If going home for the holidays means you won't be at home during the holidays, consider calling the Bay County Sheriff's Office and placing an order for some peace of mind.
The BCSO's "Holiday House Check" program gives out of town homeowners a worry-free trip. The service is offered throughout the year, but demand increases during the holidays when many homeowners travel over the river and through the woods.
Corporal Jason Larson spent the day before Christmas patrolling neighborhoods and keeping an eye on empty houses. "Not just for the house, but it also puts a little bit of an extra patrol in the area that the residence is in," Larson said.
There are about 40 properties on the BCSO's list and each one is getting extra attention. "It's got to give [homeowners] some sense of relief to be able to know that there's somebody there that cares and that's going to be checking on their belongings," Larson said.
Larson said high visibility serves as a warning to would-be thieves. "It shows that there's law enforcement presence and it really does deter," he said.
Deputies and graduates of the Citizens Police Academy check for unlocked or damaged doors, broken windows and missing screens. "Pretty much anything that would alert that somebody has been trying to get in there or has gotten in there," Larson said.
Homeowners can help keep their property secure during their absence by temporarily suspending mail and newspaper delivery, installing outdoor motion activated lighting and adding timers to indoor lights. "Anything you can do to make sure that the house looks lived in or like somebody's there on a constant basis is going to protect you even more," Larson said.
Call the Bay County Sheriff's Office at (850) 747-4700 to schedule house checks. Homeowners must provide contact information, dates of absence and a list of persons or vehicles authorized to be on the property.