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As people head off to distant places on summer vacation, an empty home can be inviting to burglars. Highland Lakes residents can put out the “unwelcome” mat with a click of a mouse or a phone call to their local law enforcement agency.

“There’s probably nothing that deters criminals more than seeing a patrol car in a neighborhood,” said Granite Shoals Police Capt. Chris Decker. “We offer our residents a close patrol service where, if they let us know when they’ll be gone, we’ll send a patrol car by their home, usually twice a day, to check on it. But we’re not the only department who does. I believe almost all the law enforcement agencies in the Burnet County area do.”

These vacation patrols are free to residents. The first step is to contact your local law enforcement agency. In Granite Shoals, residents can go online to learn how to set one up, which is basically emailing Decker at cmd.police@graniteshoals.org

Residents of incorporated cities should contact their police departments. Those living in the unincorporated areas of Burnet County may request a vacation watch through the Sheriff’s Office by filling out the online form or calling 512-756-8080. 

The Marble Falls Police Department offers a similar service to residents within the city limits.

“The process is actually quite simple. The resident needs to call the non-emergency line and request to speak to an officer regarding the matter,” MFPD Detective Thomas Broyles stated in an email. “Keep in mind, the officer will be gathering a lot of information to add to the call in an attempt to alleviate any misunderstandings or issues while they are gone.”

Check with Highland Lakes law enforcement agencies on the availability of vacation patrols:

Decker pointed out a number of other steps that people can take to keep their homes and property safe, whether or not they’re traveling.

Burglaries, he explained, are often crimes of opportunity in which the criminal seeks out easy targets, including residences where it’s obvious no one is home at the time.

“Use light timers; make it look like someone is home,” Decker said. “Next to an officer in the area, the light is a burglar’s worst enemy. They like to operate in the shadows.”

Decker recommended setting the timers to turn on lights at different times of the day and night to give the illusion that someone is home. However, if you’re scheduling a vacation watch, you should let the law enforcement agency know the timer’s schedule so an officer will not automatically assume it’s a burglar.

Other crime prevention tips include curtailing package deliveries or arranging for a neighbor to pick them up and putting a hold on your mail, Decker added.

Be sure to lock doors, both to homes and vehicles. Burglars walking a neighborhood will often try car doors to see if they’re unlocked.

“They’re looking for easy targets,” Decker reminded. “So make sure you lock your doors. And take anything of value into the house. If anyone has a firearm in their car or truck, please secure it in a residence and don’t leave it in your vehicle. Even if your car or truck is locked, if someone does break into it and finds that gun, they’re going to take it and you’ll probably never see it again.”

Highland Lakes residents also should remind out-of-town guests staying with them to lock their vehicle doors and bring in valuables. Visitors might think they’re safe from crime in a small town, but that’s not always the case.

“Out here, we do have an exceedingly low crime rate, but it does exist,” Decker warned.

daniel@thepicayune.com