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Neighborhood Crime Watch groups can help deter burglaries by immediately reporting any suspicious behavior.

’Tis the season for burglars who have their sights set on unlocked doors, open garages and faulty window closures. Overlooking home security makes Christmastime perfect for thieves on the lookout for vulnerable, unsuspecting victims.

According to the FBI, burglary was down by 2 percent nationally during 2010 compared with data from 2009. However, it was up slightly in large suburban cities, like Cleburne and Burleson, which have populations of 29,337 people and 36,690 people, respectively.

Cleburne Deputy Chief Amy Knoll said home burglaries are up this year.

“So far in 2011, we have had 268 burglaries,” she said. “Last year we had 243 for the entire year.”

There have been 256 car burglaries, compared with 241 in 2010.

“The numbers are already higher than they were for all of last year,” Knoll said. “I expect that number to be higher by the end of the year. December is generally a very busy month.”

Burleson Public Information Officer Sally Ellertson said burglaries are also on the rise.

The most recent statistical data from October states that burglary, both residential and commercial, is up by 51.9 percent. As of October 2010, there were 129 reported burglaries. By this October, there were 196.

Burleson police Commander Chris Havens said the rise had much to do with new housing developments.

“[The burglaries occur in] new/model homes where appliances are taken and houses under construction where copper is being taken from inside the house,” Havens said. “Copper thefts are prevalent Metroplex-wide. We are working with the builders and talking with the neighbors around those new homes and encouraging them to report any suspicious activity. Police are being proactive in patrolling neighborhoods and encouraging people to start Neighborhood Watch programs.”

During the week after Thanksgiving through Monday, there were 13 burglaries of vehicles, homes and commercial property.

Ellertson said one of the main things residents should remember is to keep their garage doors closed.

“We see that all the time,” she said. “A couple of years ago, the police were actually knocking on doors in the middle of the night asking people to close their garages, which didn’t make people too happy.”

Still, it likely kept criminals away, she said.

In a Burleson news release, Ellertson also said it’s a good idea to hide garage door openers and loose change out of sight in a vehicle. Either of those could lure a criminal to see what else is in your car — or have immediate, easy access to your home.

Additional tips for a happy and safe holiday season:

zx Don’t leave your valuables in the passenger compartment of the vehicle. Lock them in the trunk.

“It’s real easy to break a window and get [valuables] out of there,” Knoll said. “If you do have to leave something, don’t leave it out in plain view.”

zx Park in well-lit areas.

zx Don’t carry more cash or credit cards with you than you need. “People tend to carry large amounts of cash and tons of credit cards at this time of year,” Knoll said. The Cleburne Police Department has investigated several instances of people losing thousands of dollars in cash from leaving it sitting in their car unattended.

zx Have a good dead bolt on your door. If you live in an apartment or rented home and do not have a dead bolt, contact the apartment complex or landlord to see if you can get one installed.

zx Keep your doors and windows locked and garage doors closed. “We see a lot of people going into people’s garages when they leave them open or getting into people’s cars that are in the garage,” Knoll said.

zx Have good outdoor lighting, motion lights and/or lights on a timer. Having a well-lit area discourages burglars.

zx Remember that burglars don’t just break in at night. “Everyone thinks of a burglar as the guy that’s creeping around at three o’clock in the morning,” Knoll said. She said burglars watch houses for people to leave for work or lunch and then make a move.

zx Keep bushes trimmed and moved away from the house. Burglars can use overgrown landscapes to conceal themselves from police and neighbors.

zx Don’t advertise that you’re going to be out of town, especially on social networks. When you’re gone, have a trusted neighbor or family friend keep an eye on your home.

zx See if you can file a vacation home check with your police department, stop all mail and newspaper delivery.

zx Don’t advertise what gifts you received for Christmas. “Trash pickup gets delayed, and the next thing you know is your box for your new big flat screen TV is out there [on the curb],” Knoll said. If you want to get rid of big boxes, recycle them at the Cleburne Recycling Center, 2625 Pipeline Road.

zx Create and continuously update printed lists of serial numbers for all valuables and take pictures of jewelry. Have several copies of everything. “Having this stuff stored on your computer is a fine idea unless they steal your computer,” Knoll said.

zx If you’re home when a burglar decides to drop in, don’t try to confront the person. Call 911 and get out of the house, if possible. If you’re locked in a bathroom or closet and able to call the police, stay there until help arrives.

zx If you see anything suspicious or out of the ordinary, don’t be afraid to call 911. That is what the police are there for.

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