Police warn of holiday burglary risk

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WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — A warning from police as you get ready to leave for the holidays: Your empty house is the perfect target for burglars.

West Valley Police said they responded to 24 home burglaries in the first two weeks of December, and they're on track to reach 50-55 by the month's end.

One West Valley family ended up falling victim to an early holiday season break-in when they left for an out-of-town trip.

Signs of the Thanksgiving weekend burglary are still apparent at the home.

"They pried into the safe pretty good," said Jenny Murdock, pointing to a now-defunct safe with its door bent and broken.

In her bedroom, a gun rack sits empty and in the basement, her kids' electronics are gone, with only dust showing outlines on the shelves where they once sat.

"They went through pretty much every room," Murdock said, recounting what her family found upon returning home.

The burglars entered through a basement window, she said. Pictures she and her husband took show it shattered, with glass shards everywhere.

The family found many of their belongings missing, and weeks later they are still making discoveries of what's gone.

"It shocks you," Murdock said. "Your heart kind of sinks a little bit."

Some items are replaceable, but others have unique sentimental value.

"They took a couple shotguns. One of them was my husband's grandpa's that he'd owned. And so that was... that was a hard one," she said.

West Valley Police said responding to dozens of burglaries like the Murdock's this time of year isn't uncommon, especially when people leave town for the holidays.

"People will try to check the doors, knock on the door, see if anybody is there," said Lieutenant Jeff Conger. He said a lot of thieves will walk around to the back of the house and enter in that way.

In fact, when Fox 13 talked with West Valley Police on Wednesday, Lt. Conger said they'd already taken a call that day.

"Two suspicious males in the back of a home. The police arrived, checked that out," Conger said.

While everything turned out okay in that case, it's an important reminder to stay vigilant.

If you do plan to head out for the holidays, Lt. Conger said let neighbors know you are leaving so they can keep watch.

"Have a neighbor park a car in your driveway, to make it look like somebody's there," he said. "Have the lights on a cycle, if they have automatic timers that would be good."

A home security system isn't a bad idea, either. The Murdocks said they are now installing one.

One other thing they'd wish they'd done? Write down serial numbers to their electronics and other items-- especially Jenny's video camera.

She said she saw one that looked like hers listed for sale on an online classifieds website.

"I couldn't really do anything about it," she said, saying if she'd known the serial number she could have verified if it was hers.

If you aren't leaving for the holidays-- the Murdocks said they're staying put for Christmas-- police said keep your porch lights on through the night.

You can also keep an eye on your neighborhood, and call police if you see anything suspicious.