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Winter visitors can take steps to protect their homes during summer months
While the Yuma County Sheriff's Office does its best to keep a close eye on the homes of winter visitors, burglaries do still occur, especially in the Foothills, where many often sit vacant for months at a time, making them a prime target for thieves.
“Burglaries in the Foothills are absolutely an ongoing problem, and historically it is something we work very hard every year to combat. We watch these neighborhoods the best we can with the manpower we have,” said Capt. Eben Bratcher, of the Yuma County Sheriff's Office. “And almost invariably the underlying cause is a drug addict attempting to support his drug habit. They figure it is easy to break into vacant homes and steal other people's personal property, which they then try and sell to buy their drugs.”
Bratcher said that while he did not have any specific figures available, there have been a lot of burglaries reported again this year in the Foothills; however, he doesn't believe it is significantly more than in any other year.
One of the ways YCSO is trying to prevent these burglaries from happening is through its Winter Visitors Notification Program. To sign up for the service, winter visitors need to fill out a vacation notification form, which lets the sheriff's office know where they live, when they'll be gone and what property they have left behind in the home.
Sheriff's deputies and volunteers will then make periodic checks of the homes of those who completed and turned in the forms. The checks help safeguard the homes in the owners' absences. And if a burglary does unfortunately happen, the completed form provides deputies with contact information and a list of possessions that should help in tracking down and recovering any stolen property.
“The Foothills area is a prime target for thieves because you have house after house on street after street that is vacant throughout the summer,” Bratcher said. “And many times those burglaries began as soon as the winter visitors leave.”
Bratcher explained said the sheriff's office began offering the service a number of years ago in response to burglaries of Foothills homes belonging to winter visitors who were away for the summer. He added that it wasn't uncommon to discover that a burglar who deputies had apprehended could be linked to more than one burglary.
“We frequently apprehend people in connection with these burglaries and often find property in their possession that we are able to tie into several burglaries,” Bratcher said. “It is actually the norm to find that they have actually committed several robberies.”
To find out more about the service, you can call the Yuma County Sheriff's Office at (928) 783-4427 or by visiting its web site at http://yumacountysheriff.org
Another method the YCSO uses to prevent or reduce these type of burglaries is through its community education and crime prevention. Bratcher said the sheriff's office, at a individual or group's request, will send a crime prevention specialist to speak to them about ways they can secure their residences.
“We are more than happy to do it,” Bratcher said. “All they need to do is call. We do several of those every year.”
Ultimately, Bratcher said what it comes down to is a partnership between the homeowners and law enforcement.
“The homeowner needs to do everything they can to prevent their house from becoming a target and we will continue doing everything we can, such as patrol the areas as heavily as possible, thoroughly investigate, and quickly arrest those responsible when it happens.”