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Burglary

shadow manOne of the most talked about crimes when I attend community meetings is Burglary. The predominant question I’m asked is, “How can I protect my home and the property inside of my home from this crime?” Before I go any further, let me give you a short but direct definition of this crime. Burglary is the unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or a theft. I’m sure this definition will hold true in any city or state. As I stated before and as you will read over and over on this website, the underlining reasons for crime have not yet been verifiably uncovered so I will not attempt to address why a burglar chooses to be a burglar. shadow man with flashlightThere are countless reasons why a burglar might be in your house. It could happen tomorrow or next week and those reasons will all vary from problems with drugs, money for food, the need to feed a family as well as many others, but again, we are not here to define why the burglar enters your home. Instead, we are here to discuss how to keep the burglar from entering your home all together. Our ultimate goal here will be to come up with ways to deter the burglar from even setting foot on your property. If your friends and neighbors visit this site along with you, our goal will immediately be upgraded to deterring the burglars from entering or remaining in your neighborhood all together.




burglar with light and open windowLet’s start with securing your home. My reasons for beginning here as opposed to giving you the deterring methods first are because in all truthfulness this is your first line of defense. We will call this ground zero or the backbone of your confidence. What this means is that once you know your home is secure, your confidence in using the deterring methods will boost, so even if you feel that you gave your deterring efforts less than 100%, you will know the security in your home will pick up the slack.




Let me make one thing clear so you don’t think that I am living in a dream world where the disease of crime can be totally cured. Regardless of the deterring methods and security methods I am providing, some determined criminals will still make the attempt to burglarize your home and for those small percentages of criminals our efforts may seem not so necessary. illustration of burglar with tvHowever, as you will see in our efforts to secure your home we will combat this situation in an effective way. We will accomplish this goal by basically making your home harder to access. This will do one of two things. It will delay the criminals access to your home allowing for a neighbor or an alarm system to notify the Police thus upping the chances of this criminal being caught at or inside your home, granted he is able to get inside. Also, as access to your home appears more difficult than the criminal thought it would be, the criminal will exhaust his/her efforts and leave on his/her own. Now do you see where I am going with this? Great! Let’s get started with securing your confidence in protecting yourself from this crime.




Ok, it is time we take a look at your home and the entry points that exist. In the past I have observed burglars make entry into homes through several clever and some not so expected ways. The average entry points we all think of are windows and doors and in most case scenarios those are the choice entries for burglars. However, I have also observed burglars enter people’s homes through garages, doggie doors and last but certainly not the least, basement doors and windows. Below, I will discuss ways to secure these entry points one at a time.




suspect at doorDoors- From the front door to the rear, side and patio doors we must be ever so cautious to secure these entry points. These are the common entry points to any structure and the entry points any burglar, or for that matter any human is used to. The point is that any door can be considered the first choice for a burglar which makes security at the door priority #1. A steady and strong door is the key. Look at it this way, and this is meant totally for security purposes, if the police were going to kick your door in or use a battering ram, what kind of door would give them a hard time getting in. Now, I know that everyone does not have the resources to change out an entire door on their house or apartment, not to mention two or three doors depending on the size of your home, but if you do, this would be wise. For those of us who do not have those resources readily available than my advice would be to reinforce the framing on your door. Go to your nearest hardware store and inquire about strengthening your framework. This makes it harder for a door to be forced open. Also, deadbolts are great for door security because of the strength of the lock. The average lock that comes standard on a door knob simply does not suffice. Deadbolts are also easier and less time consuming to install. broken doorRemember though, this is not a point in time where you want to think cheap in regard to generic or name brand locks. One more security feature that can be added to a door would be an outer door or where I’m from called a screen door. These doors can have an actual screen or glass and some come interchangeable for season changes. The best of these “screen” doors would be the ones that are locked with a key. It’s like an extra deadbolt. The point of this, if not obvious, is that it now gives a burglar two doors that are not easy to get into. This is a deterrence method in itself as well as an obstacle being that burglars don’t want to spend that much time trying to get in. The last part of door security will be installing alarms but I will discuss this subject more in debt later where I discuss alarms.




Windows- suspect in windowWindows are a little more vulnerable than a door which is why I make them priority #2. If possible a window will not be the first choice for a burglar because breaking a window is much louder than any other point of entry into a home. Also, a broken window sends off signals to neighbors and anyone passing by who will definitely know something is wrong after noticing a broken window. This means a burglar has even less time to get in and get out of a home. Although, windows are easily broken there are some ways to secure a window better. Probably the best and what has stood the test of time are the burglar bars which are placed on the outside of a window and are very hard if not impossible to get through, at least for the average burglar. Remember, we are not discussing professional burglars here and even if we were a professional burglar would only attempt long-timed break in only if he/she knows you are out of town or gone for a certain amount of hours that he/she is sure about and even then a professional burglar would probably not pick a window as his/her first choice of entry. Now with that said, burglar bars are a great deterrence to a burglar before he/she even enters your property. Screens can also be effective because this is another obstacle that will slow a burglar’s entrance into a window. Think about it, a burglar has to cut or remove the screen before he/she ever breaks or pries the window open. This also leaves visuals for neighbors and people passing by which the burglar does not want. As I mentioned the burglars prying a window open, it brought to mind the types of locks you put on your window. burglar outside windowThis is important because some locks can be pried easier than others. This is also something you can research at a local hardware store by looking at the different lock styles they have to offer. One more note to make before I move on is that you can apply a nail on the inside of your door in the top two or all four corners of the window. The nails you apply will go in about half way and will be made to be taken out by hand from the inside. This will allow you to still open your windows when you want but when they are applied to the window it will make prying a window open very difficult to a person (burglar) from the outside. The last part of window security will be installing alarms but as I stated before I will discuss this subject more in debt later where I discuss alarms.




Garages- suspect at garageOk, let’s talk garages. In the matter of garage doors and windows the same information applies from the doors and windows categories. What I really want to discuss with garages are things we generally forget about when we come home after a long day. I want to stress remembering to remove your garage door opener from your vehicle on days that you decide to leave your vehicle outside. More than you may think, burglars are able to gain access into homes through garages by either breaking into someone’s car or simply opening an unlocked car door and using the garage door opener to get inside. Now, once inside the burglar is usually presented with two options. The first option and most common one is that most people don’t lock their common door that leads into the home from the garage. Usually we don’t think much about it because we feel that the main garage door is locked so there is no need to lock the access door. Now the burglar can just walk right in without any signs of forced entry. The other option a burglar might have is to simply let the garage door back down and even if he comes across a locked access door to the home, he need not rush because there is no one to see him as he works his way inside. Again alarms are great but I will discuss them soon.




shadow burglarOther Doors and Windows- Just to be clear, a pet door can be an entry point for a burglar. Throughout my years as an officer I have taken a fair share of burglary reports resulting with the entry point being through the pet door. Remember, burglars come in all different sizes and ages. My advice is to obtain information on securing the pet door prior to installing it. This way you know the risk and it will also help you choose the right type and manufacturer of the pet door. Last but not least in our discussion of entry points, I want to discuss basement windows and doors. All the previous mentioned information does apply with a couple of exceptions. First, if these doors and windows are not used often, covering them or putting something in front of them (like a dresser or long bar or even extra locks) would be a smart move. If you do access these doors or open these windows often than treat them like any other doors and windows in the rest of the house and secure them accordingly. These areas should be checked on the outside more as a burglar might decide to case your home from the basement area. Alarms on these doors and windows are very important.



Alarms

alarmI stated above that I would discuss alarms in depth and this is where I will do just that. This will not be a long discussion however. It is safe to say that alarms are very necessary in protecting your home. This applies whether you are home when a burglary occurs or you are away. The alarm system will alert everyone in the immediate area as well as the alarm company holding the contract and the police. I will not make recommendations because all alarm companies have their separate features with some that may be a better fit for your needs. The advice I will give you is to do your research. Pick at least three to five alarm companies and do a compare and contrast. One way to narrow down the features that you may need, if you are a first timer, is to find out all the similar features amongst the three to five companies you are comparing. Make a list of all the features each one offers in basic packages that are the same. Now you have what you absolutely need or the bare minimum of what you need. After that you can decide what extra features might be needed to make you feel totally safe (for example panic buttons, fingerprint id instead of keypad etc.). Even if a burglar makes it inside your home, you can rest assured that he will only obtain an item or two with little time to think about what he’s taking. With the alarm sounding off the burglar usually never makes it past the first room upon entry. What I am saying here is that even if the burglar gains entry and steals a piece of your property he will not have gotten everything he could have by taking his time in your home. An alarm blaring in a burglar’s ears will also give him the opportunity to screw up. By rushing, the burglar might touch a glass or table or something without thinking or having time to wipe it down leaving clues and fingerprints for the police as they process the scene.

Securing Your Home

 

Deterrence

house with motion lightsIn deterring burglars it is important to understand you will be attempting to make a burglar look at your home and not only think twice but actually turn away realizing that it’s not worth the risk. To get right into it, I will say that signs do work great for deterring burglars. For the neighborhood, a neighborhood watch sign or two at the entrances of the neighborhood or your street immediately tells a burglar someone may be watching. Now, for your home there are many signs like the protected signs your alarm company will give you after installing your alarm. Even if you have not upgraded to an alarm system yet, getting an alarm sign can still work. Beware of dog signs work as well, although actually have a dog in the home will work much better. This brings us to our pets. Having a dog, and I don’t mean a little dog; can be a nice safety net for any home. Dogs will protect the home for you granted you don’t let every stranger play with it. Also, you get a dog feel free to show it off. If a burglar is driving around casing homes and he sees your dog in the yard he will more than likely scratch your house off his list. Most burglars don’t want the hassle of wondering if your dog will lick his hand or bite his arm off. For this reason most burglars will just move on to an easier situation. It may seem weird, but I made this suggestion at a one of my community meetings to some single women and men living in the neighborhood. That suggestion was to provide a small piece of deception to the criminal who may be watching your home. When you leave for work or the grocery store or wherever you may be going, appear as if to talk to someone in your home or to push a pet back inside, preferably a very large pet. Doing this requires some acting skills on your part but they don’t have to be great acting skills. guard dogWhat you want to do is to make the criminal think your home is not empty just because you left and hopefully he will move on. Another thing to do is to change your habits. Don’t leave home at exactly the same time every day. You become predictable when you do that. Also, on occasion, when you leave home you can go around the corner and wait a minute or two and go back home. Pull into your drive way and look around. This also makes anyone watching your home think twice about what they might be planning to do. Timers on light and lamps also work. Setting your light to turn off after you leave instead of before you leave your home gives off the perception that some one is still inside and that’s who just turned the light on or off. This can be used at any time of the day or night.

If Someone is Home

remain calm catIf you or anyone in your family just happens to be home when a burglary happens it is important to stay calm. I know that it may be easier said than done but understand one thing about the average burglar. The reason they call it burglary instead of robbery is because the burglar would rather commit the crime with no one around. This can be used to your advantage. Making a noise or yelling “The police are on the way because I just called them” will usually startle the burglar enough to make him run out the door he came in, but just in case he is a little bolder than the average burglar, you or your family member might want to get to a safe place before alerting the burglar to your presence. Don’t forget your phone. You will need your phone to immediately call the police and when you do try to be calm. This way your conversation with 911 is not prolonged by a lack of communication or understanding of what you are trying to say. Set the alarm even if you are home. This helps out in several ways. The first way is that the burglar immediately knows he set off the alarm and that it is a matter of time before the police show up. Also, you are given the relief of knowing that even if all you can do is hide in silence, the police will be notified and at your home soon. One last thing, if you have all the great features on your alarm system activated, know the buttons. It is important that you know what buttons/numbers to push in regard to your emergency by heart because during a stressful moment it gets even harder for the mind to remember something not embedded to memory. It could save your life one day.

What to do if you have been Burglarized

do not touch red handIf you become the victim of a burglary there are some things that you need to know which can make the process easier for you as well as the officer’s who come to your home to process the scene and take the report. First and foremost, DO NOT touch anything. It is very important that the scene remains fresh for fingerprints. Most of the prints around your home will belong to you and your family member’s already so you don’t want to touch anywhere the burglar may have touched because it will ruin the opportunity to lift those prints. For the officer’s sake, if you notice any items, large or small, that may have been moved, immediately inform them because these are items we know the burglar has touched.  Also, if you notice your home has been broken into before you enter, DO NOT enter your home because the burglar could still be inside. The officer’s who respond can go inside and make sure your home is cleared of all threats. As a precaution, write down all of your serial numbers from any items in your home that are of value and you feel are worth stealing. This will be needed for the police report and if you expect to receive any recovered items back if found, this will help with knowing which property belongs to you given the police bust a ring of burglars and your items are found among numerous other items.




You and Your Neighbors


neighborhood watch picAs neighbors and even as a community, it is important to exchange numbers for emergencies. If your neighbors know you are not home they will notice when someone is on your property and can give you a call describing what they see and you can respond accordingly. If someone is property that should not be there the police can be notified. I do not recommend you or your neighbors confront anyone in this situation because criminals can be unpredictable. If a burglar does commit the crime at your home and your neighbors see them they should immediately notify the police. If and only if it is safe to do so, keeping an eye on the burglar is a good idea, but from a distance. This way when the police arrive or as they are responding updates can be given over the phone and these criminals can be caught and charged with the crime. Neighbors who communicate can make a big difference in deterring crimes such as burglary in your neighborhood.