Vandalism to home construction sites has been an unfortunate side effect of the housing boom. And contractors must make up their financial losses somehow. Consumers, unfortunately, pay the price. Vandalism shows its ugly face again either through an increased price for your house, or through increased taxes.
If you’re getting ready to build your own home, you can take a few preventive measures as an insurance policy against various forms of vandalism to your property. Reader’s Digest has the following strategies for consumers who preparing to build homes: First, read the contract, and ensure that your builder is ensured against all types of vandalism — including fire. After your windows and doors have been installed, give them a once-over and inspect them for defects. Record the manufacturers’ warranty and guarantee on each of the products used for the construction of your new home. And file those records away for future reference. Give your local police department a call, and ask them if they’ll make routine visits to your property, inspecting it for any damage. Request that your custom doors and windows not be installed until just before your move-in date. In the meantime, you can install temporary doors and for your windows, a temporary or wood sash in the window frame. Then switch the sash for the permanent designer before you close on your house. It’s going to cost you a little more money to go this route, but it’s good insurance — not to mention assurance.
And of course, residents of existing homes face the threat of vandalism. After all, an occupied home presents even more opportunities for the destruction of property — parked cars, landscaping, mailboxes adorned with various signage or ornaments, plants outside front doors … the possibilities are endless. We’ve all been there at one point: You head outside to your car in the morning, only to discover that your driver’s side window has been shattered. Piles of glass shards sit in the street below and on your front seat. And taking a look down the street, you see similar piles of glass alongside random cars.
In addition, many existing home owners have had their mail boxes vandalized (how many of us have been victims of the infamous baseball bat game, in which participants drive by a random house and either smash its mailbox or a parked car, shattering its windows or worse?). Destruction of mailboxes is a federal offense, and violators may be fined up to $250,000 or face a prison sentence of up to three years for each act of vandalism. The United States Postal Service recommends that victimized home owners immediately report theft, tampering, or destruction of mail and/or mailboxes to their local postmasters. Home owners are then asked to fill out a complaint form to help the Postal Inspection Service determine whether your incident was isolated or part of a larger crime spree, so to speak.
To protect both your mailbox and your home, keep the following points in mind:
*Remove your mail from your mailbox as soon as possible after its delivery. If it is impossible for you to pick up your mail right after delivery, and you have been experiencing problems with mailbox vandalism or mail theft, consider renting a post office box.
*Obtain Label 33 from the Postal Inspection Service. This sticker, which warns that willful damage to mail boxes and theft of mail is a crime, can be affixed to your mailbox.
*If you discover someone tampering with your or your neighbor’s mailbox, obtain that person’s description and that of his vehicle, including the license plate number. Immediately report the information to your local police and postmaster.
*Keep your mailbox in good repair by using proper installation methods. This may help prevent theft of the mailbox itself.
*If you have information on mailbox vandalism or mail theft in your area, contact the Postal Inspection Service.
Source: United States Postal Service
The prime opportunities for vandalism occur not only at night, but during times when perpetrators may be ensured that residents aren’t home. With every holiday season comes a sharp increase in petty crimes. Particularly in small towns, where traditions may be stronger and word gets around about important religious events, criminals know they’ll have a prime opportunity to strike when nobody’s home. Take midnight mass on Christmas Eve, for example. Many families have stopped attending because they know their homes are vulnerable to destruction if they go to the mass. And as macabre as it may sound, many criminals consider funerals a big opportunity. Enterprising criminals scan the obituaries, find the families listed, as well as their addresses occasionally, then find out exactly when the funeral service or mass is scheduled to take place. What more information do they need to pull off the perfect crime? The local newspaper does all of the research for them.
Facing the worst-case scenario
If you wake up tomorrow and discover that you’ve become the latest statistic, you can take a few steps to help preserve evidence and increase the probability of catching the perpetrator. It’s very likely that you aren’t alone; vandals often strike multiple homes within a given area. Your local police may be able to trace similarities among the various crimes in your area.
Columbus, Ohio-based Thompson Building Associates, a company specializing in insurance restoration, passes along the following “dos” and “don’ts” for home owners victimized by vandalism:
- Hose down or wash egg from buildings as soon as possible.
- Vacuum glass from carpeting and upholstery.
- Wipe up spilled food from carpets and fabrics with a damp cloth (be careful not to overwet). If you need to, blot and scrape, but be careful not to rub.
- Save any containers to identify spilled inks, paints, cosmetics, or other chemicals.
- Do not attempt to remove any ink, cosmetics, or paints.
- Do not use lamps or appliances that may be damaged.
- Do not throw away anything that may provide evidence for criminal investigation or insurance claims.