Com­mon Mis­takes

Home Defender - - Contents - By Doug Jef­frey

Are you guilty of these com­mon mis­takes? If so, you’re mak­ing it way too easy for bur­glars to get in­side your home.

Make It Easy for Bur­glars to Strike, But There Are De­ter­rents You Can Take

Be real here. How of­ten do you en­counter per­fec­tion? If you’re like most peo­ple, not of­ten. Some­how, we re­cently did. While re­search­ing sources for this story, we came across Robert Gard­ner, a home se­cu­rity spe­cial­ist who spent 25 years in law en­force­ment, mainly as a crime preven­tion spe­cial­ist. He now runs an in­de­pen­dent se­cu­ri­ty­con­sult­ing busi­ness and does ex­pert wit­ness work.

In the fol­low­ing story, Gard­ner, whose head­quar­ters is in Santa Paula, CA, will ex­plain the most com­mon home-se­cu­rity mis­takes peo­ple make and how to cor­rect them.

Ques­tion: When it comes to home se­cu­rity, what is the big­gest mis­take home­own­ers make?


Com­pla­cency. A lot of peo­ple think that a crime can­not hap­pen to them be­cause they live in a safe neigh­bor­hood where noth­ing ever hap­pens; there­fore, they don’t re­ally do much of any­thing to se­cure their prop­erty.

As a re­sult, they are bet­ter tar­gets [than those who do take pre­cau­tions]. If you’re the av­er­age 16-year-old bur­glar or 22-year-old doper who is look­ing for the chance to break in to steal some­thing, you’ll opt for the house where the owner is com­pla­cent … the place that has medi­ocre locks on doors and win­dows or none at all. That sort of com­pla­cency leads to bur­glar­ies. While com­pla­cency may be a com­mon trait for some peo­ple, it’s dan­ger­ous.

Q: Why? A:

In Cal­i­for­nia, we’re see­ing an in­crease in crime. Law en­force­ment pro­fes­sion­als have said that this in­crease relates back to Cal­i­for­nia’s early re­lease of crim­i­nals. Of­fi­cials have re­de­fined what con­sti­tutes a se­ri­ous crime, so some of these guys are get­ting re­leased [ear­lier than they would have orig­i­nally].

Q: From Cal­i­for­nia to the East Coast, who should be con­cerned about po­ten­tial bur­glar­ies and other crimes?


Every­body. Crimes can hap­pen any­where. Keep in mind that most res­i­den­tial bur­glar­ies are com­mit­ted dur­ing the day, and ju­ve­niles com­mit the ma­jor­ity of them. Any neigh­bor­hood in which every­one works and there are a lot of kids is a po­ten­tial tar­get.

Q: De­scribe the com­mon bur­glary. A:

A res­i­den­tial bur­glary, in the av­er­age neigh­bor­hood level, is not a highly-so­phis­ti­cated crime. Typ­i­cally, a bur­glar rings the front door­bell. If no one is home and the house looks invit­ing, the bur­glar will find a way to get in, such as through an open win­dow in the back. In some cases to get in, a bur­glar will break a win­dow.

The TV ver­sion of the so­phis­ti­cated bur­glar team dressed in black does not hap­pen that much. How­ever, the “pros” are not go­ing to tar­get your av­er­age neigh­bor­hood, any­way. They go

after celebri­ties who may have jew­els val­ued at $100,000.

Q: In a typ­i­cal res­i­den­tial bur­glary, what types of valu­ables are they tar­get­ing?


Bur­glars are go­ing to take things that are easy to carry and get away with quickly. For ex­am­ple, they will take lap­tops, jew­elry, guns and other small valu­ables. In the typ­i­cal res­i­den­tial bur­glary, you just will not see large items like a 52-inch plasma TV taken be­cause the crim­i­nals want to get in and out.

Q: How much of a fac­tor are sub­stan­dard theft-de­ter­rent prod­ucts? A:

Some peo­ple use in­ex­pen­sive de­vices through­out their house, and these cre­ate a false im­pres­sion of se­cu­rity. It is im­por­tant to have qual­ity locks, and they should be on all doors and slid­ing win­dows. It is also im­por­tant to have solid-core doors.

Q: What role does so­cial me­dia play in crime?

A: Some peo­ple are too open about what they are do­ing. When they post on their Face­book page that they are go­ing to Hawaii for two weeks, they just told the neigh­bor­hood bur­glar that their house is go­ing to be empty for 14 days. Iron­i­cally, peo­ple try to be pri­vate about their lives, but they broad­cast ev­ery­thing on so­cial me­dia.

Telling your neigh­bors, if you know and trust them, when you will be gone is fine be­cause they can get the pa­per and watch the place. When you have neigh­bors you trust, it’s good to get them in­volved all the time, not just when you are on va­ca­tion.

Q: What role does record­keep­ing play?


It is a fac­tor. If a stolen item is re­cov­ered, you can­not get it back un­less you can pos­i­tively iden­tify it. You need to en­grave your driver’s li­cense num­ber into valu­ables, record the se­rial num­ber and/or take pho­tos of the items.

The ben­e­fits are two-fold. Not only can you pos­i­tively ID your prop­erty, it makes it eas­ier to deal with the in­sur­ance com­pany.

Q: What is an­other mis­take peo­ple com­mit?


Peo­ple do not use safes. They keep jew­elry in a dresser drawer, where it is ex­tremely vul­ner­a­ble. Why not get a good qual­ity safe and put ex­pen­sive jew­elry, valu­able pa­per and other valu­ables in it? If some­one breaks in, the typ­i­cal kid is not go­ing to be able to get into that safe. Could a pro get in? Yes. How­ever, as noted, you are not go­ing to get a pro bur­glar in your av­er­age neigh­bor­hood.

Q: For home se­cu­rity, do peo­ple take ad­van­tage of to­day’s tech­nol­ogy?


Not enough, no. Just 10 years ago, many of these new items did not ex­ist or they were too ex­pen­sive for the av­er­age res­i­dence. Now, theft-de­ter­rent sys­tems are much more af­ford­able. Con­sider what is avail­able. I tend to pre­fer pro­fes­sion­ally in­stalled alarm sys­tems, but even DIY sys­tems, which en­able you to watch your home live, pro­vide a level of se­cu­rity. You can add on cam­era sys­tems and mon­i­tor your house on your cell­phone. Things like the RING door­bell sys­tem, which al­lows you to get mes­sages on your phone and see and talk to the per­son at your door, is an­other one to con­sider. With smart­phone tech­nol­ogy and other sys­tems, you can turn lights on and off or open and close blinds, all of which give the ap­pear­ance that some­one is home.


Q: When it comes to home se­cu­rity, is law en­force­ment uti­lized enough?


No, and that is a mis­take. Agen­cies have crime preven­tion units that can give you ad­vice and in­for­ma­tion. Take ad­van­tage of those re­sources. Some de­part­ments will even come to your house, do an in­spec­tion and make theft-de­ter­rent rec­om­men­da­tions.

Q: Let’s talk so­lu­tions. To be­gin, what is the best way to deal with com­pla­cency?


The best way to cor­rect that is just be aware that crime can hap­pen to you.

You should also pay at­ten­tion to what is go­ing on in your neigh­bor­hood. For years, I was in­volved in Neigh­bor­hood Watch, but, to an ex­tent, this has fallen out of fa­vor, mainly due to bud­getary fac­tors.

You should also take ba­sic safety pre­cau­tions, which means us­ing good locks, clos­ing and lock­ing doors when you are not home, trim­ming back veg­e­ta­tion so the win­dows are not con­cealed, pick­ing up the pa­pers and mail and watch­ing out for each other. If every­one did this, things would be much safer, but it seems more and more peo­ple are get­ting im­per­sonal. They do not know each other and do not want to get in­volved. But that is a mis­take. If some­one comes to the door and asks for Billy, for ex­am­ple, pay at­ten­tion to what he is do­ing after he leaves. Is he go­ing to the next house? Did he ap­pear sus­pi­cious? If he did not look right, the right thing to do is call the po­lice and tell them be­cause that cre­ates a much safer en­vi­ron­ment for the whole neigh­bor­hood. It is also a good idea to pay at­ten­tion to crime blot­ters in the lo­cal news­pa­pers, as these keep you in­formed about what type of crime is hap­pen­ing lo­cally. Un­for­tu­nately, there is less of that type of ed­i­to­rial cov­er­age.

Q: Can so­cial me­dia be used to fight crime?


Yes. There are some so­cial me­dia sites that are aimed at your neigh­bor­hood. The sites—which al­low you to com­mu­ni­cate with your neigh­bors—in­crease aware­ness, and aware­ness is the op­po­site of com­pla­cency.

I have a house in Las Ve­gas, but I am not there much. To stay abreast of things, I joined Neigh­bor­ While a lot of the cor­re­spon­dence on the site may re­volve around things like find­ing a dog or get­ting a rec­om­men­da­tion for a good plumber, there is a fair amount of in­for­ma­tion on re­cent oc­cur­rences. For ex­am­ple, some peo­ple may post some­thing along the lines of, “We had a bur­glary down the street yes­ter­day,” or “There has been a blue car seen cruis­ing the neigh­bor­hood.” That kind of in­for­ma­tion is help­ful.

This is a new area in home pro­tec­tion that did not ex­ist when I was in law en­force­ment. Any­thing that will help you un­der­stand what is go­ing on crime-wise in the neigh­bor­hood is a good thing. HD

Don’t judge a book by its cover. A neigh­bor­hood may be peace­ful and ap­pear to be crime­free, but things hap­pen.

It’s home se­cu­rity 101. Close and lock doors. Don’t make your home invit­ing to bur­glars.

So­cial me­dia is a hot topic these days, but don’t use it to an­nounce your va­ca­tion plans. That is an open in­vi­ta­tion to the bad guys.

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