Aurora -- With the year-end holidays coming up, Police Chief Seth Riewaldt has offered some safety tips for residents.
Riewaldt said there is generally a high rate of break-ins at Christmas.
"We encourage people to cut up large cardboard boxes for items like TVs, computers, home theaters and sound systems," he said. "If someone puts a cardboard box on their tree lawn for a 56-inch flat screen TV, it's like advertising to burglars that you just got a present. Gifts are easy to locate. People wrap them and put them under a tree. Burglars can grab them and go."
He also reminds residents to lock doors, turn on lights, pick up mail, set an alarm if there is one, tell a trusted neighbor about travel plans, lock vehicles in the driveway and do not leave valuables in plain sight. Instead, put them in the trunk.
"We remind people that we have a vacation watch program," he said. "If they're leaving for a long holiday weekend, give us a call and we'll keep an eye on their house."
Riewaldt spoke to the Aurora Advocate after two break-ins were reported on the evening of Nov. 16 on West Parkway Boulevard.
Rebecca Faulk of West Parkway Boulevard told City Council on Nov. 19 that her home was one of the ones broken into at the Lakes of Aurora. She said the lack of communication between police and residents regarding the incident was "unnerving." She suggested that a message could have been sent to the surrounding homeowners as a warning and possible preventative measure. She said there was a pattern with the burglaries that could have been communicated.
Alisa Jeras, also of West Parkway Boulevard, said her home was broken into and vandalized.
SHE SAID she was also disappointed with the lack of communication between police and residents about the burglaries. She asked what safety measures exist in the city and how her family can feel safe.
As the meeting was ending, Mayor James Fisher said he would meet with Riewaldt the next morning to discuss the burglaries.
After the meeting with Fisher, Riewaldt said police increased patrols in all neighborhoods in the city, and a telephone safety message was sent to residents alerting them that as the Thanksgiving holiday weekend approached and about 90 percent of Americans were traveling, more homes were unoccupied and break-ins were more likely.
"Occasionally, there are burglaries," Riewaldt said. "I wouldn't say frequently, but burglaries happen. The fact that there were two so close by on the same night really caused a concern. Normally, we have single break-ins, but at times we've had houses on the same street burglarized. It doesn't mean it is a crime wave, but some burglar took the opportunity to hit two houses on the same street."
Riewaldt said burglaries are "among the most intrusive crimes. Someone is in your house. That's your private area. That's very emotional."
He said one of the residents who spoke about the break-ins at the Nov. 19 Council meeting "commented about their children not wanting to sleep in the house."
"That's not uncommon. It's very real," he added. "I would never discount those feelings."
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