BY LAURA ORTIZ • FREE PRESS SPECIAL WRITER • March 15, 2009
If the latest news of home invasions is any indication of Michigan's struggling economy, experts say homeowners need to do all they can to protect themselves and their property. "Any time the economy goes down, the crime rate goes up," said Sgt. Mark Gajeski, community coordinator for the Canton Township Public Safety Department. "The two pretty much go hand in hand." Canton made headlines in early February after three men pretending to be painters forced their way into a home and handcuffed its resident to her stair railing. The criminals ransacked the home looking for valuables, Gajeski said. While police say the Canton Township incident was planned by criminals who scouted the area in advance, most home break-ins are crimes of opportunity, Gajeski said. "They knock and if nobody answers, they kick the front door in," he said. Similar crimes were reported in Detroit, Chesterfield Township and Dearborn within the last month or so. According to the Police Executive Research Forum, nearly half of police departments have reported an increase in crimes attributed to the economic crisis -- including home burglaries. Why? When money is short, more people turn to crime, and those already involved become more desperate. It also doesn't help that budget cuts have downsized police departments and vacant homes sit in foreclosure, creating temptation for looters. Some homeowners make it easy for criminals to enter by leaving doors or windows unlocked or hiding a key under the welcome mat. By taking simple precautions and making inexpensive additions to your home, criminals will be more apprehensive to target you. Gajeski and other experts agree.