Security specialists weigh in following uptick in residential burglaries

Composite image with background photo by Witthaya Prasongsin, iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A recent rash of residential burglaries, including four reported in Little Valley over the last 10 days, has left residents rattled prompting St. George News to reach out to security professionals for steps homeowners can take to protect property and life.

2019 file photo of a neighborhood in the Little Valley area of St. George, Utah, Aug.12, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Over the Pioneer Day holiday weekend, there were five residential burglaries reported, as well as an attempted burglary, according to the St. George Police Department’s incident log.

The uptick in burglaries has not gone unnoticed, according to a message sent to St. George News from Tiffany Lanfre-Mickley who wrote, “There have been some break-ins by Little Valley school lately.”

In fact, four residential burglaries have been reported in Little Valley since July 20, all of which took place less than two blocks from the school, according to the incident log.

In the same time period, three residential burglaries were reported in the Bloomington area, approximately two miles west of Little Valley.

During one such burglary reported near East Catalpa Drive, two long guns were stolen and the total loss to the homeowner was approximately $1,000, St. George Police Officer Tiffany Atkin said.

Mickley also provided a series of posts on social media discussing various elements of the criminal activity, including one post that said “some people are making it easy for [the suspects] by leaving their doors unlocked,” while another message referred to reports of “yard furniture [being] moved around” and residents “reported seeing flashlights through their windows.”

Another resident reported that a family member “woke up at 1 a.m. and someone was outside her bedroom window wandering around with a flashlight,” the post said. Another message in the thread referred to an incident where the suspects “loaded up the homeowner’s vehicles with their stuff and took off.”

Stock image for illustrative purposes only | Photo by Stock Snapper, iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

The incident the resident is referring to was a burglary in Little Valley where a pickup truck and Jeep were stolen, along with “tons of household items stolen,” Atkin said, adding the loss from that one incident exceeded $110,000.

There were a number of comments inferring that one of the burglaries involved a family who was awakened with a suspect inside of the home.

According to the police incident log, an incident was reported on July 20 shortly before midnight at a residence just east of Little Valley Elementary School, where two suspects entered the home wearing masks to cover their faces, and then fled when the homeowner woke up.

The reader also requested that St. George News provide information so the community knows what to look out for.

To that end, St. George News reached out to two security companies based in St. George, Certified Fire and Security and Mountain Alarm Fire and Security.

Marvin Ray, a security specialist with Certified said that “the Little Valley is the hot spot right now,” adding that he has responded calls in that area “almost daily,” he said.

Ray went on to say that installing a monitored security system offers the highest level of protection for any homeowner, but even so there are steps residents can take to protect their home and safety. He said that knowing where a home is vulnerable is the first step to implementing a line of defense against criminal activity, and as simple as it sounds, he said, tip No. 1 is to make sure all entry doors are secured.

“Lock your doors, because these guys look for an easy way into any home,” he said.

Ray went on to say that one vulnerable entry point in most homes is the sliding patio door, which is the easiest door to get into, followed by the side entry door to the garage, as these doors are typically located on the side of the home behind a fence or away from the street and out of sight. Taking extra measures to secure those entries will make them less likely access points into a home.

Additionally, he said that lighting is one of the most important weapons in a homeowner’s arsenal to deter crime, and a well-lit home is less likely to be broken into than one that is dark. He also said that lighting, or the lack thereof, is one of the elements that makes the side door to the garage so vulnerable, because more often than not that area of the home is one that is not typically well-lit throughout the night.

An alarm can also come in handy, he said, because there is nothing worse for a criminal who is trying to break into a house than a loud alarm to sound the alert, other than bright lights that activate simultaneously.

“These guys want darkness and to slip in quietly,” Ray said, “and the combination of lights and sound derail those plans altogether.”

Stock image for illustrative purposes only | Photo by Ross Helen, iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

He also said he has heard of several recent incidents while speaking with the various residents in Little Valley, including the incident involving the suspects that entered an occupied home, as listed in this report. Ray said that one of the homeowners recounted the incident, saying that a teenage girl encountered one of the suspects inside of the home “wearing a hoodie and flip-flops,” Ray said, adding the suspects ran when the father chased them off.

“So these threats go beyond someone breaking into a vacation home,” Ray said, adding that criminal activity doesn’t always involve theft, and there are times when intentional acts are targeted at creating damage. One such incident described by another Little Valley resident involved a home that was severely damaged, after suspects broke through a basement window and pushed a garden hose through the broken window, and then turned the water on and “just walked away,” he said.

He said that taking stock of the home by checking for vulnerabilities on a routine basis is another way to reduce the risk of becoming a victim, he said, and correcting whatever issues as they arise.

Cameras can be helpful as well, he said, but their usefulness is limited since many suspects use masks and other items to hide their identity. In addition, the footage helps after the crime has taken place but can have little effect on deterrence.

John Morris, alarm system specialist with Mountain Alarm Fire and Security, said they have had a recent uptick in the number of calls from residents in not only the Little Valley area, but in other areas as well. He also said that the new development near Entrada is another area that is being hit with thefts and vandalism right now.

Morris went on to say that having a monitored security system in the home has innumerable benefits, and protects the residence whether the homeowners are there or not. He also said that cameras are great to monitor activity on the property and may capture a crime as it occurs, but preventing a break-in not only saves the homeowner from suffering any losses, but can drive a suspect from the area altogether.

With that in mind, he said there are steps residents can take to make their property more secure and one that is critically important is “getting to know your neighbors.”

Morris explained further by saying that neighbors who know each other tend to also watch out for each other, and can be the eyes for a homeowner who is away at work or out of town, for example. A tight neighborhood where residents know each other will also “look out for one another and have an invested interest in the safety of that neighborhood,” he said.

Stock image for illustrative purposes only | Photo by Edward Samuel Cornwall, iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

Another tool is home automation, which is also provided in a security package. But some of those benefits can be obtained through using devices such as Amazon’s Alexa devices, he said.

“If you can close your garage door and turn off your lights from your armchair,” he said, “Then you can use it for home automation geared toward protection.”

While Morris said a home automation device has its limits, it can still be used to enhance security. The goal, he said, is to program it so the lights go on at different times, for example, and refrain from automation that activates features at the exact same time every day.

He said that criminals often survey a property before they strike, and they are looking for patterns that tell them the house is likely unoccupied. By using variation when programming lights and other features so they activate at different times, it can function to deter criminal activity.

“Make it random – because criminals don’t like that.”

Both security specialists said that anyone can call and set up an appointment to have a trained technician come out and survey the home and check for vulnerabilities. From there, they can install a security package, make recommendations or just answer any questions.

“The goal here is to protect our neighborhoods, which in turn protects the community – that’s why we’re here,”  Morris said.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

Free News Delivery by Email

Would you like to have the day's news stories delivered right to your inbox every evening? Enter your email below to start!