Bein Hazemanim is upon us, a time when many hardworking Lakewood families take a well-deserved break from routine to refresh and invigorate themselves ahead of the new zeman. If you are one of those who will be leaving your home for an extended vacation, make sure to follow proper safety protocol to ensure that your home is not vulnerable to burglars or unwanted visitors. It is important that your home maintain a lived in appearance while you are away so that it is not obviously vacant.
Before you leave, don’t forget those who are concerned for your safety and your property: your friends and neighbors. Aside from having a neighbor collect your mail, do the courtesy of informing your neighbors that you are going and letting them know if others will be occupying your home while you are away.
Over the summer, and especially during Bain Hazemanim, LCSW is flooded with calls by concerned neighbors reporting suspicious activity on the property or in the home of a neighbor who is away.
Often, the situation is an innocuous one. Your sister came to pick up your mail and water the plants outside your home. Because she came at 1:00 in the morning, your night owl neighbor caught sight of her and quickly called LCSW and the police. You gave your cousin and her parents a key and permission to use your home for shidduchim while you are away, as you live in a far more private area than his crowded development. You plan to rent your home to an out-of-town family while you are away. Your older daughter will be staying in the house while you are away because she needs to work.
There are any number of legitimate reasons why people might be on your property while you are away. Be sure to inform your neighbors of these possibilities so that they don’t worry needlessly.
By letting your neighbors know about your plans for your home while you are away, and how they can reach you if they suspect something is wrong, you will alleviate their fears and prevent much needless worrying.
One of the most beautiful maalos of the Lakewood community is the dedication and chesed between neighbors, and we see that outpouring of caring every summer while so many Lakewood residents are away. Realize that your neighbors care about you and will get nervous on your behalf when they sense that something is amiss on your property. Aside from informing them of any legitimate activity on your property while your home is vacant, provide them with contact information where they can reach you while you are away. This way, they can be in touch with you in case they do see something suspicious and don’t have to call the police on the cleaning lady you asked to come over the day before you come home to prepare the house for your arrival. (Please note that it is NOT recommended to have hired help in your home while you are away!)
Letting them know that you are away and giving them a number to reach you also ensures that they know to call the authorities when there truly is a problem. They can be your most valuable security asset, if they are properly informed. Many burglaries occur in vacant properties and many can be prevented if neighbors knew that the home was empty and that there should not have been any activity at all at that address.
Before you leave, take other precautions as well, such as:
1. Don’t leave any mobile belongings outdoors, unsecured. Leaving bikes, strollers and riding toys accessible lures potential burglars onto your property, where they find other things to steal as well.
2. Don’t let any hired help know that you are going away.You have no way of knowing who is just waiting for the opportunity to break into your home in your absence.
3. Make sure that the doors and windows of your home are visible and not obscured by bushes or the like.
4. Unplug electrical appliances. This will conserve energy as well reduce the risk of electrical fire.
5. And of course, when everyone is out of the house and you are ready to hit the road, go around to every single window and side door and make sure it is locked!
Have a happy, healthy and safe Bein Hazemanim!
Sidebar: Tips to Keep Your Home Looking Lived in While You are Away
Set your lights on a Shabbos timer, so that there will always be some form of illumination. Don’t leave all your lights blazing all week; that would look suspicious.
Position your venetian blinds, if applicable, in a way that allows some light to seep through, not totally shuttered for a dark, uninhabited look.
If you have more than one car, keep one in the driveway. Alternatively, you can ask a neighbor to keep one of their cars in your driveway.
If you keep a spare key on your porch, under a rock or anywhere near your home, remove it before going away. If a criminal does notice you’re away, he will look for the hidden spare key.
Ask a neighbor or friend you trust to keep an eye on your home and collect your mail, so that you don’t have an accumulation on your doorstep and in your mailbox, a sure sign for would be intruders that the homeowners are away.