A neighborhood in rural North Carolina experienced a rash of home break-ins and burglaries. Law enforcement officers estimated that in less than five minutes, thieves would kick in a home’s rear or garage side door, and then sprint for the home’s master bedroom. There, the thieves would pick up displayed jewelry, rummage through furniture, remove handguns from nightstands, and then steal rifles and shotguns from the back corners of closets. Laptops, large screen TVs, iPods and other valuables would be taken as the thieves left the houses. Homeowners’ nightmares began, as many rural residents returned home after a day at work to discover they had been burglarized and their home invaded and damaged.
The numerous break-ins baffled authorities for months. How did the thieves know when someone was home, or when homes stood vacant? Only after an alert resident noted a tag number of a strange vehicle, and when suspects were eventually apprehended and questioned, did cell phone numbers reveal another crucial fact: the thieves were partnered with the substitute rural mail carrier who scouted homes and kept a look out for law enforcement as the burglars ransacked homes. She delivered the mail and made calls to alert the burglars about any law enforcement presence. She also reported when homeowners were away.
Fortunately, the homes with safes, gun vaults, alarm systems, and those that had taken precautions had the lowest losses. It simply pays to have a safe—period. It pays to prevent thieves from taking the things you cherish.
Be Safe But Ready
Even if you are a police officer, gun collector, hunter, or someone with nearly any type of valuables—especially firearms—safes or vaults definitely help you keep what’s yours. Some departments are helping officers buy safes for their homes. Some agencies urge their officers to remove any service firearms from their parked patrol vehicles due to increasing numbers of break-and-grabs involving LE vehicles. However, if firearms must remain in your vehicle, consider buying a console vault. Many models are available to fit inside of existing vehicle consoles.
Inside the home, there are some new security items that would make James Bond envious. Among those items is a deluxe, locking book, which looks like an ordinary book, but is secured. There are also soda cans, closet lights, and candles that are actually safes for valuables. You can also obtain a paint can safe and a Maxwell House coffee can look-alike that’s a sturdy, lockable safe. These help keep valuables out of sight—and secure. Most of these models retail for less than $20.
Cutting Edge Products also has several outside options to give your home the appearance of expensive surveillance camera protection at a fraction of the cost. Most are dummy cameras that look exactly like those in expensive security systems and include flashing operating lights. If you do want real protection and deterrent alarms, concealable spy cameras and motion detector systems with very audible alarms are available. One item that caught my attention is their Motion Alarm/Auto Dialer—a motion alarm that plugs into a phone jack inside the home. When this unit detects an intruder, it will call any number that you’ve pre-programmed into the unit.
There are other ways to protect valuables and your family. Several websites offer pointers and plans for building safe rooms and hidden passages so your family can quickly disappear in case of an invasion. Some sites worth looking at for options are hiddendoors.net, saferooms.com, and hideadoor.com. Some of these ideas can be incorporated into an existing home, while others will require the work of a carpenter during new home construction. Any ideas are worth considering in these increasingly anxious times.
Seal Points of Entry
Another tried-and-tested method of keeping burglars away is installing perimeter gates and fences. It’s a good idea to keep any gates locked with a solid padlock—and don’t hang the key on a peg by the rear door. Keep bushes and trees around the home trimmed so burglars do not have a place to hide as they work their way onto your property.
Many home break-ins occur through the garage, specifically through a side entry door leading into the garage. Some thieves enter through the unattended garage door that was accidentally left open. Garage monitors are available that will chime inside the home to remind you that the garage door has been accidentally left open. Keeping easy access points closed is an important first step to preventing unwanted entry and potential problems. Keep tools stored in a chest or cabinet within the garage—not simply lying on a bench or hanging on a pegboard—so that these tools are not readily available to help a thief break into other areas of the house. Finally, if you will be gone for an extended period of time, place a padlock on the track for the garage door wheels. This prevents opening the door until the lock is removed.
Many thieves like to operate under the cover of darkness, and lighting is their strongest deterrent. Properly placed outdoor lighting, especially motion-activated lights can discourage thieves. Affordable models are available at big box home improvement stores, and in most cases you can install these lights yourself. On the other hand, many law enforcement units consider front porch lights turned on when the homeowner goes out for supper as “burglar beacons.” Don’t be an easy target.
When Nobody’s Home
It’s a fact that many home burglaries occur during July and August—the peak vacation season. Work with a trusted neighbor or family member to have mail and newspapers removed from the yard or driveway. You can also have someone park a car in your driveway, and change or move the vehicle every couple of days. Never leave a message on the answering machine—or on your e-mail account—that indicates you’ll be away on vacation. Unattended homes attract attention, and burglars. It’s also a good idea to avoid discussing upcoming vacations in public where others could be listening.
In many cases of forced entry, burglars kick in side entry doors to garages or the home’s back doors. Prevent this by using 3-inch screws to set the hardware. The longer screws reach into the surrounding wooden frame around the doors. They hold much better than the shorter screws that come with most door installation hardware. Check your home’s doors for proper installation. The pins and hinges should be on the inside, but sometimes carpenters cheat and hang doors incorrectly, creating easy access points.
Know Your Criminal
When it comes to service personnel who enter your home, such as plumbers, carpet installers, electricians, etc. ask the contractor if the workers and his company are bonded, and check identifications. Record license numbers on vehicles that come into your driveway for service. It is a good idea to keep a log of when someone enters your home to do repairs. If you do allow service workers, and then suddenly find someone in a part of your home where they should not be, ask them to leave immediately or call the contracting company. In many cases, a burglar has been in your home prior to coming to commit the act.
Professional security companies and locksmiths will inspect your home or office and offer estimates or recommendations for free. These sources can also help you discover the new methods and tools to prevent, deter, and report thieves. In addition to finding these companies in your yellow pages, ask your local law enforcement for referrals and ask your home insurance provider. In some cases, security systems and safes can mean a deduction in the cost of your homeowners insurance.