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January 17, 2013
GROSSE POINTE SHORES — Snowbirds can protect their houses while on the wing.

It involves telling police before flying the coop.

"We encourage residents, if they're going to be gone for portions of the winter or even long weekends, to put their house on a watch list," said John Schulte, chief of public safety in Grosse Pointe Shores. "We generate a confidential card that officers carry in cars so we know which homes are vacant."

Residents wanting to join the watch list should call the public safety department non-emergency telephone number and speak to a dispatcher.

"Ask the dispatcher to contact the Shores supervisor's desk," Schulte said.

If the supervisor isn't available, leave a message.

"We'll call back to get the information, "Schulte said. "Supervisors often forward the desk phone to their cell phone and the information is taken right away."

Police also advise homeowners leaving town to suspend delivery of newspapers and mail.

As further backup, ask a friend or neighbor to watch the property.

Even better, arrange for someone to shovel the snow, pick up deliveries and shift cars in the driveway.

Detective Lt. Scott Rohr said vacationers can feign being home by programming timers to turn interior lights on and off at irregular intervals.

"Alarms and camera systems are recommended," Rohr said.

"The home needs to give an appearance that it is occupied," Schulte said.

Schulte and his officers are beefing up neighborhood patrols during winter due to increased risk of burglaries when homeowners are out of town.

Still, the department's best eyes and ears belong to residents.

"Residents know what cars belong on the street and who may or may not belong on a driveway or near a garage," Schulte said. "We are far more successful at preventing crime and apprehending subjects based on prompt information received from residents."

Some residents hesitate reporting suspicious people, vehicles or circumstances for fear of pestering police.

"Don't think you're bothering us, "Schulte said. "Please call if you see something that doesn't look right."

The public safety department general phone number is (313) 881-5500.

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