Keep your home safe this holiday seasonYou have seen the headlines in local, regional and national papers —property crime is a nationwide concern. Hudson and the surrounding area is no exception.
By: Margaret Ontl, Hudson Star-Observer
You have seen the headlines in local, regional and national papers —property crime is a nationwide concern. Hudson and the surrounding area is no exception. While property crime has decreased in the county and remained stable in North Hudson, the city of Hudson has witnessed a steep increase between the statistics for 2008 and thus far in 2009.
“We have a fair amount of property crime in Hudson,” said Detective Sergeant Eric Atkinson of the Hudson Police Department “Even with the downturn in the economy we are still a fairly affluent community which makes us a target.”
Property crime includes burglaries, home and business, thefts of possessions and auto theft that includes the stealing of cars, buses or trucks.
“We are a safe community with little violent crime but we do have a concern regarding property crime,” said Atkinson.
In 2008 there were 50 burglaries in the city of Hudson so far this year there have been 100.
“I figured we would see an uptick in property crime with the economy,” said Atkinson. “More people are seeking illegal measures as ways to meet their needs.”
In North Hudson the picture is more stable. “We don’t seem to have the same issues with burglaries and car break-ins,” said North Hudson Police Chief Mark Richert. “Nothing that seems to be a rash of them, the number is about the same as last year.”
The county seems to be the exception according to St. Croix County Sheriff Dennis Hillstead. They have seen a decline since 2007, when they had 169 home burglaries and 446 thefts. In 2008 the county recorded 95 burglaries and 394 thefts and so far in 2009 there have been 84 home burglaries and 320 thefts.
“We have seen an increase in domestics, drunk driving and disorderly conduct instead,” said Hillstead. “It is almost the opposite of what I anticipated. Typically we would see 170 to 180 burglaries per year and 400 to 500 thefts.”
Burglaries involve the perpetrator entering a building. Thefts are anything that is stolen.
“You name it, it has been stolen,” said Hillstead, “From lawn tractors to farm equipment.”
The good news is that property crime can be prevented or solved by taking precautions, from getting to know your neighbors to installing a security system.
“Get to know your neighbors,” was the first suggestion from Hillstead. “It doesn’t have to be a formal neighborhood watch but if you get to know your neighbors, develop a certain amount of trust and learn the vehicles they drive it can go along ways toward home safety.”
In the rural areas mail and newspaper deliveries should be held. Garage doors should be closed when no one is home.
“Typically burglaries happen during the day, when they are just driving by,” said Hillstead. “Some of them may simply pull in the garage and shut the door behind them. Just a quick kick on the service door and they are in.”
“They are normally looking for electronics or cash,” continued Hillstead. “Most home invasions are drug related.” He recommends homes look like they are occupied with lights on timers. “Do not make it is easy for them to break in, for example, don’t leave a ladder up against a wall.”
“You should always have a man’s voice on your answering machine,” said Hillstead. “I know how that sounds but it is true, also it is a good idea not to include names on the recording especially last names, because they can just look them up.”
A universal tip from all three law enforcement agencies is to record the serial numbers of electronics and other valuable items.
“We are tied into the pawn shops throughout the metro area,” said Hillstead, and Atkinson agreed. “We have cleared up a lot of thefts that way.”
“We have a much better success rate of recover if we have the serial numbers,” said Atkinson.
Hillstead believes one of the reasons for a decrease in property crime in the county maybe the downturn in the housing industry.
“For a while, we had a number of thefts from construction sites,” said Hillstead. “Everything from tools to building materials were stolen.”
The St. Croix County Sheriff’s department provides primary law enforcement to over 60,000 of the counties’ residents, with only five deputies out at a time they patrol 24/7.
“We really need the public to be our eyes and ears,” said Hillstead. “We want you to call if you see something suspicious or a suspicious vehicle. Sometimes we begin to see a pattern. A number of cases have been solved because the public has tipped us off or been observant.”
Both North Hudson Police Chief Mark Richert and Hudson Police Detective Sergeant Eric Atkinson are proponents of security by environmental design, which can be done at anytime including when the home is being designed. From installing a security system to placement of landscaping, all of it can help prevent thieves from targeting property.
“Thieves are people of opportunity,” said Atkinson. “We call it target hardening, when you actively make your home safer.”
First and foremost, all of windows and doors including the garage service door should be locked. Windows should be covered, particularly in an area where there are a lot of electronics.
“If people keep their outside lights on at night it gives an officer driving by a good view,” said Richert.
“Even if we have street lights. It is difficult to see what’s happening in the shadows,” agreed Atkinson. “Keeping the bushes trimmed helps as well.”
Valuables from vehicles such as purses, GPS and laptops should be removed, making them less tempting.
Security systems can help as well. According to Todd Hess operations manager for Home Electronics Specialists, installing a system is easier than ever with the advent of wireless systems. Hess, a 1988 HHS graduate has been in the business for 15 years.
“It can be an inexpensive way to keep your home secure,” said Hess. A system would normally include two key pads one by the primary entrance, such as a mud room and a second one in the master bedroom. Once the system is set up, whether it is hardwired, most common in new construction or wireless for existing homes, it would include motion detection, glass breakage, perimeter door contacts that would alert you if a door was opened and it could include heat and smoke detectors.
Of course having a system is more effective if it is monitored, which means a means a monthly fee of around $20 depending on the provider.
If your system is not monitored, an audible alarm goes off but the down side is someone has to be in the vicinity to hear it.
“Monitoring service is relatively inexpensive,” said Hess. “The best way to keep it secure is to have it monitored, which means law enforcement or the fire department will be called immediately You can save on your home owner’s insurance by having a monitored system.”
“With the new wireless systems, they can be installed in five hours or less,” said Hess. “It is a real neat deal and it gives you peace of mind.”
Law enforcement officials agree that prevention measures make a difference.