Dear Florida villa owner:
It would appear that UK-owned holiday homes here in Orlando may be becoming increasingly targeted by local thieves and vandals.
This week’s Orlando Sentinel, for example, reports that “British tourists and investors have become targets of yet another wave of crimes: vacation-home burglaries.” Break-ins have doubled in the past year (see the following article for details).
British Home Loans is advising its UK clients to contact their Florida management companies as soon as possible to make sure that their Orlando villas not only have effective burglar alarm systems but also that the management companies diligently turn them on whenever renters or owners leave the premises.
Please let us know if your villa management company is either unwilling or unable to provide you with this crucial service and we will try to assist you in improving your Florida home security system.
In the meantime the British Homes Group is contacting a selection of security companies in Central Florida (Brinks, ADT, etc.) to determine the best security system for our UK customers – some even have remote internet access from the UK!
Please let us know if you would like to receive the results of this survey.
Orlando-area vacation homes draw tourists – and thieves
Eloisa Ruano Gonzalez | Sentinel Staff Writer
November 11, 2008
FOUR CORNERS – British tourists and investors have become targets of yet another wave of crimes: vacation-home burglaries.
Jean Crichton and other homeowners are facing problems with thieves ripping down pool screens and breaking down doors to get into the short-term rentals — even during the daytime. They are targeting well-furnished vacation homes in neighborhoods near Disney theme parks, which have been popular among British travelers, to snag computers, flat-screen TVs, gaming systems, iPods and money.
Law-enforcement officials have tried to handle the growing problem for nearly a decade. But the number of burglaries is back on the rise. Osceola County sheriff’s spokeswoman Twis Lizasuain said burglaries more than doubled last year. More than 180 short-term rental homes were burglarized in the Osceola portion of Four Corners in 2007. In 2006, there were only 83 burglaries. So far this year, there have been 157, she said.
Likewise, Polk County sheriff’s officials say they’ve seen a nearly 31 percent increase in residential burglaries in the Four Corners and the growing corridor around Interstate 4 and U.S. Highway 27, Davenport and parts of Haines City.
Most break-ins occur when guests and residents aren’t home.
Most Four Corner vacation homes are in Polk and Osceola counties.
“It’s not only worried me for the security of my home but for the guests I’m renting to,” said Crichton, 63, of Scotland. Travelers from Australia, Brazil, Canada and New Zealand often stay at her rental home near West U.S. Highway 192, which has been broken into twice in less than a year. Two 42-inch flat-screen televisions, liquor and pillows were among the items stolen.
Burglars this year have hit about 30 vacation homes in Indian Creek, a 462-home community off West U.S. Highway 192 in Osceola County. In 2006, burglars broke into 17 homes, former homeowners association vice president John Abrahamsen said. And there were 23 burglaries in 2007.
“I see it [the problem] escalating because of the state of the economy,” said Abrahamsen, who resigned from his post with the association in September. “Desperate people do desperate things.”
The Indian Creek Common Facility District, which is in charge of maintaining the community, plans to set up cameras this week, said Fran Brown, district member and Indian Creek homeowner. She said license-plate numbers will be recorded on vehicles entering and exiting the complex, in an effort to deter thieves.
But the best deterrent, she said, is setting house alarms.
Karen Gilson, former president of the Indian Creek homeowners association whose rental home also was hit by thieves, said breaking into one of the community’s homes is a “field day” for burglars.
“We stock the houses so they’re better equipped than hotels,” Gilson said.
With new tourists often coming in and out, she said it’s easy for burglars to go undetected. And even though most homeowners installed alarm systems after previous crime waves, Gilson said many vacationers don’t set them.
But even that might not help.
After her first break-in a year ago, Crichton said she had an alarm and bolts put on the front door. That didn’t stop burglars from kicking down the door in June.
Crichton worries the increase in thefts will drive away tourists. So do other homeowners.
“I don’t want to lose [my] rental-home business,” Gilson said. “I know if I can’t rent this home, I lose it.”