BENTON - Scott County Sheriff Rick Walter wants county residents to be able to enjoy worry-free vacations this summer.
"Vacation Watch" is a new service offered by Walter's department.
"It was actually a couple of ideas that came together," Walter said. "We were talking about doing business watches through the county." He explained deputies regularly check on the county's businesses and churches.
"As it turned out, I was gone for a couple days and they checked my house," he said. "(Chief Deputy) Tom Beardslee suggested adding to it to include people on vacation, and we decided were going to try this."
Many of the county's residents are in rural areas, Walter noted. "Their neighbors are not really close, so it could ease their mind during their vacation," he said.
Residents who are going to be away from their homes or businesses can fill out a form arranging for deputy sheriffs to check on their premises by visiting the sheriff's department or by contacting any deputy sheriff.
"It's for anybody that's in the county that wants to use this service," Walter said.
Deputies will then check on the property periodically and report anything they find.
The request can be filed "as early as a couple days before they leave," Walter said. The service has no charge. "They pay taxes so they're already paying our salary," he said. "It's open to whoever needs it."
A printout of residences and businesses on the watch list is distributed to road deputies, "and they will in turn during their shift go by and check," Walter said.
The property checks are not on a predictable schedule: "We may come by at any time and check the residence," he said.
When signing up for the watch, information is gathered about whether the property has a vicious dog and if there are going to be friends or relatives at the property picking up mail or feeding and watering animals while the vacationers are gone.
Walter said in addition to providing a service for county residents, it will be good for the department as well. "It's an opportunity to get the deputies out to meet and know the citizens," he said.
Walter also offered the following suggestions for keeping property safe while away:
* Have mail and newspaper delivery stopped during your absence or have someone pick up the mail and papers to avoid advertising the fact that no one is home.
* Put some internal lights on timers programmed to activate at different times during the hours of darkness to give the appearance of someone being home.
* If an extended stay away from home is planned, arrange for someone to mow the yard.
* Mark valuables with some owner-applied identification and record serial numbers in a safe place to facilitate recovery of any property which might be stolen.
* Have sufficient outside lighting at your residence or business.
A card from the sheriff's department informs property owners on the nature of deputies' visits. In addition to vacation watch, other categories on the card are 911 hang up, alarm response, loose livestock, welfare concern and business check. The card also has fields to enter the date, time, name of the deputy and an area for other remarks.
The department's phone number, Website and email addresses and mailing address are also printed on the card for easy reference.