MERRIMACK — December can be the ideal time for thieves and burglars, but local police are urging residents to be proactive and hopefully not become victims this holiday season.
Authorities are reminding homeowners about a free house check program offered by the Merrimack Police Department for citizens that may be leaving their home unattended while on vacation or traveling for Christmas.
“This time of year, we tend to get a lot of participants because people are going away,” said Robert Kelleher, community service officer, who stressed the house check program is available year round.
All local residents are urged to register for the house check service by calling the department’s communication center and completing a registration form over the phone.
Police will gather information such as where the homeowner is traveling, how long they will be gone, a contact number and an emergency contact person. Other important information will be asked, such as whether any lights will be left on, whether cars should be in the driveway or if anyone will be visiting the home to care for pets.
Police will then check the home about once per day while the residence is vacant, according to Kelleher. Police will check the perimeter of the house, make sure all doors and windows are secured and look for anything unusual.
“We do the checks at random times. We actually get out of our car and walk around the property and pull on doors,” said Kelleher. “Sometimes we find doors open or unlocked, or windows smashed.”
If something seems out of place, the homeowner or an emergency contact person will be notified, according to Kelleher. Police then make a record of all the checks completed on the house so that homeowners will have proper documentation.
“The odds are that we will not catch someone breaking into your home. But, what the program does do is get a cruiser and an officer into your neighborhood,” he said. “You never know when we are going to show up, and this program gives us a reason to go.”
Extra patrols in local neighborhoods is always a positive sign, and can help deter crimes such as burglaries, said Kelleher, adding he would like to see more participation in the program.
It takes a quick phone call to register, according to Kelleher, explaining homeowners can wait until the day they leave to sign up. To register for the house check program, call 424-3774 and select zero to be connected with the communication center. Police are also reminding residents who may have ordered online gift merchandise to plan in advance for any packages that may be delivered. Anyone who is expecting a package by mail who may not be home at the time of delivery should plan to have a trustworthy neighbor pick up the package when it is delivered.
Or, for future purchases, packages can be delivered to businesses or relatives to ensure they are received by an actual person and not left unattended on a doorstep, said police.
Kelleher said there have already been reports of unattended packages being stolen this month in Merrimack.