Burglaries are increasing in the Northland area, a sign of the times.

Burglaries are increasing in the Northland area, a sign of the times.

Because of that, Columbus Division of Police neighborhood liaison officers Scott Clinger of the 18th Precinct and Larry Geis of Precinct 1 devoted nearly the entirety of last week's meeting of Block Watch coordinators for Northland neighborhoods to providing tips and tricks to help residents keep from falling victim to break-ins.

"Burglaries are definitely on the rise, in my opinion," Clinger told those on hand for a well-attended monthly session at the Special Response Bureau on Morse Road.

The two officers provided the coordinators with handouts of a PowerPoint presentation they had put together focusing on residential security, both outside and inside the home, and dealing with things like lighting, trees and shrubs, fencing, signs, doors, windows, alarms and security systems.

"Until you get broken into, a lot of people won't do it," Clinger said of some of the simple preventive measures outlined in the presentation.

As the session continued and people asked questions or made comments, it became apparent that a significant portion of the Block Watch leaders had themselves been victims of burglaries or attempted break-ins. Some of them were audacious crimes, in which doors were kicked in during broad daylight and, in one instance, an entire window was wrenched from its frame and tossed aside to permit entrance.

Geis and Clinger urged the coordinators to take the handouts back to their members to help keep them safer and make it more likely that even a determined burglar will move on if the crime is made more difficult.

"If it's too hard, if it stops them, if they feel uncomfortable, they won't do it," Clinger said. "Generally, burglars don't like to take the time."

Lighting at night, whether it's a motion-detected system or one on a timer or simply lights left on can prevent night break-ins. But Clinger cautioned against positioning lights to create deep shadows in which someone could hide.

"You want the back of your house lit up just like the front of your house," Clinger said. "They do not like lighted areas. They will remove themselves from lighted areas."

The recommendation on shrubs, under what are known as Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design theories, is that they be kept below three feet. Tree branches should be removed to a height of at least six feet, Clinger said.

This has two benefits: It allows neighbors to see the front of a home and it doesn't provide an easy climb to get to second-floor, often less-secured windows, he said.

Most residential fencing is decorative in nature and not intended to keep someone off the property it delineates, Clinger said. Privacy fencing can, in fact, work in favor of the criminal by screening him or her once they have jumped it.

As for signs, generic ones that claim the house has a security system or an alarm, even if it doesn't, can serve as a deterrent, the officers said. A "Beware of Dog" sign, even in a home without a dog, can likewise convince a burglar to look elsewhere. Geis indicated he favors leaving a huge dog-food bowl in plain sight.

The vast majority of burglaries, Clinger admitted, as much as 95 percent, happen during the daytime when people are more often at work and houses are unoccupied. For that reason, he and Geis advised the Block Watch coordinators to in turn urge their members to call the division of police if they see someone in their neighborhood who might be contemplating a crime.

"Let us check it out," Clinger said. "That's what we're here for. I don't want you to be paranoid, but at the same time I want you to be careful."

In concluding their recommendations on security measures outside the house, the officers said it's wise to secure ladders so second-floor break-ins are made more difficult.

"You don't want to give people easy access to your house," Clinger said.

On the inside of the home, he advised replacing the factory-supplied screws on doorjambs with ones that measure three inches to make it all the more difficult for doors to be kicked in.

"Especially the back door," Clinger commented. "You really want to secure those back-door areas."

The officers recommended adding dead-bolts to knob locks on doors, and Clinger said that security doors are "well worth the investment."

One thing Geis said he frequently reminds residents who don't park their cars in the garage is to make certain to take the garage-door opener inside or disable the mechanism from inside.

As the presentation continued, many of the coordinators offered tips and suggestions of their own for simple hardware upgrades or improvements to provided added home security.

"You're hearing tons of different ideas tonight," Clinger said. "That's all part of Block Watch, is to share what you have and use what's best for you."