Westminster PD detectives are noticing a trend in a particular type of crime: burglaries at residences undergoing fumigation.
“During that time when the home is tented … their houses are left unlocked,” said Burglary Det. Ryan Reyes.
He added that as homes in Westminster communities age, homeowners see an increased need for termite and general pest control. But this leaves homeowners vulnerable because fumigation requires residents to leave their homes for about three days.
Doors are left unlocked for the fumigation company, which needs access to the house – but this also leaves the home open to thieves.
Reyes said residents often don’t realize the potential danger for burglary.
“You kind of let your guard down,” he said.
WPD, however, does have some advice and proactive tips to keep property protected.
“We have citizens call us and advise us that [they’re] doing fumigation,” he said.
When police are alerted of this, the resident’s address and fumigation dates are entered into the system so that dispatch can provide the information to each new shift.
“Officers in that sector will offer different patrol checks of the area at that time,” Reyes said. “Officers do take that extra step to reduce citizens being victimized.”
Residents also should let their neighbors know they’ll be out of their home so neighbors can keep an eye on things.
“We advise them to take their valuables with them,” he said, including jewelry, electronics, cash, etc.
Another tip is to be involved with the fumigation process and know the people doing the work.
“You should meet with the people who are doing the fumigation,” he said, adding that it’s a good idea to be there when the tent goes up and as much as possible throughout the fumigation. “You want to know who’s at your home.”
He said that while it may not always be the case, sometimes fumigation company employees may share private information about a home (for example, noticing expensive jewelry) with others.
“Unfortunately, that is a segue into somebody getting into your house,” he said.
Another thing residents can do is hire a security company to watch over the home during the fumigation, and/or invest in a security system.
On May 21, Ring home security doorbell system – which allows homeowners to see and communicate with visitors or trespassers – alerted a Westminster resident of a trespasser while the resident’s home was undergoing fumigation. The resident saw an unknown male moving toward the side yard via the Ring app. The resident called the WPD, which had officers on the scene in minutes. One of the officers encountered the suspect as he was taking items from the house. The suspect fled but was stopped by other WPD officers and booked for burglary.
Generally, Reyes advises residents to be proactive and take time to research the fumigation company hired. Check out if there are recent complaints and/or pending civil lawsuits against the company.
If you go into the WPD station, you can request to see if there’s any recent or past history with burglaries at the company’s fumigated homes.
“Definitely do your homework,” he said.