TPD offering holiday home checks for travelers

If you’re leaving your home behind for the holidays, you might want to have a law enforcement agency keep an eye on your property while you’re gone. The Tampa Police Department offers a free vacation watch program that has officers check on your house to make sure nothing is out of place. 

"Sometimes people don't know their neighbors as well as they might, and so you don't want to ask a neighbor to keep an eye on your house,” said Steve Hegarty, a Tampa police spokesperson.

So far, TPD has received about 130 requests, and they expect more as it gets closer to Christmas. Officers just need to know when you’ll be gone, for how long, and who to call for emergencies.

“We stop by, we check to make sure that everything's OK. We maybe walk around the house, make sure the gate's locked or whatever you need done,” said Hegarty.

Residents said they know homes become targets.

“There's a lot of theft that happens around that time. So that is a great opportunity for residents to have that protection for their homes,” said Shakeem Moorer of Tampa. “Especially, for myself, since I just moved from Orlando here, I would use that program.”

There are also some social media do’s and don’ts to keep in mind while you’re away on holiday, such as waiting until after you return to tell followers you were away.

“No, I never do that. That is a no, no. That is the number one thing you never want to do,” said Moorer. “You always have people online watching and it's easy to find you. I would never do that.”

And while officers patrol around your house, Hegarty said to clue them in on any expected visitors.

“We'd like to know if there are going to be any vehicles parked there and what the tag numbers are so there's no surprises when we go out to check on your home,” said Hegarty.

Tampa police said they would also need to know the gate code to get in to check on your home if you live in a gated community. 

You can sign up for TPD’s vacation watch here. Citrus County Sheriff’s Office and Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office also offer home watch programs. Contact your local law enforcement agency to find out how you can request a patrol in your neighborhood.