The signs seem innocent enough. Posted in front yards, they read: “For Sale” or “For Rent.” But the burglars in our neighborhood seem to be getting a different message. To them, the sign says: “Easy Target.” Police officers who keep track of our neighborhood crime statistics say they need our help to catch these thieves.

Are these burglaries happening mostly in vacant homes or are they taking place in occupied homes, too?

We had two homes burglarized, one in August and one in November, that had for sale signs up in the yard. They took appliances, and usually that’s what you’ll find in the vacant homes because that’s all that’s there. We’ve found that with homes being built as well. What’s hard with those (and this is where neigbors need to be extra vigilant) is you have so many people coming and going and you don’t know who’s supposed to be there and who isn’t. But usually appliances shouldn’t be coming out of houses being built.

Are these thieves actually bold enough to tour the homes during an open house, or are they just peeking in windows?

I’ve never heard of anything specifically where that has happened. Usually at the open houses, you’ve got the Realtor there. I guess that’s always possible, but I don’t have anything to support that.

Is it against the law to wander around on private property?

You’ve got your mailman that walks through the yard and your meter reader, but if you’ve got somebody hanging out – a vagrant or something – then yes, we can issue criminal trespass warnings. Since you’ve got all those other people who are not going to stay there, just wander through, we can’t just arrest them. But if somebody calls us and says, ‘There’s a suspicious guy in a green jacket,’ then we have a reason to go talk to that person. When we get there, the guy in the green jacket might not be doing anything that gives us a reason to talk to him, but because we’ve gotten a call on him, we can. Most of the time they turn out to be perfectly legitimate, but anything that looks out of the ordinary, go ahead and call us and let us know what’s going on.

What if we see something that’s suspicious and call 911, and it turns out that the “suspect” is a real estate agent or friend of the owner?

If it turns out it’s just the real estate agent or a friend, then everything is OK. Hopefully the real estate agent or the owner will realize that we’re trying to make sure their property is safe and secure.

Do people every react negatively to their neighbors calling the police?

It does happen. We hear ‘I’m in my own house and you’re treating me like a criminal.’ It sometimes is not real pleasant, but most of the time people are pretty appreciative that someone is checking. One one of these [vacant home burglary] reports, it says when the detectives went out to talk to neighbors, they all said they saw the suspect vehicle, and they saw the flashlight moving about the house, but they thought it was the owners, so they did not call the police. And that’s normal – people think, ‘Well I’m not going to call because they’re going to think I’m crazy,’ but go ahead and call so we can get out there and figure out what’s going on.

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