Property crime increases in summer months
The City of Somerville and Somerville Police Department remind residents to take precautions as summer weather warms up to protect their homes and bicycles from thieves.
Warmer summer months correlate with increased crime rates nationally and in Somerville. Residential breaking and enterings are generally elevated from June to October, as residents leave their windows open during warmer days, place air conditioning units that can be removed in windows or go on vacation. Meanwhile, almost half of all bike thefts in Somerville occur from June through August and almost 70 percent occur from June through September.
This year, about 85 percent of residential breaking and enterings in Somerville occur between the afternoon from noon to 6 p.m. and the early evening from 6 p.m. to midnight, evenly split between those two time frames. Ninety percent of afternoon breaking and enterings occur during a weekday while 55 percent occur during the weekend, usually on Saturdays. This departs from past trends, as breaking and enterings previously tended to be more afternoon and weekday oriented than they are currently.
Windows (46 percent) are currently slightly more popular than doors (40 percent) as an entry method for home break-ins. Approximately 64 percent of windows and 48 percent of doors were definitively described as “forced” in incident reports. In the case of windows, this also includes when a screen is cut or pried open to grant access to an unlocked window; in the case of doors, this includes any door forced open, including common doors to multi-unit homes that could then grant access to an unlocked apartment door.
For bike thefts, almost half of all bike thefts in Somerville occur from June through August, almost 70 percent from June through September. Thirty-four percent occurred from the front of a residence, with those stolen bikes left unattended for an average of 16 hours. Approximately 65 percent of thefts occurred in the evening or overnight (6 p.m. to 6 a.m.) and approximately 10 percent of bikes were taken while the owner was on vacation.
Three areas represent roughly half of all summer bike thefts in the city, starting with the Davis Square neighborhood, especially the Square itself. Twenty percent of thefts occurred in Davis Square proper, with most bikes taken between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. Thirty-five percent of bikes stolen from Davis Square were left for an extended period; on average stolen bikes were left unattended in this area for 22 hours. The other two areas with the highest reported bike thefts are Highland Avenue and adjacent streets from Lowell Street east; and Beacon Street and adjacent streets to Park Street, and Park Street from Beacon Street to Somerville Avenue.
Tips to protect homes can be found online at http://www.somervillepolice.org/index.php/143-burglary-prevention-for-the-summer, or below.
Steps to protect homes:
- Keep doors closed and locked, both front and back.
- If your home has an outer door to a common hallway, keep that door locked as well. Unlocked outer doors provide burglars the ability to break into inner doors to homes while out of sight of neighbors and police.
- Keep windows closed with latches closed too when the home is unoccupied. If windows are kept open for ventilation, keep them open no more than 4-6 inches, and make sure the opening is not wide enough to allow burglars to reach through to unlock a door or remove a window lock.
- Plastic window tabs will not deter a determined burglar. Locks plus a second system, such as wooden sticks or dowels between the window frame or a horizontal bar/cementer nails have the most preventative value.
- For horizontally sliding windows or sliding doors, wooden dowels or sticks can be used in the sliding tracks to prevent burglars from easily opening them from the outside.
- Leave a light or two turned on or on times when the home is unoccupied at night. In a sample of recent nighttime breaks when nobody was home at the time of the break, all respondents said the home was left in total darkness.
- If you have an alarm system, use it each time the home is unoccupied.
If you leave your home unoccupied for an extended period of time due to vacation:
- Get to know your neighbors and agree to watch each other’s home.
- Ask someone to pick up the mail, newspapers left on the front porch and put out the trash. Thieves can use overflowing mail box, trash barrels not put out or taken in and deliveries left in plain sight to target homes that are unoccupied.
- Ask a neighbor to park their car in your driveway.
- Use timers for lights, radios and televisions at night while you are away to make the home appear occupied.
- Use timers for outside lights to keep the home illuminated, both in front and back.
If residents want to upgrade home security, options include:
- Use a solid core or metal door at entrance points.
- Install a heavy-duty deadbolt lock.
- Install a knob-in-lock set that uses a dead latch mechanism.
- Install a heavy duty strike plate to prevent a burglar from kicking in the door.
- Windows generally have latches, not locks. Install secondary locking devices for windows, such as through the frame pins.
- Purchase a professionally installed alarm system that must include an audible horn or siren.
- Surveillance cameras are relatively inexpensive and not only act as a deterrent, but provide valuable evidence if a crime does occur. Many surveillance systems also provide the owner email notification when a camera detects motion.
To protect your possessions in case of a break-in:
- Register laptops and other valuable electronic items with Somerville’s Web-based Registry Anti-Theft Program (WRAP), available on the City’s website.
- Engrave your driver’s license number (and state) on televisions, stereos, computers and small electronic appliances.
- Photograph valuables, especially jewelry and electronics.
- Make a list of make, model, serial numbers and value of important items.
- Give a copy of this list to a relative or close friend.
- Talk to your insurance agent to make sure your valuables will be covered in the event of a theft.
Steps to protect your bike:
- Do not store your bike in front of your residence overnight.
- Do not store your bike in Davis Square for an extended period of time.
- Secure your bike, even in your backyard or on your back porch.
- Bikes should not be left unattended on vehicle racks.
What should you report to police?
- Someone who rings your bell and asks for someone who doesn’t live there. This person may be checking to see if anyone is home. Most house breakers will avoid a home that they know is occupied.
- Seeing a stranger walking in and out of yards.
- A strange car in the driveway of a home when you know the occupants are away.
- Never hesitate to call 911 if someone or something doesn’t look right. Trust your instinct. You and your neighbors are part of your neighborhood’s security network.
If you see something suspicious:
- Call 911 immediately.
- If your house is broken into, call police immediately and do not touch anything the criminal may have touched.
- Write down plate numbers of suspicious vehicles.