AJPD: Home sellers, beware: criminals are targeting you

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On Dec. 1, Apache Junction Police officers responded to a call for theft in the 2700 block of South Idaho Road. An Apache Junction resident who was in the process of selling his home had potential buyers visiting to view the property.  In this specific incident, a young couple approached the seller claiming they were looking for a place for their grandfather. While the resident accompanied the couple as they walked through the house, he noticed at a later time some small items he had by the front door were missing.

This may be related to an incident that occurred on Nov. 21, when a resident in the 1000 block of South Idaho Road reported a very similar couple coming in to look at her house which is also for sale. The resident sat on the couch while the couple looked through the home. After the couple left, the resident noticed several items missing.

Here is a description of the suspects:

•Male suspect is dark-skinned, approximately 20-30 years old with a thin build and estimated to be 5 feet 8 inches tall. Very short black hair, clean shaven, wearing a white striped shirt and jeans.

•Female suspect, white, mid to late 20s, 5 feet 2 inches, petite, blond hair reaching just past her shoulders, wearing a black top and black pants.

•They arrived in a Dodge or Ford style, white single cab pick-up truck looking to be five to 10 years old with a short bed and loud muffler.

Often when the officers are speaking to the victims, the victim reports feeling like something was not right, or “off” about the situation. It is always important to trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable in a place or situation, leave right away and get help if necessary.

The AJPD has provided the following safety tips created by the National Association of Realtors to assist those residents trying to sell or rent their houses:

•Schedule appointments: Don’t allow people to just ring your bell at any hour for a showing. Instead, have them phone ahead to make an appointment. Take their name and phone number and call them back to schedule so that you’re sure you are reaching them at a legitimate number.

•Give contact lists to others: Make sure that a friend or relative at a different location has a copy of the appointment list so that they know who you have showings with and when. Check in with each other immediately after each showing. Ask for some identification such as a drivers license and write down the information.

•Show when the sun is up: Show the house in daytime whenever possible. If you must show it after dark, turn on all lights beforehand and keep the shades, curtains or blinds open at all times.

•Pair up: Make sure someone else is present with you for all open houses or showings and that at least one of you (subtly) keeps an eye on the prospective buyer at all times.

•Bring up the rear: Let the prospect walk in front of you. Don’t lead them, but rather direct them from a position slightly behind them. You can gesture for them to go ahead of you and say, for example, “The master suite is in the back of the house.”

•Don’t get parked in: During showings, park your car in front of the property rather than in the driveway or in the garage, so that you avoid having your car blocked in. This will make it easier for you to escape in your vehicle, if need be.

•Plan ahead with escape routes: Stand near an exit whenever possible. Make sure all deadbolt locks are unlocked for easy access to the outside.

•Carry an alarm device or cell phone: If you have a home security system with a remote key fob, keep that in your hand in case you need to press the panic button to alert the monitoring service.

You can do the same with the panic button for a car alarm, as the noise it sets off outside can alert people to what’s going on (especially if you warn neighbors in advance of your signal). If nothing else, keep a cell phone with you.

•Take notice of vehicles: While prospective buyers are taking a tour, take a moment to walk outside to document their license plate, or give this task to a neighbor to note the year, make, model and color of each vehicle that drops people off at your home.

•Keep valuables out of sight: Remove small jewelry and money from plain view and out of the front of drawers, especially if you’re not going to tour with each prospective buyer. Store away laptops and, if possible, put high-end stereos, flat panel TVs, etc., in storage until you sell.

•Trim hedges: Keep shrubbery clipped down around waist level to ensure that you give your front door or your back yard maximum visibility to neighbors or others from the street.

•Don’t be too public: Limit the amount of personal information that you share. Consider advertising without using your home phone number or address on fliers. Have potential buyers e-mail you to obtain additional information. Use free e-mail accounts.

•Be mindful of groups: During an open house, be alert to visitors’ comings and goings, especially near the end of showing hours. Police have reported groups of criminals that target open houses, showing up en masse near the end of the showing.

Criminals will often target residents trying to sell their home because it offers them a perfect opportunity to move through the home without suspicion. If they do not have an opportunity to steal something at that time, they have now seen the layout of the home and had time to identify areas or items they want to target at a later time.

The AJPD wants to encourage all residents to be diligent in protecting their home, their property and most importantly, themselves.

If you have any information on the incident or suspects listed above, contact the AJPD as soon as possible at 480-982-8260 or you can call anonymously at 480-474-8585 or online.

If you have questions about this article or would like additional information on crime prevention, feel free to call me at 480-474-5442 or e-mail me at scarney@ajcity.net.

Editor’s note: Serene Carney is the community resource coordinator for the Apache Junction Police Department.

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