Avoiding thieves in a modern world

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Thieves are using technology and social media to find out when homes are vacant. (Photo illustration by Chris Bunker)

Provo is often called “Happy Valley,” a location where people generally feel safe to go about daily life. However, modern thieves are finding ways to use people’s daily doings to target them for theft, putting everyone at risk.

According to city data, 2,400 recorded burglaries were recorded in Provo in 2011, making avoidance of becoming a victim a high priority.

Stevi Poulsen, a BYU graduate from Layton, was in class when she became a victim of a burglary. Her roommates left their apartment for just a moment to get the mail, not even leaving the complex, and came back to a disaster. Upon returning they found that someone had stolen all of their computers, iPods, phones and electronics that were lying around.

Luckily, Poulsen had her computer and phone with her on campus, but she still feels as though this experience changed the way she thinks and the precautions she takes.

“I think it made me aware that it can happen to anyone, at anytime,” Poulsen said. “I always thought growing up in Utah that it didn’t happen here. I was wrong. I’m definitely more aware of what I leave lying around. I don’t leave things lying out by windows because I think someone will look in and see my iPad and will have a great incentive to break in.”

Poulsen recognizes that it is not only tangible items that modern day thieves are stealing.

“It was terrifying to know that someone I didn’t know had broken into my house. The worst part about it is they don’t just steal your stuff, they steal your peace of mind,” Poulsen said.

It is imperative that homeowners and renters understand the risks and take precautions to avoid being victimized. For Camilia Lund, a visual arts major from Logan, she sticks to the basics.

“I always lock our door when leaving our apartment; that is a step that should never be skipped. We also keep our lights off and have our blinds closed. We also have renter’s insurance, which I think everyone should have,” Lund said.

Tyler Hardy, a business major graduate from Fresno, Calif., and his wife now live in Salt Lake City with two children and have their own concerns and strategies.

“I know that there are over 2 million burglaries a year in America, and that really scares us. As a precaution we do the typical locking both the door and the deadbolt at night. We also have set up an alarm system in our home. You can’t be too safe,” Hardy said.

These basic safety strategies may not be enough in these modern times. Thieves are now using technology to target their victims. One of the most common new methods is to check people’s Facebook statuses and posts. If someone checks in at Disneyland or posted pictures from the Grand Canyon, they are not home. This is an easy way for thieves to know which homes to target.

KSL advises that people protect their homes or apartments by using timers that go off at random times throughout the day. People should avoid putting expensive-looking decorations or toys outside your home. This can be an easy clue to criminals that there are nice things inside the home.

Also, if it snows when people are gone for a lengthy amount of time, they should ask a neighbor to create tracks to give the appearance that the home is occupied. As for newspapers, it is better to have a trusted neighbor collect them in a person’s absence than it is to put the subscription on hold.

Poulsen says BYU students need to be smart to avoid becoming victims of crime.

“Lock your doors, even when you’re only gone for a minute,” Poulsen said. “If you have the door with the code to lock, be very careful who you give that code out to. Don’t leave things sitting out, especially in front of windows. Keep your shades drawn, especially if you’re on the first floor. You don’t want them to be able to see the things that will be really easy to steal then resell.”

Hardy and his wife agree; being smart and using caution goes a long way.

“Just go on vacation and live your life like people used to, without telling the world online.”

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