Sheriff's 'Vacation Watch' popular among Clay County residents

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. -- The amount of homes on the Clay County Sheriff's Office 'Vacation Watch' list are about to double going into Spring Break, the first vacation season of the year, according to the Sheriff's Office.

In Clay County 112 houses have been added to the Sheriff's Office Vacation Watch so far this year, a program meant to keep burglars away from the property.

"Whenever you bring a marked unit into a neighborhood that helps reduce crime," said Deputy Dean Jones, Clay County Sheriff's Office.

Once your home is on the watch list, a deputy will drive by the house in a marked unit at least once a day and at night, and volunteers in police services (V.I.P.S) will also drive by in their marked cars.

"Our V.I.P.S. will actually, if you forget to stop your mail or stop your newspaper, our V.I.P.S. will actually collect that stuff and put it on the back porch so it's not visible and noticed," added Deputy Jones.

Fred Forsyth of Clay County says he's lucky he's never had his home broken into.

"I've had friends that were broken into and it seems it's quite a traumatic experience," said Forsyth.

Forsyth uses the program for weekend getaways and any time he goes out of town. He says he's been putting his home on vacation watch for years.

"I've had friends that also were watching my house and they said police were definitely there, they checked it, if they had the opportunity they walked around the house," added Forsyth.

Clay County had a 10 percent decrease in burglaries from 2012 to 2013. Still burglary numbers are in the hundreds with 732 in 2012, and 657 in 2013.

"How many times have you heard on the news after a violent crime or so forth that they say flat out 'I never expected this in my neighborhood, this is a nice quiet neighborhood' and that's insane because there's no safe place today, there isn't, I don't care where you are," said Forsyth.

The program is free. To sign up your home for vacation watch in Clay County, call 904-264-6512 and ask to put your house on the watch list. In Duval County, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office can ask an officer who patrols your area to check on your home. Call 904-630-0500 and ask for a 'Dark Report.'

Surrounding counties may not have the same program, but if you call your local law enforcement agency you can ask if the officer patrolling your zone could check on your house while you are out of town.

Some tips from the Clay County Sheriff's Office:

-Stop all mail, packages, newspaper deliveries while you are on vacation.

-If possible, leave a light on while you are gone.

-Let a trustworthy neighbor know you are going out of town.

-Do not announce your vacation on any social media sites.


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