While You're Away

We all know the feeling: the unease that comes with opening the door to your home as you return from a vacation, business travel, or holidays away visiting friends and family. Whether you've been away for two or 10 days, there is always the chance you could have become a victim of theft.

photo of DEC winnersThe Redlands (California) Police Department (RPD) launched the While You're Away - Electronic Home Surveillance Program in September 2013 to proactively and cost-effectively address the rise in theft within their community. The RPD discovered that thieves were often targeting Redland's residents while they were away on vacation, with a spike of 16 percent in residential burglaries from September 2013 to October 2013. In response, the While You're Away program was created, providing the community members the opportunity to obtain a motion sensitive tracking device to attach to their personal property when they went on vacation.

“Everyone has that fear of going away and coming back and having your house burglarized,” said Lt. Travis Martinez of RPD's Community Policing Bureau, “and we're trying to alleviate that fear.”

Residents can contact the RPD and apply for a motion sensitive tracking device to place on a valuable item in their home—commonly laptops, plasma televisions, or other high-value goods attractive to thieves. Interested local residents and business owners must complete an application and waiver before they can check out the device. Devices are loaned to applicants on a first-come, first-served basis, and each participant may only get one device at a time. An officer tells the resident how to quickly attach or embed the device on items and presents any further instructions as necessary. Once it's turned on, the tracking device activates within seconds of any movement and signals RPD's dispatch center, providing the item's precise location through a GPS signal. Additionally, the resident and officer will receive text messages if the signal is activated. Although the device does not deter criminals from engaging in the initial burglary, it provides near instantaneous notification to the police department when the device is on the move and thus assists in catching thieves in the act.

While You're Away offers round-the-clock surveillance of homeowners' valuable items and compliments RPD's vacation house check program, where trained civilian volunteers ensure vacationers' property is secure. “We're trying to offer a program that helps our residents protect their homes by immediately informing the police department of a theft in progress,” said Lt. Martinez.

photo of surveillance camerasThe RPD has used the GPS motion sensitive devices manufactured by 3SI Security Systems for the past three years to track and analyze crime trends within Redlands, including bike and fire hydrant theft, commercial burglary, vehicle burglary, robbery, and construction site theft. The motion sensor devices are relatively inexpensive—currently costing $450 plus a monthly service fee. The RPD has several devices, but is asking the community for donations to offset the service fee and sustain the program in the future.

RPD is notifying residents about its electronic home surveillance efforts through press releases, periodical social media reminders, and even directly contacting those already burglarized. The community's response has been positive, according to Lt. Martinez. “The residents have expressed their appreciation for the police department coming up with programs like this.”

To learn more about the While You're Away - Electronic Home Surveillance Program, contact Lt Travis Martinez at tmartinez@redlandspolice.org or visit http://cityofredlands.org/police/HomeSurveillance.

Adele Norton
Staff Writer
The COPS Office

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