SHERIFF'S CORNER: Burglary ... Are you at risk?

Living in a rural area, most feel you are less vulnerable when it comes to someone breaking into your house or cabin. However this is quite the opposite. The country life has its great rewards, but it also has its issues that you need to think about when it comes to your homestead and/or your personal property.

In this edition of the "Sheriff's Corner," I discuss ways to avoid being the victim of a burglary or a home break in.

DEFINITIONS

There are three common terms when talking about stealing stuff from your home. Those are "burglary," "breaking and entering (B&E)" and "larceny" in a building.

Under Michigan law, burglary, or “breaking and entering,” means entering a building or remaining in a building with intent to commit a crime (not necessarily a theft) inside the building. The key to burglary is the intent of the person to steal or commit any other crime at the time that the building is entered.

A person who breaks and enters a building “with intent to commit a felony or a larceny therein” is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment of not more than 10 years. If the crime is committed with a firearm (whether that weapon is used in the commission of the crime or not), the maximum sentence is up to 20 years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine.

It is important to note that if you leave your door unlocked and someone comes in, that is still unlawful. The law also states: Any person who, without breaking, enters any dwelling, house, tent, hotel, office, store, shop, warehouse, barn, granary, factory or other building, boat, ship, shipping container, railroad car or structure used or kept for public or private use, or any private apartment therein, with intent to commit a felony or any larceny therein, is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than five years or a fine of not more than $2,500.

The law defines “larceny” as stealing property that belongs to another. The law also states that an individual can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony if they commit a larceny, depending on the value of the property stolen. If the individual steals the property from a dwelling, they might also be charged with "larceny in a building."

TIPS TO AVOID A BURGLARY

Think like a scumbag criminal. "Case" your home the way a "bad guy" would and look for easy ways to enter your home.

• Be sure anything of value (ex: guns, electronics, etc.) are not visible from the street. This also means not leaving the box of a recently purchased flat screen TV by your trash can that is located on the side of the road.

• Install double deadbolts in doors which have glass windows. This will keep a burglar from being able to open the door simply by breaking the glass and reaching through. (Note: so that everyone in the house can get out in the event of a fire, be sure to keep the key in a designated place). Additional locks on windows would also be a plus.

• Even if you have a chihuahua, place a "Beware of dog" sign in your yard. Most criminals are hesitant to enter a property that may have a vicious dog, like "Cujo," that may be on the property.

• Post a "Harley-Davidson'' sign in your yard to deter would-be criminals. Everyone knows a biker will track you down and kick your butt.

• Make sure to lock up ladders and hand tools which could be used to break into your residence or cabin. Don't leave these items lying around.

• If someone breaks into your property, it is generally someone who has been in there before or knows someone who has been in there before. They generally already know what they are looking for. Be hesitant of who you let inside your home.

• In the winter, make sure there are tracks in the snow and someone is getting your mail.

REPLACING YOUR PROPERTY

Sometimes, all your efforts won't stop this from happening. With that in mind, here are some additional steps that will help in the recovery or replacement of your items:

• Make a list of your belongings (be sure to keep receipts of expensive items). Be sure to update or review this list annually.

• Any receipts or lists of property should be kept off site, with a friend or in a safe deposit box.

• Photographing and/or videotaping your possessions is a great way to keep a record of what you own.

• Mark your valuables with an identification or mark to deter burglary and to prove ownership should the item be stolen and recovered by law enforcement.

• Installing a trail cam on your property is a great way to help law enforcement identify offenders.

• Be sure you have the proper insurance coverage. You may need to purchase added coverage to protect items like jewelry, antiques, coins or firearms. Also, even if your insurance company covers these items, they may only be covered if they are "scheduled" (specifically listed) on your policy. Most people do not know that.

• If you don't own your home, seriously consider buying a renter's policy. Your landlord will not be responsible for replacement of your items.

— This information is provided to you for clarification on specific laws, and not legal advice. This is not to be construed as a personal opinion, agreement or disagreement of any specific law. Topics covered are for educational and informational purposes only. As needed, excerpts from other articles are used for reference and/or content. If you have any questions on any specific topic, you may always email me your questions to rmartin@co.lake.mi.us.