The act of committing a home invasion is escalating. Times are tough and money is short. This is the perfect storm for an increase in home invasion. Businesses understand this and have made thefts more difficult. The homeowner has not beefed up his security in the same way, which makes homeowners the easier target.
Thieves know most home owners do not have alarm systems or video cameras. Home invasions can be accomplished without anyone taking notice or realizing something is wrong. Once invaders are in your home if you are there, you may be forced to reveal where your valuables are kept and even pressured into divulging passwords for bank accounts and more.
Invaders are becoming more brazen. They often break in during the daylight hours, even when someone is home. Most often thieves will knock on the door and when there is no answer they will slip around to the back and break in. More and more invaders do not work alone, and they will push their way into your home as you answer your door and hold you captive. What can you do?
Be aware. Some years ago, we lived where our back fence bordered the parking lot of our ward’s chapel. We had a convenient gate in that fence that made access to Sunday meetings easy. Unfortunately, it also made access easy to our home.
After a short three-day trip, we returned home and parked the car in the garage. After retiring, the lights were out, and the family was in bed for the night. Then, the sound of a car idling could be heard from the back of our home.
My husband looked out the window and a sedan was backed up to our back gate. Someone got out of the car and opened the trunk as if ready to load up. Of course, we didn’t turn on the interior lights, but we turned on our outside lights, and the would-be burglar made a quick getaway. It was a wake up call, in a town where we thought crime couldn’t touch us.
Don’t answer the door, or at least don’t open it. It is just fine for you to speak with someone at the door through a closed door. Just ask, who is it? This will signal them that you are home but will not expose you to risk. If you should have to open the door, be sure others are aware you are answering and they are ready to call 911 quickly.
Get out! If you hear someone in your home, get out without being noticed and call 911 from a neighbor’s home or on your cell phone when you are far enough away that you can’t be heard.
Given this grim news, how can we prepare our homes to be more secure — whether we are at home, or away?
Scream. If you should surprise an invader, scream and run. Do not confront anyone. Go to a neighbor’s home or into a safe room.
There are also many things you should do now to make a break in more difficult and survival more possible.
Create a plan. Teach your children what to do and where to go if they hear someone or if they suspect someone is in your home. Practice the plan. Plans are worth nothing if they are not practiced. Teach your children to arm and/or use your alarm in case of an invasion. Practice always locking doors and windows, even when home.
Create a safe room. Select an interior room or large closet with no windows or skylights. A safe room should have only one entrance. Replace doors and door frames with solid core or steel doors and jambs. If possible doors should open out to make it harder to kick in. Installation or refitting should be with three-inch screws. Doors should have a good lock that can be locked from the inside. If you have small children you may want to make this a keyed lock.
Stock your room with emergency supplies such as food, water, a flashlight or glow sticks, a first-aid kit, cell phone and a way to defend yourself. Be sure you have good ventilation. If you are home when an intruder breaks in, go into your safe room, call 911, and be quiet. Avoid contact if at all possible.
Identify your security weaknesses. Begin by walking around your home and making note of areas where access to a window or door may go unnoticed by neighbors. Look in the windows. Are there valuables that are easily seen and tempting to a thief? Look for easy access points such as sliding doors. Do you have ladders stored outside, making it easy for a second-story man? Look at your home through a burglar’s eyes, as if you wanted to break in. Find the weaknesses, and fix them as well as you can.
Purchase timers. Place timers in several locations in your home and do it now. Have them turn on lights as well as a radio or TV. Purchase timers that can be set to go on and off more than once during a 24-hour period.
For example, set some to turn on at dusk and off when people normally go to bed. Set another to go on at 9pm and off at 10pm and then come on at 6:05am. Set a radio in the same room to come on at 9pm and go off at 10pm and come back on at 6am. Have another light go on at 6:30 somewhere else in your home, giving the illusion that someone has gotten up and is moving around the house. Finally, if you have a second floor, make sure to have a light up there also. Now leave them alone. If you go out and get home after dark there will be lights on to welcome you and anyone watching your home will never really be sure if you are home or not, because the pattern appears a bit random, and continues every day.
Clean out the garage. I am so sorry about this one. We have this challenge too. You may need to purchase some storage bins and build a shelf or two. The goal is to be able to park your cars in the garage. When you are away it won’t seem obvious that you are gone if your driveway is empty, as usual.
You hate to believe it, but a lot of local crime can come from people in your own neighborhood, or their kids, or their friends. Every time our property has been vandalized, it has been by someone living in our neighborhood. If getting the car in the garage is impossible arrange with a neighbor to park their car in your driveway on occasion when you are away.
Make copies of all your important papers and send them to your emergency out-of-state contact. Thieves sometimes cover their tracks by setting fire to what they can’t carry. Home fires can happen from accidental causes while we are away, too.
Get valuables out of the house. Arrange to leave valuables with a family member while you are gone for a few days. Purchase a small lock box and give it to them for safekeeping.
Invest in outdoor lighting.
Any amount of light around your home will make your home less desirable to a thief.
These can even be solar floodlights that won’t add any cost to your utilities.
Get window coverings and use them. Don’t give a would-be thief a preview of what you have in your home. When it gets dark and the inside lights come on, close all window coverings. For the same reason, if you work during the day, keep window coverings closed. Never leave jewelry, money or other valuables where they can be seen. If someone is going to steal from you make them work to find valuables.
Check the locks on all entry doors. Purchase locks that have locking bolts and tongues. Test this by holding the door open and turning the latch. Then press the tongue into the door with your finger. Better locks will have a secondary tongue that doesn’t move. The best locks will have entire tongues that don’t move.
Although we like to have the best on our front doors, the back doors are the ones most likely to be used by an intruder. Multiple locks on a door are even better. If you can’t afford to purchase new locks, add a less expensive floor lock as a back up.
Check the screws in strike plates. Short screws make it easy to pry the plate off and the door open.
Floor locks. If you have a door with a window in it, add a floor lock or second lock that a thief can’t reach after breaking out the window.
Deadbolts. If you can afford it, a double-keyed deadbolt is the best solution for a door with a glass pane (so a thief can’t unlock it by reaching through the broken window and turning the latch — he would have to have a key). One last thing — check that the hinges of doors are on the inside, not outside of the door, and if not, get pins for those exposed hinges that cannot be simply removed.
Strengthen garage security. Garages are an easy entrance to your home. Too many people leave their garage doors open during the day when they are home and even if they are running a short errand. Once intruders have entered your garage it is easy to close the door, giving them the privacy and time they need to break down the inside door to the house.
Solid core doors in a garage are a must. Builders sometimes put cheaper doors in the garage. Check to make sure yours are not hollow-core. If they are, replacing them is a good idea.
Sliders. An estimated one-fourth of all sliding glass doors and windows are installed backwards (so the sliding part is on the outside track). This gives a criminal easy access. They simply lift out the panel and enter. Purchase a good lock for your door if you have this situation. If the door is installed correctly, purchase a secondary lock or place a dowel in the track. The dowel should be within a ¼ – inch of the track’s length so the door can’t be opened wide enough to fit fingers in to lift the door off the track. Some experts will tell you that dowels only work against the less persistent thieves.
Window locks. Put window stops on all first floor and basement window frames. The best ones are those that go through the movable frame and lock it into place. A simple alternative is to drill a hole through both frames when the window is closed and place a nail in the hole. You may also want to add a second stop by opening the window slightly, not wide enough for someone to reach through, and drill a second whole. This will enable you to have the window open slightly at night and still provide some safety.
Install motion detectors in areas that are blind spots. Many homes have motion detectors on lights in front of the garage, but thieves sneak around the sides and back of the house. Place motion detectors in those locations, high enough on the wall so intruders can’t easily disable them. If you see the light come on, you know you need to be on your guard.
Lock your gates. A latch on a gate just isn’t good enough. An intruder can easily reach over and open the latch. Get a padlock that actually locks and requires a key or combination to open. On days when the kids are in and out of the yard, leave it off, but replace it at night and always when you leave for a day or two.
Never put your name or address on your keys. This should be a no-brainer. If your car is hot wired and stolen and your garage door opener is in the car, change the code on your garage door opener immediately, or disconnect the opener until it is changed. If your other keys were in the car, change all the locks immediately. Remember, the thief has your registration and insurance info, and knows where you live.
Lock your home when you leave. Every time.
Take the garage door opener. If you will be gone and must leave a car outside, never leave the garage door opener in the car.
Utilize neighborhood watch. Now may be the time to get involved in your neighborhood watch group. Don’t have one? Then, now is the time to call the police department, ask for their suggestions, and invite the neighbors over. Neighborhood watch groups do work. They have prevented many burglaries and caught many who would have caused harm if they had not been stopped.
We have discussed securing your home as it relates to intruders while you are away. All of this advice will help prevent attacks while you are at home, as well. Our goal is to keep those who would harm us outside.
Crime will always be part of society, and may rise and fall for various reasons. We can make this as difficult as possible so criminals consider our home “not worth the trouble” and move on. Ignoring the danger, and doing nothing to prepare against it, would be silly and naïve.
The Savior said, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16).