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Does living near a major thoroughfare increase burglary risk?

While some people may believe living near a heavily traveled thoroughfare can put your property at risk, police say that's not necessarily the case. (CBS Austin)

Crime data over the past 90 days shows Austin homeowners near I-35 getting hit with break-ins. While some people may believe living near a heavily traveled thoroughfare can put your property at risk, police say that's not necessarily the case.

In October, Perla and Christobal Vielma came home to find their front door open.

"He said, 'You forgot to lock the front door,' and I said, 'No ... I'm pretty sure I locked it,'" recalls Perla Vielma.

Their dog, Pepe, was acting frightened. One of Christobal's valuables was missing. "He came over and tried to sit here at his desk and his laptop was gone," Vielma says.

They quickly realized they'd just missed a burglary in their home.

"We think that while we came in ... they just took off through the front door. We might have interrupted them or something," Perla Vielma explains.

The Vielma's North Austin home is less than a quarter mile from I-35. Crime data from the month before their break-in shows dozens of home burglaries stretching from North Austin to South Austin -- most near the interstate.

"So many of incidents cluster compared to I-35, 183, MoPac and some of the other major thoroughfares," says Jack Darby, who runs krimelabb.com. For nearly a decade, Darby has been analyzing data from Austin Police reports and putting it on a website that the public can search to track crime trends in their neighborhoods.

"It's free. There's no log-in," Darby says. About 20 years ago Darby's home was broken into twice in one week. "It's a very personal crime. It's upsetting that somebody came into your home maybe put your family, your pets, everything at risk," Darby says.

A scatter plot of recent break-ins suggests living off a major road increases your risk for home burglary. According to Austin Police, what the interstate really contributes to is density -- which in turn leads to more crime.

"Where you have more people, you are going to unfortunately have more burglaries," says Austin Police Sgt. Jim Kettleman. He explains the increased risk comes from the number of people not the heavily traveled pavement.

"They're all intertwined, but it's not a cause and effect directly," Kettleman adds.

Back at the Vielmas, they're upping security.

"I'm still not afraid. I'm a tough old bird and if I find anybody in my house ... I don't know what I'd do, but I wouldn't run," says Perla Vielma.

New surveillance cameras keep tabs on everything the Vielmas faithful watchdog doesn't see. "We work very hard for what we have and for someone to just come and take it -- and they probably just sold it to somebody for a few bucks when I had to save a long time to get my husband that laptop," she says.

Perla Vielma says, the laptop can be replaced. Now they're most concerned with protecting Pepe -- a dog that was given to them for free and how now become the most precious thing they own.

Other home burglary data from Krimelabb.com shows the majority of home break-ins occur Monday through Friday while people are at work.

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