burglars looking for an empty house with valuables.

Truckee residents can also request to be added to a vacation check list, the Truckee sergeant said. The police department will not only conduct extra patrols around the vacant home but keep contact information on file in case the resident needs to contacted, he said.