In my last article we discussed home invasions and the increase in property crimes. If you didn’t hear my radio show on the topic, please take the time to download it and listen now. It is an important show, as I speak with a recent victim and her family’s experience. Learn valuable tips and insights to help ensure the safety of your family.
Property crimes are up in many parts of the nation. Queens New York has seen a 37 percent increase in crime – in Washington Heights it’s up 24 percent, and in Crown Heights 21 percent. Denver reports a 4.3 percent increase over last year.
Las Vegas police report an increase in home burglary. Police say this is alarming because many burglaries are happening in the daytime. Thieves just go to the door and knock, and if nobody answers, they break in.
Police believe the spike in burglaries is directly related to the economy and unemployment, and that people who need money look for crimes of opportunity. The best way to avoid becoming a victim then, is not to look like “an opportunity.”
The bad economy seems to have spurred a dramatic increase in burglaries and home invasions across the country. In April, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation released crime statistics for 2010, which showed that Nashville saw a 21% increase in burglaries in 2010.
The trend is alarming to the Painesville Ohio Police Department, which recently issued the following call through the telephone emergency notification system to 10,480 phones in the city. “We have noticed an increase in burglaries of residential homes when no one is home,” Sgt. Toby Burgett said. “We did a Reverse 911 to notify people of the issue and of precautions they can take.”
However, the United States is not alone in this trend. In the UK and Wales there has been a 14% rise in domestic burglaries and a 6% rise in violent crime in the past year.
Now is the time to teach our families safety tips to not only prevent theft, but also to prevent the injury of a family member.
- Teach family members to call 911 immediately should they need help or become frightened by someone at the door or in the neighborhood.
- Do you hide a key under the doormat or similar place? Those who want access to your home know this trick and they will check under planters, above the door, under the mat, etc. Instead leave a key with a trusted neighbor and inform all family members who has your key so they can retrieve it should they lose or forget their key.
- Do you know everyone who has a key to your house? Could former owners or renters still have keys? Remind children never to loan out their key, and question them to make sure they have not already done so. If you fear someone may have a key – change the locks.
- Practice turning on outside lighting every night. Make this a practice every day and consider assigning a child to turn on the lights so it becomes a habit for them also. Do front, back or side porch lights have at least a 60-watt bulb? If not change them.
- Do entry doors have a 190° wide angle viewer? Teach family members to use it. If you have small children install a second viewer at their height or keep a stool by the door so they can access the keyhole.
- Lock the doors day and night. I know this feels like living in a prison but one third of burglaries occur when the thief gains access through an unlocked door.
- Never leave keys in your car or the garage door opener in it while it sits in the driveway – even if you lock the car. Take the keys and opener with you. Once a thief has an opener, they have access to the garage and can take their time breaking in as they are no longer visible to the neighbors. Let’s face it, most people do not lock the door from the garage into their home except when going to bed.
- Lock all windows with auxiliary locks or pins at night, or when home alone.
- Close window covering at night or when home alone.
- Pick up newspapers or trash from the lawn or driveway every day. Anything left in the yard may signal a thief that you are out of town even when you are not. The only thing worse than returning home to a ransacked home is being there when the thief breaks in, because he or she believes the house is empty.
- Develop a relationship with neighbors. Help your family become acquainted with neighbors so they will feel comfortable calling neighbors you trust, or going to their home should they need help.
- Make sure your child knows never to walk away from someone at an opened door. If a child should answer the door they should call for you to come and should never turn their back on anyone.
- Children should be taught to tell you every time someone comes to the door when they are there alone, even though they did not open the door. This could have been a burglar trying to establish your family patterns.
- Be sure your children know your address and phone number as well as parents’ first names. This will become very important should the child have to call 911.
- Practice calling 911. Have an adult act as the 911 operator and review what the operator will ask. This will help a child remain calm should they need to call.
- Make sure your kids can reach you by telephone at work. Post your work number, cell phone number, numbers for a neighbor, the police, the fire department and the poison control center near all your home phones and in all your safe areas such as closets.
- Have your children check in with you at work, or with a neighbor, when they get home. Agree on rules for having friends over when no adult is present.
- Burglaries are not the only home crisis family members should be concerned about. Work out an escape plan in case of fire, and check our previous articles on the subject.
- Train family members how to answer the phone so they don’t accidentally let a stranger know they are alone. Children should be taught to say their parents are in the shower, too busy, or on the other line when they are home alone.
- Teach family members never to post anything on social media to indicate you will be out of town. No announcement that we are going to Disneyland or anything else. It is best that they never even tell their friends that they will be away. Friends may then post something like “can’t wait until Kate gets back” or “hope Hannah is having a good time on vacation”.
- Use timers on lights and teach children to leave them alone. Do not place timers where they will interfere when you want to watch a movie in a dark room or in a bedroom where it will keep children from sleeping, unless the light turns off at their bedtime. If there is a pattern, anyone casing your home will have a difficult time determining if you are really home.
It is vital we teach family members the skills to keep them safe, and to deter those with criminal intentions.
As with any skill, we need to be taught and then we need to practice – and practice often until it becomes second nature. Crime is increasing, but there are things we can do to decrease the risk! So begin now, and sleep better tonight.