Remember the good old days when people went off to do some errands or go to church and never bothered to lock their doors? There once was a time and for some country folks they still don’t bother to lock up during the day when they head out for short trips or even when they’re home watching TV in the evening. I appreciate the faith in humanity but we truly do live in different times and it is a little surprising to me that some people are so lax about their valuables but more so about their personal security. We have it in our heads that thieves just want to break in while we’re away, take our expensive electronics and jewelry and skedaddle to go pawn our valuables for cash. Unfortunately that’s not so much the case these days, they may want your big screen TV but are more so interested in what might be in your medicine cabinet, home safe or worse, think they might get away with an elaborate hostage siege. Home invasions are on the rise because criminals are not only bolder but are often under the influence of drugs and are therefore unpredictable, volatile and desperate.
“Nothing like that would happen around here, this is a safe neighborhood!” This is exactly the kind of attitude criminals want, a safe, predictable neighborhood where people’s guards are down. As a fairly rural community, we think that everyone knows everyone and therefore who would attempt a crime when they would be easily identified? We may be rural but we’re a hop, skip and jump away from big city centers and some criminals don’t mind travelling to an area where the pickings are easy.
Thieves may use the old uniformed service or delivery personnel scam but are also young women pushing baby strollers, innocent looking pet owners with a dog on a leash looking for Fido’s lost partner, dressed well and holding what looks like religious materials, or employing a technique called the urgent scam-in. This is when someone zooms up your driveway, appears anxious and tells you there was an explosion nearby or a massive chemical spill and try to push into your home under the guise of the emergency. Let’s review just a few safety standards and maybe learn about some new tricks that criminals are up to:
- Take a good hard look at your home from the outside, “case the joint” so to speak and evaluate where an intruder might enter or where they might hide from passerby’s traffic. Keep tall shrubs trimmed, have adequate exterior lighting including motion detectors which are mounted high up and difficult to get to. I’ve noticed some home owners using some strategic landscaping by planting thorny bushes like Japanese Barberry near windows. I like the way these home owners think but the Barberry is an aggressive, intrusive species that is causing a great amount of havoc in our forests and woodlands and is also a haven for ticks, the last thing any of us need.
- Security systems aren’t as expensive as they once were and some can even be installed wirelessly. If it’s a wired system, be sure wires are hidden and inaccessible from the outside. Security cameras are a great deterrent but remember, most criminals aren’t thinking straight so don’t treat them like a round the clock security guard. Often time’s security footage is used to solve a crime after the fact. Some insurance companies might even give discounts on homeowner’s insurance if you have security systems installed.
- If you suspect any activity, do not enter your home! Drive away, go to a nearby neighbor’s home and call for help. Don’t ever try to confront a burglar who may quickly become desperate and violent.
- I can’t believe I see it as often as I do but people still “hide” keys under flower pots, doormats, above windows and in a magnetic key holder inside the gas grill. Use your imagination when considering hiding a key and move your secret hiding place frequently.
- Excellent deadbolt locks, multiple locks, braced windows and garage doors are key to a good defense. How easy it for someone to break a glass panel on a door near a lock and simply reach in and unlock a deadbolt? If you feel inadequate about accessing your security, maybe it’s worth having a professional or your general contractor look at entryways for weak points. They could help if you have door hinges on the outside of the house that need to be reset to the interior.
- Keep valuables out of sight of prying eyes. Expensive art work, gaming systems, laptops, and unbolted safes are eye candy to burglars.
- Posting pictures of your vacation on social media is an open invitation for criminals to swing by your home and lift a few things. As is having an unplowed driveway, the buildup of mail in your mailbox, the lights on timers that go on and off at exactly the same times for weeks on end and the advertising flyer that hangs off of a doorknob for days.
- Have you heard of porch pirates? These savvy sticky-fingered folks are clued into those of us who do a good amount of online shopping and frequently receive packages on our door stoop. They just take their chances you ordered something nifty that will suit them and sometimes they score big. Avoid buying high ticket items and if so, insure the package and request that a signature be required upon delivery. Get text alerts so you can anticipate when the package arrives, send packages to your place of work if possible or a local distribution center where you can pick it up.
Lastly, most cars now have alarms which can be activated by simply hitting the panic button on the key fob. This is good to remember when walking across a dark parking lot but consider taking your keys to bed with you nightly. Test out if you can activate the alarm from your bedside and if so, this is one inexpensive, noisy way to scare off a potential intruder.