ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - More Americans than ever before are expected to travel this holiday season. 103 million people will be fifty miles or more from home.
Police say all of those empty homes this weekend could make easy targets for burglars. That's why Roanoke City and other police departments across the region are offering a home watch program.
The officers won't be going inside of your home or standing guard outside-- but by letting them know you won't be in town, they can be on the lookout for anything suspicious. Roanoke City Police say their call load goes down significantly in the winter because of the cold temperatures. That gives officers who are on duty overnight or in the early morning a chance to check out the houses on the list-- making sure doors aren't open and that everything looks normal.
Experts say it's also important for homeowners to do their part before they leave town, like putting a hold on the mail and newspaper, leaving on a light and moving a car into the garage or driveway. These are all moves that keep it from becoming obvious that no one is home.
"A lot of burglars will drive along and look for things like that," says Scott Leamon, Roanoke City Police spokesperson. "It's piled up mail, no car in the garage. As a burglar, that might be a house I want to check out."
Police also say it's important not to advertise what's inside of your home. If you get a new TV or an XBox, don't leave the boxes on the road where anyone can see them. Social media can play a big role as burglars decide which homes to hit as well-- so don't post your plans to leave town or pictures from out of town while your home is empty.
It's not just your home that needs to be protected, but your vehicle as well. Don't forget to lock your car when you head to the mall or grocery store-- as an unlocked vehicle makes an easy target this time of year.
"You're far more likely this time of year to be the victim of someone breaking into your car than someone breaking into your house," says Leamon.
A recent study found that for every ten vehicle break-ins in Roanoke City, 6 of those vehicles had been left unlocked to begin with. Locking your car is one of the most important ways to keep your valuables and your vehicle itself safe.
If you take part in the program-- it's important to leave as much information about you home as possible. Let officers know what cars should be there and what your house should look like when they stop by. If you live in Roanoke City, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org to add your home to the list. For other cities or counties, contact your local police department directly.