Think Like A Thief

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In more affluent neighborhoods, there can sometimes be a misconception that crime does not exist. But it most certainly does.

“If you were a crook where would you want to operate?” asked Ed Thompson, president of Bellringer Communications, Inc. in Southampton, during a phone interview from his East End home. “You wouldn’t be working areas of the Bronx, or low-income areas, you would want to work in areas that are more affluent.”

Mr. Thompson’s family has been in the alarm system business since 1917. He grew up installing and maintaining alarm systems for his family company, which was then based out of Brooklyn, before moving it to the East End in the 1950s.

“What a security system does is what my father used to do when we were kids,” Mr. Thompson said. “After we went away we would come home and my father would have to go into the house and check that it was safe.”

Now a homeowner just has to look at a smartphone, tablet, computer or keypad to know if his home is safe after traveling. But not all of the old-school methods are obsolete in the face of new technology though. Simple things, such as making sure someone picks up the newspapers during vacation time or keeping a light on, are effective ways to prevent becoming a target.

Additionally, maintaining the integrity of doors and windows goes a long way, according to Derek Wigmore, marketing coordinator of My Alarm Center, the parent company of Scan Security in Southampton.

“Something really simple is locking your doors and windows, and also making sure your doors and windows are properly maintained,” Mr. Wigmore said during a telephone interview last week. “If you have wood doors, make sure there is no rotting around the frames, make sure locks and deadbolts are in good shape and are not compromised or rusting.”

Common sense is one of the biggest deterrents to burglaries, according to Detective Chris Koltzan of the Suffolk County Police Department. Mr. Koltzan has been on the force for 18 years, and works out of the seventh precinct, where he said he deals with five to 10 burglaries a week. He recommends motion-detector lights for the sides and back of the home—one of the best, and simplest, security measures a homeowner can take, he said.

“The burglaries I go to, it’s always the back door, the back window,” Detective Koltzan said during a phone interview last week from his East Quogue home. “Go with the motion light. If you have security in the back of the house, it alerts people. More than prevention, you want to deter. They can break a window if they want to get in, but first deter, that is the most helpful.”

The two main things that Detective Koltzan has seen stolen recently in burglaries are electronics and copper.

To keep electronics safe, the veteran police officer said to use common sense. Don’t leave laptops in plain sight, have a place to put things such as iPads and computers, don’t just leave them sitting out in front of a window, he said.

When it comes to copper, thieves usually strike homes that are for sale or where the home looks unoccupied, he said. After copper hit nearly $5 a pound, Detective Koltzan said he started getting called to break-ins of criminals cutting copper pipes out of the basement, sometimes not even shutting the water off first, which then flooded the home.

“They come in with bolt cutters, cut out the baseboard heat, cut the pipes, ruined everything,” he said. “Over 50 pounds of copper, for them its 200 bucks, they cut it into sections that fit in a backpack and run.”

The detective also warned that daytime burglaries often frequently occur in beachside areas, such as the East End. Likely targets are places where there are no cars in the driveway, he said, adding that the invasions are frequently committed by people in the neighborhood who know the victims’ schedules.

“It’s very rare for someone to travel outside their comfort zone to do a burglary,” he said.

The officer advised that one of the best, and oldest, ways to deter criminals is having a dog. They are home all day long, and they bark at strangers, the officer said.

Home security systems are affordable and extremely advanced now, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Wigmore and Detective Koltzan agreed. According to Mr. Thompson, a central-station home security system provides much more than peace of mind for clients, it’s also a convenience and provides a system of checks and balances.

“When you have a security system … when they punch in the code you know the day, time and person who came in,” Mr. Thompson said.

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