Greenwich, like Darien, is an attractive community for many reasons—bucolic suburban settings a short distance from New York City, waterfront parks, cultural institutions and high-end shopping and eating destinations.
The town provides all of the accoutrements that attract the titans of business who have made the town home. And because of all that Greenwich also is attractive to burglars.
"We're 20 minutes from the Bronx and right off the highway," Greenwich Police Sgt. Tim Hilderbrand said.
In his 16 years on the force, Hilderbrand knows too well the problems officers can have responding to burglar alarms in town.
The home owners are away and they haven't arranged for a neighbor or friend to have a key to the house in the event of an emergency, or to check whether there is an issue inside the home.
"We can only check the exterior of the house. If it doesn't look like anything's disturbed, we leave," said Hilderbrand. Officers may not know until the residents return whether there was a burglary during which thieves made it appear the home was undisturbed.
The Greenwich Police Department does offer a 'dark house' check for residents who notify them when they will be away. However, that service doesn't allow for officers to check the inside of a home.
After years of these experiences, Hilderbrand came up with a business plan to provide a home inspection service. Greenwich Dark House was born nearly a year ago—a vacant home inspection and keyholder service.
"We have about 10 or 12 off-duty Greenwich Police officers who have a key to your home and will go inside to check if there's an alarm," Hilderbrand said. "We can stay at your home or make visits to pick up mail, turn on lights, move cars in the driveway, to make it appear someone is home."
Hilderbrand stresses that the officers are off-duty and performing services that do not conflict with their professional duties. Before establishing the business, he had to obtain approval from Police Chief James Heavey. All of the officers he employs live in Greenwich which allows for a quick response should a house alarm is activitated, said Hilderbrand, himself a long-time Greenwich resident.
Exterior vacant home inspections begin at $50 per visit and include an emailed activity report and a variety of services during each visit with the ultimate goal of making the home appear occupied at all times, Hilderbrand said.
Greenwich Dark House also offers periodic personal safety seminars for residents. In December, Hilderbrand organized a tactical home defense seminar which included discussions on firearm safety and home defense tactics.
For more information about Greenwich Dark House, check the website www.GreenwichDarkHouse.com.
Editor's note: This article originally was published by Greenwich Patch.