This morning I read an Action Line column in the San Jose Mercury News which got my attention: a house was burglarized during a fumigation and many valuable items were lost. “The burglar tore through the tent and took some very valuable and deeply sentimental items, important documents, and our Social Security cards as well as a lot of credit cards.” This surprised me as the structure was full of poison. Apparently with gas masks donned, the thieves had no fear and helped themselves to the unguarded goodies within.
I wondered if this was a fluke or if it was a growing trend. After all, the economy has been rough for years. Perhaps criminals all over California and the U.S. as a whole have had to get creative and take more risks. So I went to Google to see what kind of response I’d get with a search for “burglary during fumigation“. Indeed, it’s a nationwide problem of theft during tenting for termites and this incident in Silicon Valley does not appear to be an oddity, but rather part of a growing trend.
Until a few years ago, perhaps 10 or 15 years ago, security guards were required to be on hand when a property was fumigated. I don’t recall when or why this changed, but today guards are not routinely on site for fumigations in the San Jose area – at least not to my knowledge.
What to do? It is a real pain to live in a townhouse, house or other home and have it tented. You not only need to move out for a few days, but also you must generally move out all food (some exceptions). Many people also want to clear out bedding and other goods, including valuables. But most folks won’t completely empty a house and then move right back in again. That’s costly in terms of time and money. Even in a vacant house, some items could still be stolen such as thermostats, potted plants in the back yard, and light fixtures. (That happened to one of my clients in Cambrian a number of years ago.)
The presence of a security guard is likely your best bet for improving the odds that your property won’t be targeted by thieves. Your fumigator or pest control company can probably suggest a reliable firm with trustworthy employees who have all the necessary requirements (licensed, bonded, insured?). If your property is vacant (between owners or tenants), you may not feel that this cost is warranted and be willing to take your chances. But if you fumigate your home and it’s got valuables within, I would suggest investigating some security. It’s not a secret when a building is fumigated, and apparently too many bad guys consider it “open season” on your possessions.
Related reading on termites and pest control issues: