EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Police say at least five burglaries were committed or attempted in eau Claire since last Friday, but there are simple ways people can protect their homes.
“On average, we have at least one burglary a day,” Eau Claire community relations officer Kyle Roder said.
Michael Roemer became part of that statistic over the weekend, when he returned to his Eau Claire home late from the casino.
“As I came upstairs, I noticed that the TV I have on my left TV stand had been moved,” Roemer said.
Someone had done more than rearrange his living room.
Two televisions, a laptop, a Blu-ray player and a cable box were gone.
Roemer said the night had started out well, winning about $3,400 at the casino, but his mood quickly changed.
“For six hours, I was gone and $5,000 worth of stuff was stolen.” “I got home with a bunch of money, and it's just like oh, I'm going to be forking this over, just buying new stuff.” “I was kind of in shock.”
Roemer said he realized his lock was broken on his patio door.
“Don't forget that the windows on your second floor, if they can be accessible by a person climbing a tree and getting in, or getting up on top of a patio or a porch roof,” Roder said.
Eau Claire Police said thieves are finding new ways to burglarize homes.
“When we broadcast (what we’re doing) more publicly … (burglars) see that you're going to be gone and that you're in Mexico for a week, they know that your house is fair game for that period of time,” Roder said.
Roemer said he suspects some former classmates are responsible, who had taken things from friends before.
“They had texted me and also saw on Instagram and twitter that I had been at the casino. I'd posted a picture,” he said. “Your house is just a sitting target for however long you're gone, if you're posting stuff on social media.”
Police also said recording serial numbers of items, like Roemer did, will offer a better chance at recovering stolen items through a database.
“We're able to more readily recover those items if they are pawned or if they end up online,” Roder said.
Burglars can access homes by unlocking a door with a key.
“Probably only 25 to 35 percent of the locks get changed on a regular basis,” Chris Colbert with Pop-A-Lock in Eau Claire said.
“I always worry about the fact that not only holding onto their old keys but you never know who they gave a key to.”
A WEAU employee found that the key to her Eau Claire home and the key to her friends' home 12 miles away in Elk Mound, are nearly identical and open each other's doors.
Chris Colbert said landlords will occasionally remove lock pins to make them easier to change when someone moves out.
“Advice that I have to renters is to always ask their landlord, even before they're renting, when was the last time their locks were changed? And how often are they changed?” Colbert said.
Police said we’re not helpless.
Security systems using smart phones can be the eyes of a homeowner from just about anywhere.
“They can actually tap into their home on video, a live feed and actually see what's going on in their home,” Michael Kloss with Per Mar Security said.
But police said security doesn't have to come at a cost.
“So make sure you're really watching out and making sure you're doing the very simple things, locking your doors, locking your windows, cutting the shrubbery around your house. Making the illusion that you're home,” Roder said.
“We've gotten away from being good neighbors. And we need to get back to that, because that's really the biggest thing in crime prevention is making sure your neighbors are watching out for you,” he said.
Roder said many burglaries are just crimes of opportunity, where people leave doors and windows unlocked. He says burglars will often knock on a door first and ask for some kind of help or offer a service to better understand the home's layout. He recommends keeping valuables out of sight and closing blinds and not posting pictures of their locations in your home online.