LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The first week of June, most schools are winding down their school year, and many families and singles are making summer vacation plans: it could be a day-trip to Lake Sam Rayburn or a weekend getaway out of town, out of state or out of the country. Regardless if you're leaving your home to vacation or just to run an errand, law enforcement officers advise against being lax in securing your home and property because there is no vacation for criminals looking to break into your home.
Lufkin Police Detective J.B. Smith said regardless of what you may see in crime statistics, Lufkin is a safe city.
“That makes us feel safe in our homes. And that may cause you to leave your car unlocked at night, leave your purse or wallet in your car, leave your garage door open, and leave your kids' bikes in the front yard," Smith said. "Those are the things we've always done, but we've also gotten our things stolen by doing that."
With summer vacation season being in full swing, Smith said people should take some simple steps to keep their possessions from being stolen and lessen the chance of becoming a burglary or theft victim.
“Lock your garage door, make sure you're closing your garage door - if you have a garage door - lock your home doors, lock up your car. If you have an alarm on your home, set the alarm—at all times,” Smith suggested.
That's exactly what Lufkin resident Alex Torres did Friday, May 30th, before he and his family headed out of town for an overnight trip. Despite his best effort, a suspect pried open part of his newly-erected 8-foot wooden fence.
“On Saturday, we were gone out of town, and someone broke into my backyard and pried the gate open, letting the dogs out, and they attempted to break into the house and they stole some other property that was out in the backyard,” Torres explained while he was waiting at the Lufkin Animal Services office to retrieve one of his pit bulls that ran free through his South Feagin Drive neighborhood until it was captured by animal control officers. "When we got home Sunday, the white dog was outside the house in a cage, and the black dog was missin,g and come to find out, he was right here in the dog pound.”
Torres said before his family left, they made certain to secure the home and the exterior gate. He also let his neighbors know they would be gone overnight. Smith said those are steps to follow before you leave to lessen the impact of a determined criminal.
"It's good to have a list of the serial numbers of your various property,” said Smith. who is also the Executive Director for Crime Stoppers. “If there's no serial number on the property, consider marking them some way, with your own serial number or, at a bare minimum, take photographs."
"I do know that there are some services that sheriff's departments offer. If you're going to be gone, they can do a check-by or run throughs by your house,” offered Sarah Mosley, a Lufkin Animal Services officer, about what to do for your day-trips when you are not traveling with your pets. “Maybe ask a neighbor or good friend to come by and check on your dogs for you to make sure everything's OK with them. If you like to keep them outside, make sure your fence is good and secure and there's no holes or nothing in it before you leave, that way you don't have the risk of them breaking out.”
Torres took those steps.
"This is the first time something has happened to me at this property. My neighbors, they are always outside. And they were trying to catch the dogs for me. And they knew I was out on vacation. So, I feel pretty safe," he said.
Mosley also recommended that you get a microchip for your pet from your veterinarian's office. Another important to step to take when you get the chip: activate it.
"We get a lot of animals in that have the chip,” Mosley added. “But when we go and call the number, the owner never registered it in the system, so we don't know who they belong to."
Mosely said having a collar with a dog tag and rabies tag will also help in returning a stolen or lost pet.
The Torres family has been reunited with both of their pit bulls, and they did have enough documentation to give officers for his stolen property.