Posts Tagged ‘burglary’
Though it might seem pessimistic, creating an environment that will protect your family and you possessions not from fire or flood, but from other people, is a must. There are many things the average homeowner can do to prevent burglary; some of these precautions can get a little pricey while others can be done for free. If burglary prevention is on your mind, here are some tips for keeping the possessions, and more importantly the people, in your home safe.
Burglary Prevention for Homeowners on Vacation
Burglary prevention is particularly important when you are on vacation! As your home will be vacant for days or weeks, you want to make sure that it is not more of a target than it needs to be. Hiring a monitoring service to improve home security is, of course, a great idea, but there are a few things you can do yourself that will reduce the likelihood of a break-in while you are away, even if a home monitoring system isn’t in place.
- Discontinue newspaper delivery or have a neighbor bring in the paper each day. A neighbor can bring in the mail and any other deliveries at the same time.
- Arrange for someone to keep the lawn trim.
- Leave a car parked in the driveway.
- Leave lights and a radio on timers.
- Don’t record a message on your answering machine or voice mail that says you are gone. If you use an answering machine, have someone remove messages periodically to prevent overloading its message capacity. An overloaded answering machine won’t take messages properly and can tip-off thieves that you are away.
Standard Burglary Prevention Tips
Vacations aren’t the only time when burglary prevention is an issue. While your home is certainly more susceptible to break-in while you’re away, a home invasion that occurs when your family is in the house is a far scarier scenario. Bad home security habits are hard to break, but the consequences of such habits can be terrible. If the following steps are already a part of your daily routine, congratulations; if they are not, it is in your best interest to take these precautions to heart.
- Always make sure all easily accessible windows and doors are locked whether you are in the house or not! Second story windows, basement windows, and garage doors are often left unlocked for the homeowner’s convenience or comfort, but when you leave the space, make sure these get locked, too.
- If you have an alarm, use it! Many break-ins are made much more convenient for intruders because the alarm system that is in place is simply not activated.
- Control your landscaping. A house that is easily visible from the street and doesn’t provide places for unwanted guests to sneak around is ideal.
- Install exterior lights that automatically come on when it gets dark and go off when it’s light. Installing lights with motion sensors near entryways is also a good idea.
- Don’t leave spare keys under the doormat or beneath a flower pot next to the front entrance. Pick a unique and out-of-the-way spot to hide a spare key (if you hide one at all).
Burglary Prevention for Valuable Items
Criminals rarely want to hang out and relax in the place they are trying to rob; they’d rather get in and get out! If a break-in does occur, one of the ways to make it less successful for the intruder is to store particularly valuable items properly.
- Don’t advertise your valuables! One easy and effective part of burglary prevention is simply keeping valuable items away from windows that can be seen by passers-by. If a lot of high-end items are highly visible to anyone walking down the street, guess which house on the block will look most desirable to rob?
- Hide small valuable items like jewelry. If you’re going away, don’t place these items in the freezer, as it is an overused hiding place. If you don’t have a safe, a banged-up box high up in a closet or in a remote corner of the basement should suffice; if you do have a safe, do yourself a favor and anchor it with heavy bolts to your floor or your wall studs so it cannot simply be removed from your house and opened later.
- Engrave your driver’s license number into a metal surface of large valuables like video equipment, computers, and bicycles. While this isn’t exactly burglary prevention, it does increase the odds that the thief is caught and that your possessions are returned. In most jurisdictions, the police will loan you an engraving tool.
- Photograph valuables as record for insurance purposes. Even better, take a video inventory of each room, zooming in on brand names, model numbers, and serial numbers.
Sad but true, theft can happen to anyone. By taking these steps, however, you’ll reduce how attractive your home is to a would-be thief. If a burglary does occur, following these tips will also increase the odds that he or she will leave your home with less than they had hoped; a disappointed burglar is a good thing!
In general, burglars will avoid occupied houses. However, there always exceptions to the rule, and you shouldn’t assume that nothing can ever happen when you’re at home. If someone breaks in while you’re not there, your belongings are at risk. If someone breaks in when your family is home, your family is at risk as well. There are a number of measures you can follow in order to minimize the risk of being targeted.
Keys: Don’t hand out keys to friends, even if they are trustworthy. Know the location of all your house keys all the time. Never use hide-a-keys or leave the key under the doormat, above the door, in a flowerpot, or anywhere outside the house. You may think you’re being clever, but experienced thieves know all the tricks. Also, keep your car keys and house keys on a different ring if you ever use valet parking or leave your keys with parking lot attendants or even at a repair garage.
Don’t let strangers in the house: Think this only applies for children? Think again. Home security means being cautious. Even before you open the front door to accept a package, you should ask for photo identification. This goes for anyone you don’t recognize. Don’t assume someone is legitimate just because they’re wearing a uniform or driving a company truck–these things can be stolen. If somebody comes to your door and asks to make a phone call, offer to make it for them, but don’t let them in. If they are injured, call 911, but don’t open the door. If you walk away to make a call or some such, lock the door behind you; you don’t want to leave the door unlocked and unmanned. A chain on the door helps ensure someone can’t force their way in while you’re there.
Locks: Keep your doors and windows locked, even if you’re at home. Get your children into this habit, too.
Don’t be predictable: If you always leave at the same time every day, are gone for the same length of time, and return at the same time, thieves can easily memorize your routine, taking advantage of the times your not at home. Work is work, and you probably can’t change those hours, but if you go to a class or the grocery store at the same time all the time, try to make yourself less predictable.
Valuables shouldn’t be on display: It’s not a good idea if somebody can look in your window and see your wallet, credit cards, purse, jewelry, or fancy electronics in open sight. A computer or television placed in front of a ground-floor window may make an easy target. Likewise, electronics placed across from a window are easily visible, too. Also, don’t leave your garage doors open for the world to see your belongings. Lightweight items could be snatched away quickly and easily.
Watch your trash: Just bought a new entertainment system? A bunch of empty boxes out by the curb triggers an alarm to would-be thieves. Instead of putting boxes out in plain sight, cut them down, and stuff them in trash bags. Also be wary of identity theft. Never put personal identification information in your trash unshredded.
Be alert: Try to be aware of your surroundings on a day-to-day basis, even in your own familiar neighborhood. This doesn’t mean walking around like a crazy paranoid person; just keep your eyes out for suspicious activity.
Paying attention to the simple things can make you and your family much less of a target. Burglar alarms and home security systems are great investments, but prevention is the best way to stay safe.(c) 2004 Home Security Information
Although crime is on the decline in the United States, there were nearly 2.2 million burglaries in 2009, according to FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program. About 12.5% of burglaries were cleared by arrest in 2009, according to the FBI.
Prevention is often the best defense against burglaries. There are many ways to reduce the chances that your home will be burglarized, and you can find helpful suggestions from many sources, including your local police department.
Here are ten suggestions to make your house less likely to be burglarized, recommended by the San Jose, California, Police Department:
- Make your home look occupied, and make it difficult to break in.
- Lock all outside doors and windows before you leave the house or go to bed. Even if it is for a short time, lock your doors.
- Leave lights on when you go out. If you are going to be away for a length of time, connect some lamps to automatic timers to turn them on in the evening and off during the day.
- Keep your garage door closed and locked.
- Don’t allow daily deliveries of mail, newspapers or flyers build up while you are away. Arrange with the Post Office to hold your mail, or arrange for a friend or neighbor to pick them up regularly.
- Arrange for your lawn to be mowed if you are going away for an extended time.
- Check your locks on doors and windows and replace them with secure devices as necessary.
- Pushbutton locks on doorknobs are easy for burglars to open. Install deadbolt locks on all your outside doors.
- Sliding glass doors are vulnerable. Special locks are available for better security.
- Other windows may need better locks. Check with a locksmith or hardware store for alternatives.
No one was home that Friday afternoon when the thief broke in through a back window of her suburban ranch home. He dropped her jewelry box, plus her husband’s watch, into a pillowcase he stripped from a bed before breaking out the back door and escaping.
Although the police came and dusted for fingerprints, they don’t think that she’ll see the contents of her jewelry box again. Naturally, after an event like this you start thinking hard about security. In hindsight, our colleague said she wished she had done these three things beforehand:
- Document your jewelry. Because jewelry can be so easily lost or stolen, a standard homeowners policy has limited coverage for jewelry—typically $1,000 to $1,500, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Although our colleague had taken out a special supplementary policy to cover jewelry (called a rider or floater), she hadn’t documented many of her newer pieces. For supplementary insurance to be in force, jewelry must be both appraised and reported to the insurance agent, according to the Insurance Information Institute. So if you received a valuable piece of jewelry this Christmas, keep the sales receipt or appraisal provided by the jeweler and contact your insurance agent to add it to the list of insured items on your policy.
- Divide up your jewelry and consider locking up valuable pieces. Our friend kept all her jewelry in one place, in her jewelry box. That made it easy for a thief to close the lid and steal everything in just seconds. Now she wishes she had kept her costume jewelry in the jewelry box, and hidden more valuable pieces somewhere else that only she and her husband knew. Many people with expensive jewelry keep their most valuable pieces in a bank safety deposit box, and take them out only when they want to wear them for special occasions.
- Consider keeping family keepsakes out of the jewelry box. Our colleague kept family keepsakes in her jewelry box. The hospital ID bracelets that her children wore after birth have no financial value, but wound up in the burglar’s haul because they were kept in the jewelry box. They likely would have been left behind had they been kept in a sock drawer or old shoebox.
Don’t advertise to the world that you are away from home when you go on vacation.
Status Quo vs. Out of the ordinary
Thieves cruising for an easy home shopping trip look for the obvious signs that you are away from home. If you take some simple precautions, you can keep the fact that you are gone, a family secret.
Leaving the porch lights OFF!
Don’t deviate from your normal patterns. Usually when people are at home, their porch light is off and the interior lights are on. The only time your porch lights are on is when you are waiting for someone to get home.
Therefore, when people leave all the lights off inside their house, and leave only the porch light on outside their house, it is a Day-Glo bright, neon-light announcement to burglars in your neighborhood that you are away from home.
It’s true, having been in the security alarm installation business for over 10 years, we found that although thieves and burglars are lazy, (they don’t want to work for a living, they would rather steal your things than work to earn their own), they’re not stupid.
When going away, leave your porch lights off, and get a timer that you can plug into your front room lights. The timers are inexpensive and easy to use, just set the lights to turn on automatically in the evening and off at the time you usually retire. [I don't necessarily agree with this tactic. If you normally leave your porch light off, do what she suggests, but if you normally leave them on, I recommend continuing that practice. -- Inspector Mike]
This gives the appearance that you are home and watching TV, or going abut your regular schedule. This is also a nice touch, when you come home from a hard day of work, the light is on to greet you, rather than an empty dark house. There is a great deal of security in being able to walk into a well lit room.
Outside security lighting
Outside your home, post security lights (lights that have a motion detector in them), they only go on if they sense motion. This way, your yard or driveway is lit when you get home, if there are any people walking around your house you will know because the security lights will automatically go on. If you choose solar powered security lights, you don’t need to run wires to the device.
If you have a house sitter, leave instructions on plant care and watering, but don’t forget to have them bring in the mail, and newspapers from the yard.
Nothing says “We’re Gone” like newspapers piling up that are usually taken in on a daily basis. Same thing with mail overflowing out of the mailbox, and this can also lead to mail theft, so make sure someone is bringing it in every day or so. If you want to stop mail service for vacations, the post office usually needs a week or two notice, so plan ahead if you wish to temporarily stop mail service at your house while away.
Don’t forget to have the house sitter take out your trash cans on the appropriate day, and especially to retrieve them from the curb. The presence of trash cans on the curb after pick up day is also a clear notice that you aren’t at home.
If you do not have someone to house sit, put your sprinklers on automatic timing so your yard doesn’t dry up. When otherwise well tended yards begin to turn brown, even to the casual observer, it is obvious that you are not at home.
Tricks of the Trade
There’s a code among thieves, but it certainly IS NOT one of honor. The code insures that while they are incarcerated, they pass along the tricks on how to get past a security alarm system and other home security devices. So, to level the playing field, let me teach you some tricks of their trade.
First of all, don’t give them easy access.
Most residential burglaries are not break-ins at all, but rather, instances when the residents left a door or window unlocked. Believe it or not, if you will keep the main entry doors, both front and back, locked and the windows that are accessible from the ground floor, locked, you’ll be assured that most of the burglars will pass by your house.
As I said they’re lazy, they’re not stupid. If you leave a ladder leaning up against your house, it is a clear invitation to burglars to access the second story window, so remember to put away ladders, scaffolding and other building components that may be used to climb into the second-floor windows.
Burglar alarm systems
The Local Alarm: noisy and ineffective
There are two types of burglar alarm systems. One is called a local alarm system and it does not ring through to a central station monitoring company, who will then call the police if a dispatch is necessary. It merely makes a lot of noise. This type of alarm system is supposed to scare the burglar off without costing you money to pay to monitor the system. The problem is, the burglars know this. How? Because the central station monitoring company must first call the customer, to make sure the alarm is not a false alarm. (False alarms are the one big problem the security industry faces.)
When a burglar hears the alarm siren, if the phone does not ring (the Central Station calling the resident), they know it’s a local alarm, and that the police aren’t coming. [I also don't necessarily agree with this, especially in these days of everyone having mobile phones instead of a home phone. -- Inspector Mike]
They take their time, make a sandwich, maybe grab a shower, then haul off all your stuff.
The Monitored Security System: What it does and does not do for you
These systems are connected via phone line, to the central station (CS) whose computer’s are being watched or “monitored” by people round-the-clock. The job of the CS operator, in the event that the system is indicating an unauthorized break in, is to contact the residents first, then a list of responsible parties. Responsible parties are people who have the keys and the entry code to the system, so they can go disarm it and reset the alarm, if the break in should be real.
If the CS operator doesn’t get an answer at the residence or RP list, they dispatch the police, who then go to your house. The burglar knows that if the alarm siren sounds, then the phone rings within the next two minutes, they know the police are on the way.
A smart thief will also know the approximate “response time” of the police in your city. It can take from 15 minutes to four hours to never, depending on how busy the police are at the time of the call. The thief may still have time to get the easy to hawk items, like TV’s, VCRs, leather coats, jewelry and watches.
The best of all possible worlds, especially with the high incidence of false alarm problems the police have with residential burglaries, is to have a monitored system with a company that offers patrol service with their monitoring package. The patrol system offers unarmed security response teams who can verify a real break-in and then call the police, so there are no false alarm charges brought against the home owner.
Home Grown Security-Tips for Do-it-Yourself-ers
Securing your windows
You can buy screw down security window locks at home-improvement stores like Home Depot, if you have aluminum or metal frame windows. These are easy to install, relatively inexpensive and keep the window from being opened beyond a certain point.
Barring that solution, you can cut dowel rods to the length that you want to leave your window open or vented. Leave the dowel in the window frame track, this will allow your windows to be open for air, without allowing
them to be open far enough to climb through.
Foliage to protect your home
Rose bushes or cactus, flowering bougainvillea or other flowering foliage with stickers can be grown near ground floor, easily-accessible windows. This makes it highly unappealing for a burglar to use that entry point,. They don’t want to injure themselves while they are helping themselves to your TV and VCR.
Make friends with your nosy neighbors!
If you have neighbors who are retired, and love to watch the goings on in the neighborhood, you may have a built-in security guard. Give them your cell phone number, and ask them to call you if they hear or see suspicious activity around your house while you are gone.
Or you can start a neighborhood watch group in your neighborhood. The added presence of the police cruisers, and more awareness on the part of your neighbors, creates a more secure environment.
If you build a six foot fence around the perimeter of your house, it will deter many burglars from entering the property. I guarantee you, most burglars will not carry their loot over a six foot fence.
Post a “Beware of Dog” sign, even if you don’t own a dog. You’d be surprised how many thieves are afraid of guard dogs.
Effective security takes time, but it’s worth the effort.
-Contributed by Diane Tegarden