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The Murfreesboro Post

Keep 'Grinches' from stealing Christmas

December 12, 2010

Residents can keep the "Grinches" from stealing Christmas presents by taking some precautions, suggested detectives from the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office.

Now is the season of more frequent break-ins because burglars know people buy Christmas presents and store the gifts under the Christmas tree, said Detective Steve Brown who investigates burglary cases. After Christmas, burglars target the new gifts.

"This is a job to these people (burglars) in what I would call opportunity crimes," Brown said. "You want to keep the opportunities away."

About 80 percent of burglars steal property from strangers, the detective said. Most home burglaries occur between 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. when the family is away from home.

"There's nothing personal to their business," Brown said. "All they want is your stuff."

Residents can protect their property the following ways:

- Hide Christmas presents throughout the house rather than placing gifts under the tree where the presents are easily accessible.

- Keep gifts and other valuables hidden in the house or in the trunk of cars. Valuables such as purses, cash, weapons, GPS's or laptop computers should not be in plain view in vehicles, especially if the vehicle is unlocked. Keep your vehicles locked.

To protect yourself in case of burglaries, Detective Capt. Larry Pace suggested taking photographs or videotape of valuable property in the home and recording the serial number of electronics, computers and other equipment.

Brown said many burglars pawn or fence the property or try to sell it online on sites such as Craig's List. Detectives routinely check pawn shops and online for stolen property.

"Recording of serial numbers is essential to computer checks of stolen property," Brown said. "Without a serial number, we can't prove this property belongs to you."

Having a photograph or videotape can help detectives recover stolen property from pawn shops and other sources.

Brown suggested homeowners may consider investing in hidden surveillance cameras installed to record burglars entering a home. Prices range from $160 to $600 and higher.

"As technology progresses, people realize these commercial products are available for the consumer," Brown said. "Cameras give a witness inside your home when you're not there."

Audible alarms should be installed outside the home so neighbors can hear the warning and call the sheriff's office. Witnesses should call the sheriff's office at 898-7770 if they observe suspicious people or vehicles at a neighbor's home and try to obtain a description of the person and vehicle and license plate number. A deputy will check the person to determine if they belong at the home.

When school is out for the Christmas holidays, crimes committed by juveniles increase, the detective said. People who see juveniles prowling at homes should notify the sheriff's office immediately for a check by deputies.

Another way residents can be attentive is not to program their home in their GPS inside a vehicle. A stolen GPS with the home directions simply guides a burglar to the home. Brown suggested listing another street nearby in the home directions.

"People need to be vigilant," Brown said. "I just can't stress enough -- protect your assets."

Record valuables online

During the holiday season, reports of vehicle and residential burglaries traditionally increase.

In an effort to combat this increase, the Murfreesboro Police Department recommends citizens utilize a free online inventory system operated by Leads Online.

The "Report It" system is an online service that allows people to record serial numbers and images of jewelry, electronics, and any other valuables.

Should those items ever be stolen, the information is easily available to give to law enforcement investigators.

MPD has utilized Leads Online for almost five years resulting in many successes using the system.

Investigators have recovered thousands of dollars in stolen property including a case of stolen antique musical instruments valued at $17,000.

In that case, using the Leads Online system, detectives were able to identify and return the stolen items to the owner as well as prosecute the case, which resulted in jail time for the thief.

Citizens can store an unlimited number of serial numbers, item descriptions, and pictures, so items may be more easily identified in the event of theft.

This record may also be useful when filing claims with insurance providers.

The "Report It" service is a part of Leads Online, an online system that works with law enforcement agencies across the country to track and recover stolen property.

The system allows detectives to search for items using a variety of parameters, including item descriptions and serial numbers.

When an item is sold to a pawn or secondhand shop, the product information is entered in the Leads Online database and is immediately viewable by law enforcement agencies across the country, meaning crimes may be solved quicker and more efficiently.

The system, compatible with the National Crime Information Center (N.C.I.C.), serves as an efficient and money-saving resource for detectives because it provides a cross-jurisdictional, instantaneous and accurate database that stops criminals from escaping detection by selling stolen items in another jurisdiction.

Leads Online, an official eBay partner, helps prevent illegal transactions on the eBay website by giving law enforcement access to the world's largest online marketplace through automatic upload of all eBay transactions into its database.

Citizens wanting to participate in "Report It" can register for the free service at reportit.leadsonline.com and begin building their personal property inventory list.

For more information concerning "Report it" or for other crime prevention services, contact the Murfreesboro Police Department at 895-3874.

For more information on LeadsOnline call (800) 311-2656

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