Never Go Out to Dinner Without Doing This First, Police Say in New Warning
Take an extra step to keep yourself and your family protected.
If you forget to take the chicken out of the freezer or can't fathom a post-work trip to the grocery store, a night out to eat is always an option. Not only do you save time you would've spent cooking and cleaning, but you also enjoy the simple pleasure of being waited on at a restaurant. Perhaps you have a standing date night with your partner, or maybe you prefer to keep your family nights out more spur of the moment. But anytime you leave your home for evening plans, police say there's something crucial you need to do first. Read on to find out what authorities warn you should always do before going out to dinner.
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Your home is a common target for criminals.
While criminals will often target you in public places, some bad actors, unfortunately, target your home. Over the summer, Chicago Police issued a warning about a burglary scheme involving distraction tactics. According to police, criminals knock on a victim's door and ask about home repairs or water problems. A second suspect then enters the home, taking valuables, jewelry, and money, the police warned. A similar scheme involved thieves knocking on victims' doors while disguised as pest control workers, according to a press release from the Bradenton Police Department in Bradenton, Florida.
But now, criminals are hoping they won't have to interact with you at your home at all.
Thieves have identified an ideal time to break in.
On Nov. 6, the Palo Alto Police Department (PAPD) in California issued a warning about a new residential burglary trend. According to a press release, the department received 11 reports of burglaries since Oct. 9, where thieves were targeting "unoccupied homes during the dinnertime hours."
This is generally occurring at times and on days when homeowners are likely to be out to dinner or have other plans—between 7 and 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. In all cases, no residents were home when burglars broke in, police said.
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There have yet to be any arrests.
Burglars are entering homes by smashing glass doors in backyards, primarily sliders or French doors, Sgt. Brian Philip, of the PAPD, told NBC Bay Area. Suspects then go through rooms in the home "and appear to be focused on stealing jewelry and safes," police said.
According to Philip, burglars made off with a large haul from one home, stealing and entire safe "with nine firearms inside."
While no suspects have been arrested in connection to the robberies, Palo Alto police stated investigations are underway, and they're working alongside regional partners to explore connected incidents. Police also believe that "at least several of the cases" are the work of the same group of two to four suspects. Surveillance footage was captured at some homes, and police said that "suspects appear to be Hispanic males in their twenties, typically wearing hooded sweatshirts, face coverings, and gloves."
Surveillance footage has not been released to the public, per the press release, as suspects are not "readily identifiable."
Police are taking steps to make the community feel safe—and they ask that you do the same.
To combat this issue, the PAPD has increased its presence in residential areas, dispatching marked and plainclothes patrols. Authorities are asking for assistance from the community too, so if you see suspicious activity, be sure to report it to your local department.
You can be proactive in keeping your home safe as well. According to the press release, in some instances, alarm systems sounded when criminals smash glass doors, but other homes didn't have their systems armed—meaning the alarm sensors weren't active at the time of the break-in. Police stress that you should never leave your home without first arming your alarm system (if you have one installed). Considering recent events, take extra caution during the evening hours, and secure all windows and doors overnight. If you have a side gate to your yard, also ensure it's locked "to prevent easy unauthorized access to your property," police said.
Hidden spare keys can put you at risk too, and police say there are better ways to prepare for a situation where you're locked out of your home.
"As an alternative, consider leaving a spare house key with a trusted neighbor," Palo Alto police wrote.