Property crime climbs as economy goes down

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The economic climate including layoffs, scaled back on the job time and the threat of losing one's livelihood puts pressure on homeowners, renters and anyone who owns a vehicle.

As the new home construction industry continues to suffer from low or non-existent sales, a shift is in progress as to where and how people live. The number of renters increases as foreclosures force lifestyle changes and as new home sales slump. In a down economy, the need for renters insurance might not be a high priority as it is when it's mandatory with a mortgaged home.

Motorists caught in an economic bind are either insurance-hopping to save a few bucks a month or worse, a dropping insurance altogether, leaving the rest of us vulnerable to an increasing number of uninsured drivers.

At the same time, reports across Georgia continue to remind us that property crimes are on the rise.

Just the other day, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported: "... in some neighborhoods, particularly East Atlanta, property crimes such as house burglaries and thefts have skyrocketed since 2006."

The Savannah-Chatham County Metropolitan Police Department reported recently a 14 percent rise in property crime.

According to a Cobb County police officer in suburban Atlanta, valuables such as jewelry are a high priority as are prescription drugs, weapons and whatever else can be carried off quickly.

Another crime that is escalating around Atlanta now has its own name: garage hopping.

Police say the bad guys look for open garage doors in single-family homes, condos or townhomes where they can quickly run in, grab anything of value and run out.

Vehicle break-ins are on the rise in shopping centers, parking lots and even on residential streets where people forget to lock their vehicles.

Though statistics are yet available, Cobb County Police report the prime targets are GPS devices, satellite radio receivers and anything on the seats or in unlocked glove compartments that can be easily removed.

To minimize your chances of being a victim of these crimes, homeowners insurers and law enforcement continue to remind homeowners and renters of the basic rules that continually are not followed:

- Keep all doors and windows closed and locked at all time to prevent break-ins. Use your alarm systems if you have them.

- Keep your vehicles locked at all times, even when you are in them to prevent a carjacking, and remember to close your garage doors when you arrive home or leave home.

- Keep prescription medicines in a safer place than your medicine cabinet.

- My Cobb County friend said just this week, "If you keep soft drinks or items such as beer in your garage, and if they are in the original case, a thief can take them easily, but not if they are taken out of the case and put in a garage refrigerator or kept indoors."

David Colmans is the Executive Director of the Georgia Insurance Information Service. Contact him at (770) 565-3806 or by e-mail at dcolmans@giis.org.


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