Authorities, resident offer tips to avoid social media-savvy thieves

CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER

BURNET COUNTY — When Burnet resident Angela Smith goes out of town, she takes a couple of extra precautions in cyberspace as well as her home space to keep thieves off her Christmas list.

“I don’t share every move for the public. I would (post) usually only on special occasions,” Smith said. “We don’t usually post immediately.

A lot of times, we post (on Facebook) on the way back,” she added. “I’ve just always used caution.”

Authorities say social media surfers on trips should avoid “real-time” posting on networks, including Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram.

“Obviously, broadcasting the fact that a residence is going to be unoccupied for an extended period of time is a risky thing to do, particularly around the holidays when people have gifts around the house,” Marble Falls Police Sgt. Tom Dillard said. “That makes it pretty easy for thieves to figure out what kind of window they have to work with.

“Going out for the evening to an office party … and then, of course, for longer vacations, that window (for criminal opportunity) gets bigger and bigger,” he added. “I just hope everybody is mindful of the fact that not everyone in the world looks at the holidays as a time for peace on Earth and goodwill toward men.”

Also, authorities recommend residents find friends to monitor one’s property to keep thieves from practicing some “surveillance” of their own.

“Neighbors working together to help look after one another’s homes is an important thing to do for reports of suspicious activity,” Dillard said.

Smith said she relies on a network of good neighbors.

“There’s usually always family when we’re out of town,” she said. “They will come visit our property quite frequently.”

Authorities offered a few additional common-sense tips to avoid becoming a victim of property crime.

• Don’t allow packages to pile up on your front porch.

• Don’t keep wrapped packages in front windows.

• Don’t stack empty boxes from opened gifts at the curb.

• Keep doors, including garages and back doors, secure.

• Hide and secure valuables.

• Wait until arriving back home before posting photos on social media.

Smith recommended that, during the height of holiday mayhem, residents keep their valuables close and their family even closer.

“If it’s not the televisions, it’s social media,” she said. “We need to refocus on spending that time with our family and friends and our work and responsibilities rather than just being on the social media.”

connie@thepicayune.com

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