Chapel Hill residents on alert after rash of break-ins

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Police and residents are on alert after a rash of break-ins.

A crime spree in Chapel Hill has many families stepping up security in and outside their homes.

Police have responded to several break-ins across town during the last month, many of them along Sweeten Creek Road and Perry Creek Drive near East Chapel Hill High School.

A Chapel Hill police officer patrolling the neighborhood Wednesday afternoon was a welcome and familiar sight for people such as Ann Booterbaugh whose dead-bolted back door was kicked in two weeks ago, her bedroom ransacked, and jewelry stolen.

"It has happened before but not as prevalent," Booterbaugh said of another break-in her family experienced in the past. "I mean this is crazy to have this many - it's very bold."

Neighbors tell ABC11 that thieves have hit at least a half dozen homes in recent weeks. Officers said in one case, crooks stacked porch furniture to break through a high window; in another, police reports showed they took down a screen and lifted a window that was left unlocked.

"When I go for walks now - I never used to lock the doors - I take the key," said Booterbaugh about locking her house at all times.

Several neighbors said they've been switching up their routines in light of the recent break-ins; some have installed security systems or added timers to interior and exterior lights.

Chapel Hill police met with the community a week ago to share information about the break-ins and ask for their help in reporting suspicious activity when homeowners see it.

"Don't be paranoid but be observant," Booterbaugh said. "People watch for a routine and if somebody walks the dog everyday at noon, it doesn't take 10 minutes to steal something sentimental or valuable and just to cause that violation."

The Chapel Hill Police Department encourages residents to observe the following tips related to personal safety and the security of personal property:

1. Lock every door and window

  • In almost half of all completed residential burglaries, thieves enter through unlocked doors or windows. Commit to locking every door and window every time you're away from your home.

  • Create a routine of checking doors and windows before you leave home and before you go to bed each night.

  • 2. Practice "target hardening"

  • Install dead-bolts on entry doors.

  • Install peep holes in entry doors.

  • Install flood lights on exterior of home.

  • Identify and remove outdoor items that could be used to provide access to the second floor of your home.

  • 3. Make your home appear occupied

  • Place interior lights, TV's and stereos on timers.

  • Alert the post office and newspaper to stop delivery during lengthy absences.

  • 4. Remove hidden keys

  • Don't keep spare keys to your home or car outside. If someone will be checking on them for you, give that person the key. Hidden keys are a free pass for would-be thieves.

  • 5. Consider getting an alarm system

  • More than 80 percent of burglars determine whether an alarm system is installed and use that information in choosing their targets.

  • If you have an alarm, make sure that upstairs areas are covered by your alarm system. Many systems only cover the downstairs portion of the home.

  • If anyone has information about these crimes, please call the Chapel Hill Police Department at 919-968-2760 or Crime Stoppers at 919-942-7515. Calls to Crime Stoppers are confidential and anonymous, and the caller may be eligible for a cash reward up to $2,000 for information that leads to arrest.

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