May 27, 2014

An open letter to the residents of Manhattan and Riley County from Officer Mat Droge (the orginal #TwitterCop) of the Riley County Police Department:

Dear Community Members, 

You could be helping thieves burglarize your home and not even realize it.

During the months of May through August many residents of Manhattan and Riley County find themselves vacationing in far off places. Be it your hometown, Disneyland, a beach vacation, or Idaho to see your grandmother, the fact remains, you are excited to get out of town and relax. Some potential victims around the US and the World though, are putting themselves in positions that can help increase their risk of crimes being committed against them like burglary and criminal damage to property. 

As an advocate for social media's use in law enforcement, I often find myself touting the great things that are now possible with the use of today's technology. Heck, I've basically created a career out of posting to Twitter (among many other tasks at the police department). However, as with many great inventions and concepts, some people will use this technology to victimize unsuspecting tweeters, posters, and instagramers. 

Let's get straight to the point, posting pictures or vacation tweets can increase your risk of becoming a victim. 

While most of us don't realize it, posting a tweet about how cool space mountain is just advertises that your home is vacant. Posting pictures while you're on the beach lets would-be burglars know that you are several hours away and while you are enjoying (legally) those drinks on the beach, your television is walking out the back door. Selective posting is just one of the many tools you have at your disposal, to help reduce your risk of becoming a victim.

Police nationwide, especially those in our area, work hard to help prevent these crimes but we could use your help. Working together as a community is truly the only way that we can keep Manhattan and Riley County a safe place to live and work. To reduce your risk of becoming a victim I suggest you consider some of the following tips.

  • When posting photos to social media accounts such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram wait until you have returned home and make clear that the vacation has already occurred. 
  • Refrain from posting content such as a tweet about being on vacation or away from your home for extended periods of time. 
  • Resist the urge to post pictures of new televisions, game systems, phones and other electronics. By publishing this information you are creating an online catalog of things available to be stolen.

Though not specifically related to social media here are some other great tips for community members spending summer vacation away from their homes.

  • Close and secure all doors and windows to your home. Shutting blinds or drapes can also help to prevent a future break-in since it masks the goods that you store inside. Securing your home while you are there is also a best practice, as this will help prevent break-ins while you are sleeping or in another part of the house.
  • Vehicles left at home should be secured and not contain any valuables, especially those in plain sight. Make sure vehicles are legally parked to avoid tickets and towing. Approximately 90% of all vehicle burglaries in Riley County are to a vehicle that was not secured. Making it a habit to lock your doors can go a long way to reducing crime in your area.
  • Avoiding the heat with a new television? Never leave boxes for valuables on the curb. This advertises the items you have in your home. Instead break down these boxes and store them in trash cans that are put out on the day of your trash pick-up. 
  • Going to be gone for a while? Have a friend or family member check on your home or apartment while you are away. This will show the residence is being occupied and could help to stop someone from targeting your home.
  • When leaving valuables behind, make sure to store them in a safe place inside of your home or apartment. If your residence is broken into, these items will then be more difficult to locate. 
  • Keep track of descriptions and serial numbers of valuable items. In the event they are stolen this will help investigators. For more information on storing these serial numbers read our article on "ReportIt."
  • Leave porch and landscaping lights on. If you are going to be away for a period of time, leave a light or two on inside of the home as well. This small cost to your energy bill could trick a potential burglar into thinking that someone is home. Want to take it a step further? Use timers to schedule lights to go on and off while you are out of town.

Celebrating the warm weather with alcohol should never be combined with driving. Officers will be out on the street over the summer months attempting to detect and detour impaired driving. 

Remember if something looks suspicious, call us. Our non-emergency phone number is 785-537-2112. You don't have to wait for the crime to occur for us to be interested in investigating. As always we also encourage the community to use services like Crime Stoppers and K-State's Silent Witness when you become aware of tips for a past crime and wish to remain anonymous.

I hope that you can find some value in at least a portion of the tips I have listed. With your assistance and us all taking pride in our community, we can work together to keep instances of burglaries low. Have a great summer Riley County.