Open Houses Open Invitations for Robbers

October 11, 2007 -- Posted 8:22 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, AR -- Open houses are turning into open invitations for thieves right here in Region 8.

The Jonesboro Police Department is investigating several home robberies...where the suspects might have gone to open houses prior to walking out with the homeowners belongings.

It's scary news for homeowners trying to showcase their houses and for the realtors just trying to do their job.

"Obviously whoever is doing this is making sure no one is home when they break into the house, so they are doing a little bit of homework," said Jonesboro Police Department Detective Mike Branscum.

A "For Sale" sign could be an easy mark for thieves.  Sometimes 'prospective' home buyers are only checking for things they want.

"From time to time you do have a few clients that make you feel uncomfortable and when the hairs go up, you just try to take care of yourself," said realtor Felicia Johnson.

Johnson says a vacant Crye-Leike listed home that had been staged for selling was recently broken into and robbed.  A sporadic crime that's not only targeting occupied homes, but vacant properties as well.

"For a homeowner of a vacant piece of property, to come by, check on their piece of property. let the neighbors know, give them your phone number, your email address, how they can reach you and also sometimes these people are staking out the home," Johnson said, "So we suggest just coming by periodically and check out your home."

"One of the advantages of listing your house with a real estate agent is that they can screen prospective buyers being a disinterested third party," said Det. Branscum.

During open houses, realtors use a log in sheet to keep track of visitors...but it's up to the homeowner to make sure their property is safe.

"Don't let it just sit for weeks and weeks and months and months. And yes your realtor is coming out and it's been shown, but you don't always know the people that it's being shown to. So the ultimate responsibility does lie with you because it is your property and unfortunately not everyone in the world is honest so you have to vigilant," said Johnson.

The Jonesboro Police Department is actively investigating the home robberies.  If you have any information, contact JPD at 935-STOP.