In the past week, officers have discovered at least seven homes in a quiet west Payson neighborhood burglarized, all while no one was at home.
The thieves are getting in through unlocked windows and doors, making detection difficult for police and worried neighbors.
The majority of homes are either for sale or second homes — all without regular occupancy, said Payson Police Chief Don Engler.
Thieves broke into two homes on Landmark Trail and attempted a break-in at a third home. That attempted break-in was discovered Sunday morning.
Engler said after the initial reports, officers started looking around the neighborhood to see if other homes had been burglarized. Officers focused on the homes that were for sale or looked unlived in. They found another four homes burglarized.
Police cannot pinpoint when all of the incidents occurred, since most of the homes had not been lived in for some time.
The incidents have been on Landmark Trail, West Country Lane, North Blue Spruce Road and West Sherwood Drive, Engler said.
In most cases, thieves gained access through an unlocked window or door. At one home, a window screen was removed and the window opened.
Inside, thieves are taking mostly small items that are easily carried, such as jewelry, guns, collectibles and laptop computers, Engler said.
“One of the part-time homeowners who were victims said that the perps took only jewelry, but looked through everything in the house,” said Lucy Briggs, Woodhill neighborhood watch coordinator.
“The only way that we can fight back is to be extra vigilant and pay attention to anyone who seems to be expressing unusual interest in a home,” Briggs added.
Woodhill is a neighborhood of roughly 400 homes that backs Rumsey Park on the south. Of the homes, only 50 percent are lived-in full time, Briggs estimated.
“This is a neighborhood with a lot of walkers,” she said. “Because we back the park, we don’t know who is a stranger and who is not.”
Briggs suggested homeowners take these precautions:
• Lock all windows and doors, especially the door into the house from the garage.
• Have at least landscape lights on both the front and back of the home and on the side if there are windows or doors. Thieves usually prefer homes that are not well lit.
• Put lights and a radio on a timer to come on at various times.
• Don’t leave valuables such as jewelry, guns or coin collections in a part-time home.
• Let neighbors know if you are going away for long periods.
“I know this is unsettling and most of the homes in Woodhill don’t have windows on the front where it is easy to see what is happening,” Briggs said. “However, if we all are vigilant we can help minimize the risk.”
The neighborhood watch committee will hold a meeting to discuss recent events and prevention at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 31 at the Payson Public Library. The meeting is open to residents and Chief Engler will attend.