COLUMBUS, Ohio — To those traveling out of town this holiday season hoping to enjoy time with friends and family, there is often the accompanying fear of home or package burglary.
Local police departments know this and have started offering up a program so you can ensure your home is being looked after you leave.
“We don't want to see anyone victimized, that's why we are out here,” said Hilliard Police Sergeant Kris Settles.
Most communities have a house watch or vacation watch program where officers are able to safeguard your house while you are out of town.
“We are not going to park in your driveway, we are going to be as inconspicuous as possible. We are going to walk around the exterior of the home, make sure windows are secure, doors are secure,” Settles said.
In Hilliard, 161 have signed up for the home watch program so far this year. In Dublin, 1,141 people have signed up.
Joe Sanderlin has lived in Dublin for about 30 years.
“It's a very safe community,” said Sanderlin. “I've been doing the program for approximately 10 years."
He said he doesn't leave home without signing up for the house watch program.
“What does it hurt to have somebody else keeping an eye on your place?” Sanderlin posed. “Everyone has a few neighbors who keep an eye on things — they too may be on vacation or going out. It's just another set of eyes and the comfort level that there's somebody who is looking and potentially deterring."
Most cities have an online sign-up to have local police check on your house if you are going to be gone for more than a few days.
Settles advised those wanting to use the program not to enroll if they plan to have someone staying at the home or visiting to feed pets as it could create confusion for any visiting officers.
“The big impact is just having the visibility, having the attention on your property,” said Lt. Jason Stern from Grove City Police.
Officers warn, even if you plan ahead and stop your mail, that won't stop packages from being delivered.
As part of the program, officers make sure packages don't pile up on doorsteps, attracting burglars.
“A lot of time we encounter piles of packages on the porch, and we will get ahold of a key holder or someone the resident has notified that they want to be responsible for their home while they are out of town and we'll say, 'hey, there's a pile of amazon stuff on the porch, please come by and pick it up',” Settles said.
One last tip from the police on how you can protect your home? If it snows, ask a neighbor to drive into your driveway and walk up to the house so there are fresh tracks to make it look like someone has been there recently.