Getting away for a couple of days is bliss but it can turn into one huge headache if you return to a burglarized home.

Local community action officers from the Phoenix Police Department have simple tips for residents worried about protecting their homes when they leave on summer vacation.

The officers' biggest warning for those planning on getting away is to not tell any stranger or casual acquaintance that your home will be empty.

"We wouldn't say that burglary is an epidemic down here," Officer Ben Morris said. "It's not even track-able as far as a trend. These incidents are isolated. They're mostly crimes of opportunity."

Morris mentioned a case of burglary recently in Ahwatukee Foothills where a family left for only a couple days and their home was broken into.

"It almost makes you think they just told the wrong person that they were going out of town and someone capitalized on that," he said. "You have to be careful of your kids, too. You don't want your kids telling their friends, who are all out of school with nothing to do, that their house is going to be empty for a few days."

Morris recommends asking a trusted neighbor to watch out for your house. Ask them to pick up your newspapers and bring trash cans in and out. You can also arrange to have your lawn mowed while you're gone.

Make sure that home alarms are set and have the stickers or signs for your alarm system clearly posted in windows in the front and back of your house.

The officers suggested getting security lights for the backyard and the driveway. Lights with a motion sensor may deter any would-be burglars. They also said there are security systems available that will turn lights and appliances on and off while you are gone, simulating someone being there.

In addition, there's an app for iPhone that connects to the security system to do the same thing.

Putting a padlock on a power box may also stop a crime of opportunity.

"Some of the crimes out here in Ahwatukee have happened when someone goes to the power box and turns off the power to the house, thinking that it's going to turn off the alarm, and then they'll go break into the house," Officer Chad Williamson said. "You can deter somebody by putting a padlock on your power box. If SRP needs to get in there they'll cut the padlock. Some people are worried about that but they don't need to be."

Make sure all locks are working properly before leaving. Lock all your doors, even the inside garage door.

For extra protection disable the garage door by unplugging it and take all garage door openers out of cars in the driveway.

Sliding glass doors and windows can be secured by placing a stick or PVC pipe in the track to keep them from sliding open.

As always keep any valuables out of your car if it has to be parked in the driveway. If at all possible, park the car in your garage when you leave on vacation.

"Think of it like ‘Shrek,' like an onion," Williamson said. "Onions have lots of layers. You need lots of layers of security so a burglar doesn't choose your home while you're on vacation."

If you notice any suspicious behavior in your neighborhood, call Crime Stop at (602) 262-6151.

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