The process of making your home less of an attractive target for burglars is a little like the joke about the two explorers trying to run away from a pursuing tiger. One of the men stops to take his track shoes out of his backpack and put them on. The other one sees this and tells him, “Why are you bothering with that? They aren’t going to allow you to outrun the tiger!” The man with the track shoes replies, “I don’t have to outrun the tiger. I just have to outrun you.”
A lot of burglar-proofing your home is making the other guy’s house easier to break into than yours. Why break into this house that’s hard to get into when I can go for the easy pickings next door?
- Call the police or sheriff’s department that serves your home to ask if they have a home security inspection program. Most do. They will send out a police or crime prevention officer who will go through the house and make suggestions for low- or no-cost improvements you can make to improve security.
- Start with the simple measures that many people ignore because “There’s nothing in my house worth stealing,” or “Burglars don’t come around here.” Lock your doors, even when you’re home. The same goes with windows. If you feel the need to leave a window open, install a screw or nail so that the window can’t be opened far enough to admit a person (invite your kid, or borrow a kid, to test this). Put a length of wooden dowel in the track of sliding glass doors to keep it from being forced open. Install a photoelectric cell on your porch light and any exterior lights so it comes on automatically when the sun goes down. If you use CFL or LED lamps, the power consumption is negligible. Install motion-detector flood lights on the sides of your house that have no exterior lighting.
- Don’t try to hide a key in a fake rock, under a planter, or anywhere else near the door. Burglars know better than you where all the good hiding places are.If you need to keep a key available, leave one with a trusted neighbor. Another way to keep yourself from being locked out is to install a keypad-controlled wireless garage door opener.
- Plant thorny shrubs underneath windows and other portals where a burglar could gain access.
- Get a dog. A nasty dog that threatens to attack people is just a liability and a lawsuit waiting to happen. Instead, get a friendly dog that goes nuts when he sees someone in your yard or someone comes to the door. My dog wouldn’t hurt a soul, but you can’t tell that when you hear him on the other side of the door.
- When you leave the house, leave a radio or television playing. A burglar who enters and hears any evidence of people in the house may decide to leave right then and there. Most burglars just want your stuff; they don’t want to find you there.
- Evaluate whether an entry door into a garage could resist being kicked open. These doors frequently open onto back yards where the kicked door won’t be noticed quickly, so the forced entry is concealed. If the garage attaches to the house, it’s a quick conduit to everything else you own. Even if the connecting door from the garage to the house is a strong, locked one (rare), you probably have enough tools in your garage that the burglar won’t need to bring any with him. Consider replacing any such doors with a solid wood or metal door, reinforced with a locking bar and a very solid door frame.
- Burglar alarms are only a minor deterrent. Many of them are so poorly installed that the owners stop arming the alarm because of frequent false alarms.They are probably better employed as a deterrent against home invasions while you or your family are in the residence. Check with your police department to determine their policy on responding to burglar alarms.
- Spend a few hours with a notepad and a digital camera taking pictures of all items of value in your home. Record the brand, model, and serial number of each item, along with when and where you purchased it and how much you paid, if you know. Put the pictures and item descriptions into an electronic document in Word or Excel. There are also pre-made templates and entire software applications available for this purpose, but just about any format will work so long as the information is there. Encrypt the completed file with a password, and upload it to any of the various “cloud” services like Skydrive or Dropbox. If your computer is stolen or your house burns down, you’ll have a list for the police and for insurance purposes. Don’t forget to document unique items that might have little value. I once took a burglary report from a Frito-Lay route driver. Among the items taken from his home were some promotional “Frito Bandito” pins and cuff links he had received from his company. He laughed about including them in the report. Later that night, I arrested a teenager for minor in possession of alcohol, and found the pins in his pocket. Most of the rest of the haul was in his car. The Frito Bandito allowed me to connect him to the burglary, and we cleared quite a few cases behind that.
- A fire safe (one that will protect the contents in a house fire) isn’t a bad idea for personal papers and small items like guns and jewelry, but it needs to be bolted down to something solid, like a wall stud or floor joist. Otherwise, the burglar will take the whole thing and crack it open at his leisure. Of course, if the safe is the size of a refrigerator, this is less likely.
- Get to know your neighbors. You don’t have to be their closest friends, but people who know each other will generally look out for one another. I am blessed with good neighbors. When a friend came to visit and parked his car in the driveway, one of my neighbors knocked on the door within a couple of hours to return a tool he hadn’t borrowed. He only wanted to see who would answer the door. I have the numbers of my neighbors’ cell phones, and if I see something at their home that doesn’t look right, I call or visit them. If I don’t get an answer, I call the police and let them sort it out. Not once has anyone suggested that I mind my own business. Formation of what amounts to your own little neighborhood watch program is one of the most effective anti-crime measures you can have.
- On a related note, don’t be afraid to call the police when you see something that is “JDLR” (Just Don’t Look Right). When I was a police officer, it never bothered me to respond to these calls. I’d rather go to ten of those than take one burglary or home invasion report. Most of the time, the calls turned out to be nothing sinister, but now and again I would get to put the fear of God into an aspiring burglar, or maybe even search his car and find the goods. That is pure gold for cops.
Consider this steps like a Staged Defense:
2) Prevent accidentally meeting burglars
4) Harm/loss reduction
Neighbors (who you get to know!) All of you need to get in the habit of calling the police early and often when you see something suspicious… But burglars, beyond being young and male on average, do not look like anything in particular but they do ACT in particular ways. To see this behavior, you have to watch for well more than a few moments. Then you have to act. Act = call the police and call neighbors or if you are in a situation where you can do so safely, make it known that you see them and suspect them. They’ll get offended just like an innocent person. Do it anyway – you have enough friends already. One or two young men thinking you suspect them is a small downside if you make a mistake. But if it is a slow, casing-the-houses walk or drive you see them engaged in, then there really is no other reason for it. The sooner you call the better. If they are innocent they need to get more self aware about how their behavior “reads” so it is good all around.
They’d like to use equipment they find near your house (trashcans to stand on, tools from your garage etc.) This lets them to travel light and, if they have an arrest record, to avoid being picked up with burglar’s tools (a broad category of innocent looking tools.) They could get busted just for that. So it is far easier for them to use what they find at your place or next door. So this weekend scan the areas between your house and the next for things that you could use to break in. Then make it less easy. It is kind of an interesting creativity exercise if you let it be. Take your time.
What do burglars look like? Some sit in cars on our street, some drive back and forth frequently/slowly or some walk very very slowly down the street, usually in pairs. If a group of people gets smaller halfway down the street, the missing one is up checking out the path between houses. How would you notice this if you were not standing and watching for a while? You would not. So give your time outside a little extra moment or two to notice things. If you see this pattern of slow walk and between the houses? CALL 911.
The smarter ones work in pairs but they picked this line of work so they are not all that smart as a group. They are most often young men but the group that hit my house included a young woman so chalk one up for gender equity! :^) A key ability is to run. So, while everybody coming through the neighborhood should feel like they have been seen… Slow walking or driving young men who you have never seen before, looking up and down the gaps between the houses (and in good shape for climbing into windows and running away) are your number one class of suspect. CALL.
But if you are not watching for a while and observing behavior, then you will not be able to distinguish these folks from the bulk of passersby. So when you see strangers on your street, slow down and observe them a bit. That is the way to see the differences between a tired person headed home after work or somebody off to visit their cousin for whatever and burglars. You can smile. The baddies don’t want to be noticed.
During the week and daylight hours are the best times to burgle since people are likely to be away… this is the experience of my neighborhood. What to do? Neighbors who are home could do some of their work in the front of the house with the windows/curtains open. Could you come out front and watch when folks walk by or do the sloooow drive? Tellingly, most people who drive by are in tunnel vision mode and do not see you looking at them. I very often see neighbors I know well drive down the street – I waive and get no response. This is the tunnel vision of a person “on their way somewhere else.” If you were casing the neighborhood? Then you’d see me – seeing you! Because you are not going somewhere else and you are worried about being seen – you see the watcher and you keep moving.
911? Really? Yup, you are calling about a likely crime in progress. They want that information urgently. Unlike hearing about the car you just discovered was taken last night, um sometime before 9 AM? – this is suspicious activity going on right NOW and a few minutes less hesitation on your part can give them the lead time that makes the difference. If the police have some more urgent work at that moment they will not come. That is fine… you don’t want them to in that case – let them prioritize. But they need your information and they need it in a timely fashion to do that prioritization. And if the call has a good description of why you think it is a burglary team (behavior not looks) and some basics on what they look like the call becomes a pretty high priority – because hustling can accomplish something in that case. Crimes in progress and suspicious people are exactly that: highest priorities. If they can actually catch one burglary team then they prevent weeks and weeks of future burglaries and reports to take. The cops think it is fun if they get a fair crack at the baddies. And burglars need to hit a lot of houses to make a living – catching them in the act is well leveraged. It might close some old cases while preventing new ones.
The 911 operator is going to ask a ton of questions describing the suspects. You will not have all those answers and that is OK. They just want to get all you have to give the officer as many points of identification and information about where the suspects are and what they are wearing and which direction they are headed etc. Don’t feel that you failed as a witness. Try for clothes colors, body size, race, sex, age, shoes. The operators understand that you don’t see/remember everything. But they are not very good about reassuring you that your best is good enough.
2) Prevent accidentally meeting burglars
Our example baddies have not been noticed by the neighbors and reported or maybe they were and the police have not yet arrived. They picked your house. Crap. You do not want to meet them by surprise.
Does your doorbell work? Can you hear knocks?
Why do I ask? These are burglaries, not robberies and the difference is pretty important (to them and us.) Burglars really do not want to meet us and become robbers. Robbing is more dangerous to everybody concerned so most burglars will make an effort to check to see if you are home. Will they knock, or ring, or both? The more effective ones will do both, but there are no guarantees. If you are home and do not hear them – that is a very bad thing. Why? Because they will head around back or up alongside the house and you’ll meet them then, or worse, when they get inside. So please get that doorbell fixed. Fixing it is a pretty simple affair and half a Saturday morning’s worth of work. And avoid hanging out in back of the house where you cannot hear a knock or a ring. Especially during the key burglar hours of 9 AM to 2 PM.
OK we tried deterring and they are still going for it, and lets say they gain entry (see the other fine answers about hardening the shell of the house.) What follows are methods for reducing the damage they do and making your alarm more effective.
Burglar alarms are an interesting solution but they have some weaknesses. You have to turn them on. You have to pay for a monitoring service (or what’s the point)? Every time you punch in your code you give up some time and some care for the burglars that have not come that day. But still you got to think about them. I still sting from our burglary some 8 years ago but I do not have a keypad that makes me think about burglars at least twice a day everyday.
Alarms have to be VERY loud to be heard by your neighbor who is, odds are, inside their own house if they are at home at all. (And remember, many of your neighbors are hard of hearing.) I like my across the street neighbor’s mounted on the outside alarm bell – I hear that one. I do not hear my closest neighbor’s as well as that one, it is inside their home. When one is inside with it going off it is very disorienting so that is something.
Which leads me to ask:
Do your close neighbors know what your alarm sounds like so they would recognize it? Did you do a test to see if they could hear it from inside their house? Seriously. If you did not test it and did not familiarize your neighbor with the sound, then you are flying blind on that front.
If it is monitored, what is the process used by the company? Is the alarm company going to call the cops or you or both or neighbors or what? Some of my neighbors have me on the list of people who are nearby and can respond. Is your alarm company up-to-date on who to call? Do you have a periodic reminder in your calendar to review that list? When your neighbor is called for a false alarm, do you do something nice for them as thanks for stepping outside and risking meeting your possible burglar? The boy who cried wolf would have done well to think of that. Might have gotten some more help when the alarm was for real. Does the alarm company’s outgoing response phone have a recognizable caller ID? So your neighbor will answer the phone? Did you test that? A real burglary is a lousy time to learn about these problems.
If the alarm sticker or signs impress the burglar then you win (and will likely never know, but that is a small price, no?) Everything I’ve read says the burglars avoid places with alarm signs.
4) Harm/loss reduction
If they ignore the sign and the alarm goes off, then you get a rushed burglar. They are in a hurry anyhow but that might help cut the losses and here are some more harm reduction tips:
Hardening Slowing: Once/if they do pick your house you can improve the outcome with a scaled defense. Hiding stuff is really hard given the speed with which they can check sooo many options. Think about this: when we search our own houses for things we open then close drawers, etc. A burglar just opens and tosses – very very efficient… (sorry this is grim but stick with me.) So unless you are going to invest in a safe and it is some how made clear that all valuables are locked up like the signs put in a jewelry store window at night… then consider leaving the stuff they want (or some fraction of it) easily found so you do not have the whole place tipped over from their search. Computers should have password protection and be insured. The basic user sign-on (with a non-stupid password) is good enough for most cases. If your job has better (or requires better) or you can practice better security, then use it. EVERY TIME.
Consider my “happened upon” solution of leaving an old, dead (but not too old) computer out and available (dead ones are more common than they should be – so ask around.) The theory here is their clock is ticking so when they have one computer, jewelry box, cash stash or whatever in hand, then the time they’ll spend looking for an additional example is reduced. So this could work for a bundle of currency that looks enough like a “stash” to be “the stash” and for the aforementioned (dead) computer. This is just harm reduction and so has limited but real utility. The idea is that if they break up nice stuff to find hidden cash you might save the cash but loose more value in the busting up.
One more thing: your luggage, especially the backpack you have handy. That is some super useful gear for gathering and then hauling their (sorry, your) booty away. So that means luggage is a horrible place to hide valuable things. Consider securing your luggage with a bike lock so they cannot easily conscript it for their harvest of your stuff.
Follow this program!
It will reveal a lot of ways to survive!
Other useful resources:The Lost Ways ~ Learn The Long Forgotten Secrets That Helped Our Forefathers Survive Wars And Economic Crisis ~
Survival MD ~ Best Post Collapse First Aid Survival Guide Ever ~
Bullet Proof Home ~ A Prepper’s Guide In Safeguarding a Home ~
Survive Any Crisis ~ Best Items To Hoard For A Long Term Crisis ~
Backyard Liberty ~ Easy And Cheap DIY Aquaponic System To Grow Your Organic And Living Food ~
Backyard Innovator ~ All Year Round Source Of Fresh Meat,Vegetables And Clean Drinking Water ~
Blackout USA ~ MP Survival And Preparedness Guide ~
Liberty Generator ~ Easy To Build Your Own Off-Grid Free Energy Device ~
Pioneer Survival ~ Lessons We Should All Learn ~
Alive After The Fall ~ Advice Onto Handling Crisis Situations ~
Conquering the coming collapse ~ Financial Advice And Preparedness ~
US Water Revolution ~ Have Plenty Of Water When Others Don't Have Any! ~