Going out of town and want to make sure your home is secure while you’re not there?
If you’re looking for piece of mind during your vacation, the Tampa Police Department’s Vacation Watch Program could be for you.
This free service is available to all New Tampa residents and allows a zone officer to check your home during his or her tour of duty.
“They often make sure the doors and windows are not left open,” said Lisa Timmer, TPD’s Neighborhood Affairs Liaison. “If there are items in plain view—like newspapers in the driveway—they will place them in a location where it is less conspicuous that the homeowner is not picking them up.”
In one particular case, the Vacation Watch Program is credited with preventing a home burglary.
“During one of the checks, one of our sergeants noticed that the back door slider was open and a burglar was in fact prepping the items for a later pick up,” Timmer said. “Although the burglar was not caught in the act, it is believed that this check prevented the homeowner from losing the items that were placed at the door side and perhaps even more. In this case, (the) homeowner was immediately notified and they arranged for 24-hour security with a security company until they could return home and properly re-secure the home.”
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Last year, 1,496 New Tampa and Tampa Palms residents used the Vacation Watch Program, Timmer said.
“It seems the most communities that take advantage of this free service in New Tampa and Tampa Palms are the communities that have an active Neighborhood Watch Program in place,” she said. “The Neighborhood Watch leaders usually utilize their newsletters and other means to contact their neighbors to inform them of this service and provide contact information to obtain it.”
The holiday season is the busiest time, Timmer said. On Dec. 20 and 21, 2012, 26 families used the service district-wide, and 11 of those were from New Tampa and Tampa Palms.
Ann Diller used the Vacation Watch Program when she went away for Thanksgiving in 2011.
“I received a call from Tampa Police Department Officer Craven letting me know that I had left our van unloved in our driveway,” she said in this blog post on New Tampa Patch: TPD's Vacation Watch Program Offers Peace of Mind. “He said that everything looked OK and that he had locked the van for me.”
Timmer said the service is great for residents of both gated and un-gated communities.
“Gated communities may offer crime prevention on a somewhat higher level, however, gated communities are also subject to burglaries and other crimes due to the fact that gate codes ‘get out’ and a non-resident can ‘tailgate’ to get in,” she said.
“All homeowners should utilize this program because it places more marked units within the community—therefore deterring crime.”
Here are some other tips from TPD:
- Keep garage doors closed and locked.
- Keep valuables out of vehicles.
- Report suspicious behavior by calling 9-1-1 or Non-Emergency Dispatch at 813-231-6130.