Criminals aren't known for showing compassion for their victims; if they did, they wouldn't commit crimes in the first place. And while it shouldn't be surprising, it's still disturbing to learn that one of the best opportunities for criminals to strike is when their victims are mourning the death of a loved one.
Police have lately been warning of burglars who are targeting homes of families who are attending funerals, with some of the most recent cases surfacing in Arkansas, Tennessee and South Carolina. But one of the boldest burglaries recently happened to members of the family of 83-year-old Albert Britain of Springfield, Mo., as they attended his funeral. As reported by Springfield TV station KSPR in the video above, Britain's son, daughter and widow came back from the memorial service to find each of their homes broken into and looted. Police believe that it was Albert Britain's obituary that gave the thieves all the information they needed to strike.
"Criminals are typically opportunistic, so they do their homework, they read the paper," Lisa Cox, spokesperson for the Springfield Police Department, told KSPR. "Those obituaries are just listings of ... the people that aren't going to be there at their home at this time of day. So that makes it kind of easy for them."
And it's not just funerals. Weddings and christenings are other examples of typically publicized events that can draw entire families away from their homes. People tend to share these life events in newspapers and on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. While these are easy ways to keep family and friends in the know, they can also be a part of a burglar's toolkit for targeting empty homes.
Here's what you can do to keep your own home safe:
Skip the advertising. Don't post an obituary or wedding date in the paper or online. It's natural that you may want to the world to mourn or celebrate with you, but it's a dead giveaway to someone that you and your loved ones will not be home. Use less public methods, such as email or snail mail, to spread the details.
Get someone to watch your house. If you'll be gone for a long time, ask a friend or neighbor to house-sit for you. You can also ask them to periodically park a car in front of your house or in your driveway to give the impression that you are entertaining company.
Keep the television and lights on. This age-old trick worked for Kevin McCallister in "Home Alone," and it can work for you, too. It creates the illusion that someone is home, signaling to the burglar that it's not worth the risk. If you want to be green, you can also invest in a $34 FakeTV, which mimics TV flicker.
Get a home security system. This is a pricier option, but also the most secure. HouseLogic, a site run by the National Association of Realtors, recommends a $250 to $700 security system, which will likely be accompanied by a $35 to $75 monthly monitoring fee. The latest trend is cell phone operated systems, which allow you to adjust settings and monitor your home from afar.
See more on home security systems:
The Automated Home is One Step Closer
Neighbor Nabs 'Contractors' Breaking Into Vacant House
Home Security Tech Takes a Leap Forward
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