Prosecutor column: Keep security top of mind this summer


Summer may not be officially on the calendar quite yet, but we’ve already had some beautiful days where it’s a joy to be outside. We mow our lawns, dig in the garden, relax on our decks.

Worry-free we spend hours outside, but while we are taking advantage of the weather, who else might be lurking? Now that our garages and sheds are open, it’s an opportunity for others to access our tools and gardening equipment. What about our doors and windows?

Are they unlocked or even open? Like it or not, this is an issue we have to think about. At home or away, we must consider security.

Before my husband and I left for Italy we were regaled with horror stories of Americans having their backpacks, wallets, purses, iPhones, packages, and passports stolen.

While traveling we were constantly reminded by tour guides, sales people, friends, and even by the ever-present announcements on trains and subways to keep our bags and personal items close.

Never, ever just put them down. It seemed everyone warned of thieves just looking for that moment a tourist lets their guard down. One British couple actually tapped me on the shoulder to inform me the cell phone in my pocket was “imminently nickable.” Sort of a “duh” moment for me. I knew better, but forgot to secure the phone when I left our room. I let my guard down.

Thieves in Italy, thieves in Ohio, thieves wherever — they’re all the same. They look for people to let their guards down, and sometimes it’s easy to do. We want to open our windows and doors. We don’t want to believe that while we’re out back, someone else could be accessing the front of the house or garage.

After our carefree day doing yard work, we’re exhausted. We may simply forget to close garage doors or to lock windows. What’s more, people are really bad about making sure there are no items of value in their cars or garages.

What about vacation? Summer is, after all, prime time for vacations — a wonderful time to get away from the stress of life, to explore new places, or visit old haunts. It’s only natural we want to share this wonderful time with our friends and family. The easiest way to share nowadays is via social media.

Posts reveal where folks are going, what they’re doing while they’re away, and of course, pictures of all the yummy food eaten on vacation. I have great pictures of the paella we ate on vacation. So good.

While pictures of the beach, mountains, and fabulous dinners are fun to share, it’s really not safe to do so. Even with privacy settings, posting on social media can lead to the information being disseminated to unintended recipients. For example, my niece told her “friends” they were going on vacation. These “friends” decided to steal and crash my sister’s new convertible and steal all the jewelry she inherited from our mother.

While it is unlikely that your friends will be the ones entering your home without your permission, by posting your absence you’ve opened your doors, literally and figuratively, to strangers. They now know you’re not home, and they know when you’ll be back.

Thieves count on the fact that you will be exhausted when you return, and depending on what has been stolen, you may not even immediately notice that you’ve been burglarized.

The bottom line: stop posting pictures. Stop posting vacation plans on social media. Just stop. And after you’re home, settled back in to your normal routine, take a few moments when you’re working outside to secure those areas you cannot see.

Before you go to bed, close and lock windows and doors, especially on the first floor. Remove valuables from your vehicles, lock the doors, and close the garage door.

Oh, and if you want to see a picture of the paella I made, just ask. It won’t be posted on social media, but it is on my phone and I’m happy to share in person.

Have a great and safe summer.

Carol O’Brien

Guest Columnist

Carol O’Brien is Delaware County Prosecutor.

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