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.
“A LOT OF PEOPLE THINK THAT A CRIME CANNOT HAPPEN TO THEM BECAUSE THEY LIVE IN A SAFE NEIGHBORHOOD …”
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 Neighborhood.com. 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.