FORT RUCKER, Ala. (Mar. 29, 2012) -- Spring break season is here and the time for summer vacations is quickly approaching. Many Soldiers and Family members will invest hours into planning trips, but many also forget about plans to keep homes and vehicles safe while they travel.

"It's all about perspective," said Maj. Jay Massey, emergency management operations officer at the Fort Rucker Installation Operations Center. "Criminals look for indicators such as full mailboxes and lawns that are six inches high. These indicators reveal empty or unattended homes."

Massey encourages Families to look at their home from a criminal's perspective before they go out of town. "Find out where your vulnerabilities are and fix them," he said.

Some of the steps he recommends include having someone pick up mail and newspapers, using a timer for indoor and outdoor lights, having the grass cut, leaving a vehicle in the driveway, leaving porch lights on, and asking someone to take out the garbage cans and return them to their usual location after pick-up.

Essentially, "make your house look occupied," he said.

At times, Families have posted notes about vacation plans on their front door explaining where they were and when they would be back, Massey said. Other people may be quick to update a voicemail greeting or post travel plans on Facebook or Twitter.

"That's what we want to avoid," he said. "Don't be a 'soft target.'"

Here on Fort Rucker, Soldiers and Families are offered an extra level of protection if they request it, according to Marc McDougald, deputy director of public safety.

DPS offers police checks for the quarters of people who live on post while they are on vacation, leave, TDY or otherwise out of town. To have the Fort Rucker police check on a residence, the occupants need to complete a request form at the Police Desk in Bldg. 5001, McDougald said.

The form includes information like the dates of the trip and emergency contact information. It also asks about any other person who may be at the residence to do things like water plants, feed pets or get the mail.

All of these are steps Families can take before they leave, but there are also ways to keep belongings safe while traveling, Massey said.

He recommends parking in illuminated areas of parking lots, removing keys from vehicles and keeping valuable items hidden -- especially while shopping. He also advises people to protect information such as credit cards, ATM numbers and how much cash they are carrying.

At the airport, Massey recommends staying alert and keeping a close watch on luggage and expensive items like cameras and laptops. Hotel guests should keep doors and windows locked, learn the location of fire exits and keep valuables in the hotel room safe, if available.

From an operations security perspective, Massey said military personnel should refrain from using military duffle bags or bags with government patches while traveling, and they should avoid using ranks and titles when making reservations.

"We're not saying there's a high rate of criminal activity here on post or off post. These are things that are often forgotten about or neglected before people leave," he said. "We just want to make sure no one becomes a soft target when they go out of town."

Page last updated Thu March 29th, 2012 at 00:00