The day we were scheduled to leave town for Thanksgiving, a group of young “gentlemen” cased our home. For those who are lucky enough not to be familiar with this term, it is one which is used to describe the behavior of thieves in deciding which houses to burglarize. Luckily, we were home, and even luckier, I was sick for the holiday week and decided to stay in the house while my husband was gone. I say luckier because the would-be thieves came back on Friday when the driveway was empty and clearly expected to be able to kick our door right in and help themselves to our belongings.
(that is not our house, but one nearby which was hit last year)
In the past two weeks, there have been 5 successful burglaries in two blocks of my street alone, and had I not been here, we might have been the 6th. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there who don’t want their neighbors to have a happy and safe holiday season.
In light of that, I thought I might make a little post with a few very basic tips for making it a little more difficult for any merry bands of thieves to liberate you from your holiday goodies.
First of all, don’t advertise. As I drive through my neighborhood, I often see people with their blinds and curtains wide open at night, giant flat screen TVs clearly visible to anyone who happens to look. While I admit that I used to love walking the streets of midtown at night seeing how other people decorated, the truth is that that is no longer a practical thing to allow. Get window coverings and use them, especially at night. Test them after dark by closing them, turning on your lights and tv and then going outside to see what might still be visible.
If you buy any new electronics or other items of value, do NOT just place your empty boxes on the street with your trash. Break them down, turn them inside out, remove any labels that might have your address on them and take them to a recycling facility. Or, if you garden, save the larger boxes to line your raised beds.
This might sound really obvious, but lock your doors, even when you are home.
Speaking of doors, take a good look at yours. How sturdy is it? How sturdy is your door frame? Video from neighbors’ cameras has shown that many doors will give way after just two or three kicks.
Get a solid core door and make sure your hinges are installed with screws that are at least 3 inches in length. For the entry side, devices such as the StrikeMaster can drastically improve your door’s chances of surviving a kick assault. If you have a glass door, make sure your locks require a key on both sides, instead of a simple turnbolt. This way if someone breaks the glass, they still can’t get the door unlocked. (but keep a key nearby in case of fire!) For French doors, consider installing sliding bolts in the floor and ceiling of one door, thereby stabilizing one side and making it more difficult for them to be kicked in.
Consider getting security pins for your windows, or simply screw very long screws through the sash of windows you won’t be regularly opening. (the screws are a cheap diy fix, but make sure you’re not screwing yourself (haha) in case of fire. You need another way out of the room if you go this route because chances are, there’s not going to be a screwdriver nearby if you really need to get out in a hurry)
Be aware of open pet doors, and don’t rely on your dogs to keep your house safe:
If you are leaving town, here are a few simple tips to making your home look occupied.
1. Have your mail and papers stopped, or get someone to come by and pick them up.
2. Put your exterior lights on sensors so they come on at dusk, and put interior lights on timers.
3. Leave a radio or television on loudly enough that it can be heard outside. Possibly put a couple of these on timers as well so that the sound moves around.
4. If you do have a house-sitter, make sure they aren’t just leaving the key under your mat. If you must leave a key outside, do what some smart friends of ours did and get a realtor’s lockbox to store the key in.
5. Consider getting a fake dog. This combined with a “beware of dog” sign should make many people think twice about trying to get in.
6. If you’ve got a friend with a spare car, parking one in your driveway can make it look like someone is there.
The best tip of all? Get to know your neighbors. Get their phone numbers in case of emergency. Talk amongst yourselves about what’s really going on on your street. Form a neighborhood watch if possible. Go online and form a message board or simple yahoo group to share safety information. Use twitter to alert your neighbors to immediate threats. Even the most secure home can be vulnerable if people nearby don’t bother to investigate odd noises or alarms sounding.
And with that, I wish YOU a happy and safer holiday season.