Rise in Fayetteville, N.C. burglaries coincide with summer months

Sgt. 1st Class Keith Williams was running a few hours behind when he left for work June 9.

Five hours later, he returned to find his garage door kicked open and more than $30,000 worth of belongings missing from his home.

According to Fayetteville police, more break-ins occur during the summer. Last year, 35 percent of the break-ins investigated by police occurred between May and August. That was slightly more than what was reported between January and April and between September and December.

Williams, 36, said the incident left him feeling violated.

He said he isn't going to let it happen again.

"Someone was in my sanctuary," he said, "rambling through my stuff."

So, Williams is making some changes to his home in the Montibello neighborhood off Cliffdale Road.

The flimsy door that was kicked in? It's been replaced by a sturdier door, complete with deadbolt lock.

The large bushes that prevented anyone from seeing one side of his home? They've been cut down and hauled to the curb.

The other set of bushes that separates his home from his neighbors? They're next.

And Williams doesn't plan to stop there. He's installed an alarm system and said he would begin attending neighborhood watch meetings.

He shares the home with his girlfriend and frequently has his three children over.

That night, he was restless, worrying about the safety of his family.

"What if they had been home?" he said. "That next night was rough for me."

Chris Noland, a crime prevention specialist with the Fayetteville Police Department, said property crimes tend to rise during the summer months as people leave for vacations and school-age children find more time for mischief.

"Crime is just like the weather," Noland said. "If it's a rainy day, crime will be low. If it's a beautiful day, crime will be up."

"That's just the nature of the beast," he said. "All crimes are crimes of opportunity; and in the summer, there will be a lot more opportunity for crime."

Williams was away from his home for less than five hours the Monday his home was broken into. When the thief entered, a clock fell off the wall and stopped. That clock shows Williams' home was broken into less than an hour after he left for work on Fort Bragg.

Whoever broke in took his time, Williams said. Nothing was ransacked, but Williams said belongings were moved around and sheets were pulled up, making it obvious to him that someone went through every drawer, checked every closet and looked under every bed.

They even took the time to find the proper remote for a 52-inch, flat screen television and to leave the remotes that didn't go with other stolen electronics.

But while that thief may have taken his time, others can move swiftly.

"People are in and out in seconds and they'll steal anything because it's all stuff they can take to the pawn shop," Noland said.

Noland and his partner, Kathleen Ruppert, said the key to protecting one's property is to reduce the opportunities for would-be thieves and to make their job as difficult as possible.

Fayetteville police will provide a checklist of ways people can protect their home. If requested, crime prevention specialists will come to your home and discuss ways to improve security.

Ruppert said the programs have been underutilized in the community.

Many of the steps that Williams is taking are included on the checklist.

People can also take steps that will help officers locate their property if it is ever stolen. Police recommend keeping a list of pricey items. It should include serial numbers and pictures if possible.

Ruppert said active community watch groups have also proven to help deter crime. She defined an active watch group as one where residents report suspicious activity to the police, are aware of who does not belong in their neighborhood and has frequent patrols.

The Montibello Community Watch is active, but Williams had never put much thought into participating, until now.

"I'm definitely going to check it out," he said.

According to Fayetteville police, neighborhoods with active watches not only see lower crime rates, but a higher arrest rates.

In those neighborhoods, "Lots of crimes are stopped before they happen," Noland said.

Recently, observant neighbors in the Ashton Forest neighborhood off Hope Mills Road reported suspicious activity and police were able to stop a trailer from being stolen, Ruppert said.

In the Well's Place neighborhood off Raeford Road, she said, community watch members helped alert police to a home break-in. A person was quickly caught and the stolen property returned.

In those instances, neighbors knew someone was in the neighborhood who didn't belong and they called police.

The next time someone unfamiliar is on Williams' cul-de-sac, he may be the one watching.

"I'm definitely more observant," he said. "This has triggered an alarm in me."