Help Prevent Home Break-Ins: Think Like a Thief

Last December, our home was broken into. We weren’t home, and luckily nothing was stolen that couldn’t b replaced, but it had our family living in fear for a little while. Today I would like to share a guest post by Carrie Van Brunt-Wiley containing some simple tips you might want to consider to help prevent break-ins. 

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You’ve seen the famous Hollywood heist movies such as Ocean’s 11 and Heat where a glamorous gang of hot-shot thieves strategize and scheme for months in order to pull off elaborate, million-dollar robberies. However, it would probably be overkill to install motion-sensor booby traps in your own home or to store all of your belongings inside a high-security vault like the Bellagio’s.

The reality is that most burglaries can be attributed to male teenagers who live within just a few miles of your home, and the average loss from burglaries in the U.S. is about $2,000. So with that in mind, it’s easy to take a look at your home the way the average thief would and take a few simple steps to help prevent break-ins.

Locate easy points of entry

The average thief probably won’t try to scale the walls of your house and drop in through a skylight. Think simpler: If you’re a teenager wandering the streets of your neighborhood, what’s the easiest route inside without attracting unwanted attention?

You guessed it: The average burglar is most likely to enter your home through the front door, a sliding glass door or a large window.

To help prevent break-ins, make sure you’ve installed deadbolt locks (and use them!), lock any sliding glass doors and use a door jam or sturdy stick to keep them from sliding, and keep your windows locked.  It’s also a good idea to keep shrubbery around points of entry trimmed in order to provide clear visibility of everyone who enters or exits your home.

Keep the lights on

Most thieves won’t try to sneak into your home and sneak out with all of your belongings without you noticing while you’re sipping coffee at the kitchen table. They’ll look for signs that no one’s home, such as a full mailbox or a stack of newspapers in the driveway, no cars parked outside and a dark house.

If you’re planning to be out of town for an extended period of time, arrange with a neighbor you trust to have your mail and newspapers picked up daily. Leave a light or two on inside, or set a couple of lamps on timers so they turn on at night but save energy during the day. Make sure you’ve installed outdoor lights and check that they’re functioning properly. Every point of entry to your home should be well-lit so your neighbors can easily see if anyone’s coming and going. If you can leave a car in the driveway, it also will add to the illusion that someone is home.

Make them hunt

You don’t have to install a high-security vault with retina-scanning entry – just make your unwelcome guests hunt for anything valuable. The average time a burglar spends inside a home is about 12 minutes. It’s simple math: the longer it takes him to find what he’s looking for, the better your chances are that he will give up.

Never leave cash or jewelry sitting out in plain sight and put away any high-value electronics such as laptops and gaming consoles. This may also actually be a time when your usually inconvenient tangled wires come in handy – the longer it takes a thief to wrestle with your electronics the less likely he is to take them and the less time he’ll have to loot other parts of the house.

Let them know they’ll be caught

A house that is not protected by a security system is 2 to 3 times more likely to be burglarized than one that is. It makes sense – would you try to break into a home if you knew you’d set off an alarm and probably end up in handcuffs within the hour? Set up signs in your yard and stickers on your windows to let potential intruders know they’ll be caught if they try any funny business. In addition to reducing your chances of a break-in, installing a home security system could also help you save some money on your home insurance premium.

When it comes to home security, the most important thing is to use common sense. The average thief is looking for an easy job; the harder you make it to enter your home and get away with valuable loot, the less likely you are to lose your belongings.

 

This article was contributed by Carrie Van Brunt-Wiley, Editor of the HomeInsurance.com blog. Carrie has been writing insurance news and consumer information for HomeInsurance.com since 2008. She graduated from the University of North Carolina in Wilmington in 2005 with a B.A. in Professional Writing and Journalism.

 

photo credit: chrisinplymouth via photopin cc

Living in Fear

No Going Back

Photo by Mariano Kamp

I was up most of the night of December 2. I had been mixing applesauce cinnamon dough for a co-op class the next morning and had a severe allergic reaction. Around five o’clock in the morning of December 3, I kissed my husband goodbye as he headed to the airport for a week long business trip. I then headed to bed in the hopes of getting in a little sleep before the kids woke up and we had to get on with our day.

The class went well. All of the kids had fun rolling out their dough and cutting out ornaments to take home and dry. I carefully wore gloves anytime I had to touch it. We chatted with friends, and after they all left, we had a nice little lunch and read some books. We needed to run a few errands, so we headed out about 1:30 PM. It was a lovely day out and we decided to head the park and try to get some great photos to put on cards to mail to friends and family.

We pulled into our driveway just before 3 PM, ready to grab clean shirts for the kids and my camera for some photography fun. I saw that the lights on the outside of the garage were on and made a mental note to remind the kids to double check that they were only flipping on the inside garage light and not the outside light. The switches are next to one another and sometimes the outside lights are accidentally turned on. I hit the button for the garage door to go up, parked in the driveway, and proceeded to help my younger children unbuckle, grab our purchases out of the back of the van, check the mail, and head in through the garage, which we used as a mudroom due to the limited space. I noticed that the garage smelled like cinnamon, as our house had earlier, and thought it odd that the smell had permeated so strongly into the garage. Later, my oldest child told me the door was wide open when he went in. He thought I had gone up to unlock it before getting the mail.

We went inside, dropping the diaper bag and purchases by the door as we rushed to get to the park before we lost the fantastic light we were being afforded. I began going through my two year old’s shirts while my other children started checking what they had clean. My eight year old came to me with three shirts, and I informed her that there was a basket of clean clothes in front of the dryer. She headed down to check and immediately came running back up the stairs saying, “Mom! Someone broke in!” My immediate thought was denial, so I ran down the stairs. I was halfway down when I saw the baby gate around the television had been moved. Turning, I saw our back door was wide open with the trim boards broken and laying on the floor.

I raced back up, scooping up my youngest child and telling the kids we had to get out. Luckily the diaper bag still sat by the kitchen door, and I grabbed it as we raced back out to the driveway. I pulled the phone out as I gathered my children close and called 911.  I tried reaching my husband, but he was in a meeting halfway across the country. I called a friend who made some calls so that we would have help securing the door that evening. I cried. I didn’t know if the perpetrators were still there. I thought about my children, my babies, being in the house where there might have been strangers who could have harmed them. I shook.  cried some more, and I hugged my crying children close.

We were lucky. We weren’t home at the time, and no one was hurt. The people who broke into our home were professionals. They didn’t trash the house, they just took most of our electronics. We think the garage door scared them off, as our desktop computer was moved and partially unplugged. They didn’t get our external hard drive, which housed all of our photos. Everything they took was something that could be replaced.

However, it was scary. My husband couldn’t get a flight home that night. When bedtime, albeit much later than my kids had been going to bed, rolled around, the questions came about what the perpetrators would have done if we were home. I didn’t want to lie and say that that would not happen, so I explained that most burglars do not want to be caught so they won’t break in if someone is home. As I was explaining this, I was also preparing for battle. I left all of the outside lights on. Most of the inside lights were on. I brought spray bottles of homemade cleaning supplies into the master bathroom, set the phone by the bed, brought in my son’s bow and unlocked the case ready for me to grab, and barricaded the bedroom door. I then proceeded to stay up all night while my children slept around me, listening to every tiny sound in case just in case the people came back. My husband grabbed the earliest flight home the next morning and we all hugged each other.

Since then, we have worked to make our home feel safe again. We have made changes to our home to make it more difficult for someone to break in. Most importantly, we have done everything we can to show our children that we will do whatever it takes in order to protect. Our children should feel safe and it is our job to make that happen. Home should be safe.

However, many, many children do not feel safe in their own homes. Many are the victims of abuse, while others are afraid for reasons that do not legally qualify as abuse. I can tell you that living in fear is not healthy and it does not lead to optimal growth, something which most parents want for their children. It is stressful on our bodies and minds, and limits us in learning and resolving conflicts. Ruling through fear by way of hitting, yelling, or other punishments does not provide that environment. It’s our job as parents to provide the safe environment for our children to learn and grow.