Safe and sound ‘home alone’

Lewiston officer offers tips for keeping your home, belongings secure during the holidays

click to enlarge Safe and sound ‘home alone’
20th Century Studios
Macaulay Culkin, left, and Joe Pesci in “Home Alone.”

Kevin McCallister’s attempts to thwart a home invasion in the movie “Home Alone” were entertaining, but, in reality, there are better ways to make sure your home and belongings stay safe.

Lewiston police Capt. Jeff Klone offered some advice that doesn’t involve leaving an 8-year-old to defend your property.

For example, people spending the holidays away from home can help prevent burglaries by stopping mail and newspaper deliveries and investing in automatic timers for lights. Klone also suggested having someone drop by every so often to leave a car in the driveway and  make footprints in the yard if there’s snow.

The idea is to “make it look like there’s still someone there,” he said.

Having friends or family check in can be helpful, even if they discover a burglary already has taken place. The sooner a crime is reported and the more accurate a time frame provided, the better chance law enforcement has of tracking down those responsible.

Doorbell cameras are one technological advantage for crime prevention McCallister didn’t have, alerting homeowners and law enforcement to suspicious activity inside or around a home.

“Those have been huge for us … through prevention, but even more specifically when it comes to follow-up on thefts and suspects,” Klone said.
Cameras at a home — or even from a neighbor’s home — often can capture a clear image of a suspect to help identify individuals or vehicles and show what time the crime took place.

“That’s huge for us,” Klone said.

click to enlarge Safe and sound ‘home alone’
Adobe stock image

Preventing porch theft

“Home Alone,” released in 1990, was set in the days before online shopping became common and created more opportunities for theft.

Rescheduling delivery might seem inconvenient, Klone said, but having packages arrive on a weekend or a day off work when the recipient is home can prevent them being stolen. Some delivery companies also let the customer include special instructions, like leaving items on a back porch or in a hidden area.

Another option is to have packages shipped to a place of work, so they won’t be left unattended in front of a house all day.

People are less likely to know their  neighbors these days, Klone said, so asking them to check for packages might not be as common as it once was — but it’s still a good option for those who feel comfortable making the request.

click to enlarge Safe and sound ‘home alone’
20th Century Studios
Culkin in “Home Alone.”

Reporting suspicious behavior

People who see concerning activity — like a vehicle repeatedly driving through a neighborhood or a person acting suspicious — should call their local law enforcement agency’s nonemergency number, Klone said.

“People know their neighborhoods better than we do most of the time,” he said. “If something seems odd, that’s what we’re here for; we’re open 24/7. … We’re always glad when people report something suspicious, even if it’s nothing, rather than responding to a crime that could have been prevented.”

Klone’s advice is to “be a good witness,” which means getting a description of the vehicle, including a license plate number, or of the person, such as what they are wearing. However, a witness’s role should end there.

Don’t engage suspicious people, Klone said, because they could be armed or not in a good state of mental health.

And if you think someone’s going to burglarize your home, don’t follow McCallister’s example.

“While the movie is funny, setting traps like that can be dangerous for anyone involved,” Klone said, noting it’s better to call the police. “That’s what we’re paid to do, and that’s why you should just let us handle it.”

Better safe than sorry

If you’re leaving children home alone — hopefully not by accident — Klone said to let them know they can call 911, but to make sure they know when it’s appropriate.

For adults who live alone, if someone you don’t know shows up at the door, don’t let them inside unless they have identification, such as a city business license, that explains why they’re there. Let them in if they have a legitimate reason for coming inside and you feel comfortable. But if their behavior is odd, report it to the police.
“Please utilize us if you’re not sure,” Klone said.

Lewiston and the surrounding communities are relatively safe, he said, but it’s always good to take precautions to keep yourself and others safe from those who want to do harm.
It’s often a matter, he said, of “just being aware of your surroundings and not creating crimes of opportunity.”

Brewster earned a master’s degree in film and television studies at the University of Glasgow. She also has experience being left home alone, none of which resulted in fighting off any criminal activity. She can be contacted at or at (208) 848-2297.