By ANDREA MCCANN
PUTNAMVILLE, Ind. — Rural residents whose homes are particularly isolated can be easy targets for thieves, but they don’t have to be.
Lowell Badger, an 85-year-old retired farmer living alone in rural Sullivan County, Ind., was killed recently when he surprised an intruder in his home. Electronics and other items were taken from the home, according to Sgt. Joe Watts of the Indiana State Police Post in Putnamville.
In this case, no tools or equipment were taken from the barns, but they often are popular choices for thieves, as well. There are a few precautions rural residents can take to help protect themselves from incidents such as the one at Badger’s home.
“Home alarms are a good idea,” Watts said, adding several will send a signal to local police when doors or windows are forced, and some have a personal panic button that can be carried on your person.
“If you live in a rural area, make sure to keep your residence locked at all times,” he continued. “Make sure if someone knocks on your door, you don’t let them in. Tell them you’ll call someone for them, and keep them outside.”
If anything seems unusual and you’re uncomfortable, call the police. Watts also recommends calling a relative and telling them, “Hey, there’s a stranger at my door and I just called the police,” so someone else is aware of the situation.
He cautions homeowners to be sure anyone who comes to the door can’t push their way in, and to remain inside the home if at all possible.
Chief Deputy Gary Allison of the Daviess County Sheriff’s Office, just two counties over from where Badger was killed, said even if it means shouting at the person through a closed door, the safe thing to do is to keep it closed and locked. He suggested telling the person at the door that law enforcement has been contacted and to wait outside.
“If you have elderly family members, check on them,” Watts added. “If you see suspicious activity or a suspicious vehicle at any time, we’ll check on it.”
Writing down a license plate number, vehicle description or an individual’s description can help law enforcement officers with the checks, and also help them track down criminals if a crime has occurred, he said.
“Don’t confront them,” Watts cautioned. “We prefer you call local law enforcement and let us check it out. That’s our job.”
Allison agreed with Watts’ tips and explained there is no specific season for home invasions. He said it’s a year-round problem and happens “24/7,” so homeowners should be aware at all times.