The Windham County Sheriff’s Office, in response to the Selectboard’s concern about the recent break-ins in the area, offers the following advice on what Vernon residents can do to protect their homes and valuables.

The discussion of home burglaries can be separated into two categories: Prevention/Deterrence and Capture. There are some very basic steps to take to deter thieves, the simplest being to lock all your doors and windows that are easily accessible when you are not home. Thieves will typically look for the easiest and safest target; locked entry points will cause them to move on. Other simple steps include keeping your blinds or shades drawn and expensive items out of sight as much as possible. If theives cannot see in or cannot see items worth stealing, they will likely move on. Outdoor lighting and landscaping can also be of great value in detering thieves. They are less likely to burglarize a home that is well lit because there is an increased risk of exposure or being caught in the act. If you have large shrubs or bushes near your windows or doorways, keep them trimmed and viewable from the roadway, Again, thieves do not want to be seen.

In the event that the locked doors and windows do not deter the thieves, there are some other simple steps that are cost effective. Make sure the locks on your doors are secure, even the strongest metal doors and doorknobs are useless if the latching mechanism is not fastened securely. When installing your door handles do not skimp on the screws that attach the latch to the doorframe, the tiny little screws that come with most latches can very easily be forced open. Instead, replace them with at least 1 ½ to 2 in screws, which are much more difficult to pry out.

Most hardware stores sell baby proofing items for windows that can allow the window to be opened a few inches for air flow but will not allow the window to open enough to allow a person to slip through. Also, if you have an outside screen, make sure they are latched to the window frame. The more thieves have to work at getting in, the more likely they will give up and leave. Finally, if you happen to own a dog whether it would attack an intruder or not is irrelevant, do not be afraid to put “Beware of Dog” stickers on your doors. This will help to scare off potential intruders.

Between prevention and capture lie home security systems and surveillance systems. Both products are great but can be costly. There are some less expensive systems on the market including wireless Internet cameras, trail cameras, and Internet-based security systems. Keep in mind that these items may scare off some thieves if they see the camera or hear the audible alarm from the security system, but their main focuses are to warn you someone is ALREADY in your home and to assist law enforcement with the capture of the thief.

This brings us to capture and recovery: Keeping a list of the expensive and valuable items in your home will assist law enforcement in catching the thief and recovering your personal belongings. It will also assist with any insurance claims. All stolen items that have an accurate description, value, as well as serial numbers or distinct markings are entered into a crime database by law enforcement. The purpose in this is if that item resurfaces somewhere, it will be flagged as stolen and law enforcement will be notified. Taking photographs of items is even better than a written description and is very valuable in the apprehension of the thief and recovery of the items.

In closing, although burglaries and break-ins happen and you want to be prepared, remember, above all, your home is your sanctuary. Find the common ground of prevention measures and capture measures that give you peace of mind, but do not leave you feeling imprisoned or fearful in your own home. It is also important to remember burglaries can happen anytime and to truly protect your home, it is important to secure it at night and anytime you are away. Law enforcement takes a much larger percentage of day time burglaries than night time simply because it is easier for the thief to get away with the crime at night. Not making it easy for the thief is the best thing you can do to deter a burglary.