Local residents search for security after thefts

OKEECHOBEE — A wave of burglaries in Okeechobee over the month of May left some local residents searching for a way to keep both themselves and their property safe.

Linda Harper, who had a pressure washer stolen out of her back porch in early May, is looking for ways to be proactive in her home security.

“It just makes you feel unsafe,” said Ms. Harper. “My own things aren’t safe in my own home. I’m just glad they didn’t try to come into my house. It’s scary. I’m looking into home security options now, if that will even help. They’re getting so brazen.”

On the night on May 15 there were 14 incident reports filed with the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) alone, including individuals reporting items stolen from inside their car, and two vehicle thefts, one in Treasure Island and another in King’s Bay.

One of the vehicles stolen on May 15 was recovered four days later in Tennessee.

Although property crime has fallen in recent years, a majority of the crimes go unsolved.

According to the FBI, in 2015 only 19 percent of the property crimes reported to police in the U.S. were cleared. A case is considered “cleared” when it is closed through the arrest, charging and referral of a suspect for prosecution.

Bob Tucker, a spokesperson for home security company ADT based out of Boca Raton, said home security cameras can be vital in helping catch criminals who are stealing from homes and vehicles.

“Camera quality is so good now that even at night they can get a pretty good image of the bad guy,” explained Mr. Tucker. “And then of course the cops can use that image to find them, and the prosecutor can use it to convict.”

Mr. Tucker also recommends installing motion detector lights outside your house, and not broadcasting any vacation plans on social media, which can alert criminals that your house may be unoccupied.

“Most of this is all about having the bad guy move on from your house,” Mr. Tucker continued. “They tend to like houses where they don’t think anyone is home to break into.

It’s also good to encourage people to be nosy neighbors. You want someone who, when they see something going on at your house, like someone walking around the side yard or knocking on the door a lot, they will call you on your cell phone. That’s how a lot of these people are caught as well. By people being proactive and being good neighbors.”

ADT offers home security systems that will alert you and the police OSCO public information officer Michele Bell offered a few tips to help stop a burglary from happening to you. She recommends to lock all vehicles, sheds, garages and not leave valuables in vehicles. If items are left in a vehicle, cover them. Keep trees and shrubs trimmed near windows and doors. Do not leave bicycles and golf carts unsecured. And secure the pet door entry to your house.

“It’s another [thing to] finance for us people who are retired and on a fixed income,” said Ms. Harper of the home security installation. “Now we have to invest in something to protect ourselves.”

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