Vacation home checks deter holiday high jinks

AP file photoSecurity: Residents who go on vacation over the holidays can feel safer with the San Mateo Police Department’s practice of keeping an eye on their homes.

Burglars beware: The San Mateo Police Department will be keeping a watchful eye on residents’ homes during their out-of-town holiday travels. The department is offering vacation home checks that residents can request by submitting a form that is available online.

San Mateo Police Sgt. Dave Norris said the department has long offered the vacation check program as a year-round service with an emphasis on summer vacation times, though it has waxed and waned depending on staffing availability. This year, the city is advertising the program for the winter holidays.

While the number of burglaries hasn’t necessarily been on the rise, Norris said the department is seeing more break-ins occur as people leave their homes than in the past, when burglars posing as solicitors were more the norm.

“When people are out shopping or out of town visiting people — obviously, that’s a time for burglars to take advantage of people being out of their homes,” he said.

Norris couldn’t say how many vacation home checks the department handles each year, since the requests come through many different channels. He said the cadets alone usually do more than 40.

Pairs of officers, cadets and junior volunteers typically check the perimeter of participating residents’ homes to make sure everything is safe and secure. He said the times of the visits will vary, and the visits themselves will be made as staff and volunteers are available.

“We try to make as much use of our volunteer resources as we can,” Norris said.

A request form is available on the city’s website, CityOfSanMateo.org. The department will confirm a resident’s vacation dates so it knows when to send someone by.

Police also ask about pets, housekeepers or other service providers and whether any neighbors have keys to the homes to be visited. The department won’t do a vacation check if someone is staying on the premises.

More information is available by calling the department’s records unit at (650) 522-7711.

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