Garda Sergeant Graham Kavanagh, Laois Offaly Division Crime Prevention Officer.
An empty looking house is a target for thieves who will use leaflet drops to find out if you are away from home.
So warned the Laois Offaly crime prevention officer Garda Sergeant Graham Kavanagh at a recent launch of a text alert service on Portlaoise's Stradbally Road.
In a comprehensive presentation, Sgt Kavanagh said properly installed and working house alarms should be the first line of defence.
“When the criminal hears an alarm go off they don’t want to hang about,” he said.
The garda said doors and windows should be kept locked. He urged people not to leave any items outside that could be used by thieves.
“Take a wander around your property front and back to see what you might have lying around that could be used to gain entry into your home by a criminal like a bar for example that could be used to jemmy a door or a window open,” he said.
Sgt Kavanagh said thieves have tricks to find out if you are on holidays.
“The robber doesn’t want to meet you in the house so they try to find out if you’re in or not and they have certain tricks for this. They might put a leaflet through your door and come back a couple of days later to see if it is still on the floor. If it is, they assume that the house is empty then it’s around the back with them.
“Once they get in they don’t want to be more than a minute in the house. The first place they go to is the master bedroom because they know that the jewellery box is on top of the chest of drawers and they will find all the gold and jewellery. Then they will head into the children’s bedrooms looking for their piggy boxes which at the right times contain communion money. All they want is gold, jewellery and cash then they’re gone,” he said
If people are going on holidays, he advised having trusted key-holder.
He invited people to inform their local garda station if they are going away and who the key holder is. He said An Post will hold your mail for you while you are away so it will not be on view on the floor inside the front door.
He also warned about bogus tradespeople. He advised householders to only tradesmen they know or are recommended by trusted friends and neighbours.
He also advised householders to mark items because doing so helps recovery.
“If you have marked your property with your postcode we can just type it into our system and we find the owner instantly,” he said.
He also advised senior citizens should wear their monitored panic alarm pendants at all times.
A key message was to report anything or anyone suspicious to 999. He said reporting it could save another person’s home from being broken into. He also asked people to check the Garda Síochána Laois Offaly Facebook page for more details and lists of retrieved stolen property.