Residents asked to be vigilant against burglaries

In the off-season, many area police departments — including Bethany Beach, Fenwick Island and South Bethany — offer home checks for residents who may be away from their homes.

“Unfortunately, what’s happening with a lot of these burglaries is they are going into unoccupied dwellings,” explained Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin. “Especially down here, we have some homes that are vacant for weeks, or even months, this time of the year.”

The Ocean View Police Department also offers residence checks to the town’s residents, which they can sign up for by stopping by the police station.

“We do have a residence check, if they live within town but aren’t going to be here,” explained Sgt. Sidney Ballentine. “We’ll check every two weeks, or more regularly, depending. We’ll get out and do a walk around the residence to check on things.”

Ballentine said that, due to a recent rash of burglaries in the area, it is important for residents to stay vigilant.

“We have had numerous homes burglarized over the last two months. The thieves are targeting homes that are vacant for the winter and are primarily taking flat-screen televisions.”

McLaughlin said that home checks could help combat the burglaries, if residents sign up for them.

“Part of the problem is, while they may force the door open, they’re closing up after themselves. So people can walk by and think everything is fine. We don’t know until maybe two, three weeks later, when the homeowner comes down or someone else comes to the house and reports that a crime has occurred.”

Ballentine added that, although residents should sign up for the checks if they’re away from home, they should also do some work of their own.

“There are a lot of passive things people can do. Put lights on a timer or get motion-sensor lights. It’s cheaper to leave your light on outside all year long, probably, than to replace a $500 television. Not to mention the $200 door you have to fix and all of that.”

He noted that exterior lighting can be a tremendous deterrent against break-ins.

“This helps you when you come into or out of your residence. It also illuminates the would-be thief. They don’t like to operate where someone can see them,” he said. “They don’t like to operate where there’s light. All the places are getting hit did not have alarms, did not have external lighting.”

Ballentine also said that a great way for residents, year-round or part-time, to help prevent crime is to know their neighbors and be aware of their surroundings.

“Meet and greet your neighbors. If they know you drive a blue minivan and there’s a black truck backed up with its tailgate down, that may not be right,” he said. “When I drive through, I don’t know everyone in town, so I’m not going to know the car doesn’t fit.”

Ballentine added that the recent burglaries are still under investigation, and suspects are being sought.