Household break-ins are in a sharp upswing, spurred by changing social and economic patterns. A counselor to insurance underwriters provides useful tips for safeguarding the house and the family car.

Q. Mr. Prevas, this past winter has seen a sharp rise in home burglaries and auto thefts. What's the cause?
A. There are four basic reasons: first is the direct and indirect influence of organized-crime operations. Second is the spreading use of drugs, which spurs some people to rob or steal to support their habit. Third is the impact of lagging business in some industries that has thrown people out of work. Finally, there's the lack of strict controls on handguns, which are used in many robberies.

Q. Is most of this criminal activity professional or amateur?
A. It's difficult to pinpoint the exact mix, but certainly crime transcends types of individuals. It permeates all levels of society you can look at every segment and find people involved in crime. FBI figures show that burglaries are on the rise. There are about 6 million a year. Daytime break-ins are becoming especially popular.
Household goods and appliances are expensive-washing machines, dryers, TV sets, silverware. Those are tempting targets for theft. And even when amateurs steal such things, they need a place to market their stolen goods. So professionals help support a market for amateur criminals.

Q. What suggestions do you have for the homeowner who wants to prevent his home from being burglarized?
A. The first step is to assess your real need for protection. That involves checking with the local police department to find out what sort of burglars - professional or amateur -if any, are operating in your neighborhood.
The second step is to evaluate exactly what there is to protect. Does your family have a lot of valuables? Are we talking mainly about a TV or a stereo set, or are we talking about $30,000 to $40,000 worth of silver or perhaps some antiques or rare objects of art?
Finally, you have to look at your lifestyle and your budget to see what is practical for you to do and how much you can afford to spend for protection.

Q. Are there any practical steps?
A. Yes. First if you . . . Continue to article and footnotes (PDF).

Thomas P. Prevas is President of General Security Consultants, Inc.(GSC), located in West Hartford, Connecticut. Prior to starting GSC, Inc., Mr. Prevas was a Senior Consultant with ITT-Hartford, where he was involved with the development and administration of the Corporate Security Program country wide and in Canada, providing underwriting management with risk evaluation and risk improvement services for commercial accounts with complex security exposures, and consulting on losses, claims investigations and staff training.

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