Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Unoccupied homes can be enticing targets for criminals as many residents spend Christmas and New Year's elsewhere, possibly leaving new purchases inside.
To make sure you return to your dwelling just as you left it, Metro Police Officer Marcus Martin and Las Vegas Fire & Rescue spokesman Tim Szymanski offer these tips to those who won’t be home for the holidays.
Keep lawns clear
Police say it’s important to keep vegetation cut down so people have fewer places to hide. If the bushes are trimmed and the lawn ornaments are stowed away, neighbors will have an easier time spotting unusual activity around your house.
Remember what your parents used to say: “Lock the door behind me.” Locking doors may be an obvious tip, but police say there still are cases where people fail to lock their doors. Criminals are brazen, and they won’t hesitate to check to see if a door is unlocked — even when people are home.
Invest in an alarm
There are many inexpensive alarm systems available that can help deter potential thieves. Police recommend hooking up surveillance cameras, but even dummy cameras that don’t record video can be a strong deterrent if they are visible enough.
Lock the side gate
We all have a way of getting into our house if we forget our key, but while you’re away, make sure any side gates and the back door are locked. And don’t leave a key under the doormat.
Chat with your neighbors
Strong communities can help deter crime and thefts. If you’re heading out for the holidays, chat with trusted neighbors and let them know when you’ll be away. They’ll have an easier time spotting people who shouldn’t be at your home.
Close the blinds
Big windows are a great way to light your home with the desert sun, but they’re also a great way for someone to see what you have in your home. Close the blinds while you’re away so potential thieves won’t be tempted to break in and steal your big-screen TV.
Water the tree
Be sure to take down the Christmas tree before you leave, or at least give it plenty of water. Natural Christmas trees become drier after being cut down and can become a fire hazard if not properly watered. Also, be sure your tree is kept away from heat sources, like a fireplace or even a television set.