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Capitalizing on Carelessness

River Falls residents report burglaries.

The arrival of spring is a chance to open the windows, work in the yard or garden or sit on the porch.

But those spring activities and a lack of vigilance when the weather turns warm are an opening to burglars.

Residents of River Falls have noticed several suspicious incidents recently, including thieves taking things from cars and an apparent burglar trying to enter a home through an open garage.

Montgomery County Police spokesman Derek Baliles said that only one incident in that neighborhood has been reported to the department — a garage burglary three weeks ago.

“Its just too tempting for some people when they’re in a neighborhood and they see garage doors open and nice things inside,” Baliles said. He noted that leaving a garage door open is particularly problematic because even if the entrance to the house’s interior is locked, the garage may be full of tools that a burglar could use to gain entry. Garages also provide cover for burglars to do their work without being spotted.

Open windows pose similar problems. Baliles reminded citizens that burglaries can take place in just a few minutes and that burglars often rely on distraction schemes to buy the small amount of time needed to complete a theft.

“We want people to think like burglars think,” he said, and to report neighborhood activity that doesn’t seem right. “People are the best judge in their neighborhood of what is normal.”

Baliles warned that while doing yardwork — especially mowing the lawn — one might not hear a burglar entering the home.

Another seasonal problem is people going away on vacation and leaving obvious signs to burglars that the house is unoccupied.

“You just can’t close your shades and put your porch light on — that’s a dead giveaway,” Baliles said, noting that lights on timers and other actions that make a house appear lived-in are key. “Talking with your neighbors, telling them when you’re going away and getting them to pick up your newspapers” are also important he said.

Baliles said that Potomac has been relatively quiet for several months, but that crime often comes in spurts and that if people are witnessing possible crimes and not reporting them, they are doing themselves and their neighbors a disservice.

Still some of the River Falls reports, which spread on a neighborhood e-mail listserv, might have just begun as rumors and grown.

“The story can change and expand and be embellished a little bit,” he said.