HOME, SAFE HOME
How to select and ensure a secure home
Professional criminals are predictable: If they think you are home, or if they perceive your home to be a “hardened target,” they won’t chance it. They will simply move on to a home that poses less of a threat. In a perfect world, you could simply hang up a “Beware of Dog” or an alarm company sign and call it a day. The only problem is that while professional criminals are predictable, the world is full of amateurs. With the many unstable, unintelligent and unpredictable meth-heads, gang-bangers and bottom-feeders who contribute to America’s violent crime and home intrusion rates, your best bet to lower your risk of becoming another statistic is to take a “holistic” approach to your security. Be as proactive as you can and take measures into your own hands to lower your chances of being victimized. But, guess what? There is some good news. Contrary to what many security monitoring companies tell you, you can take all the steps
A NEIGHBORHOOD WITH AN ACTIVE COMMUNITY WATCH INDICATES THAT THE RESIDENTS ARE PROACTIVE ABOUT KEEPING CRIME OUT AND THAT THEY CAN BE COUNTED ON TO BE PART OF THE SOLUTION OVER THE LONG HAUL.
needed on your own to protect yourself and your property from these criminals. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on high-tech surveillance systems and costly security monitoring contracts in order to be safe. By keeping the following in mind, you will take control of your security and send a message to criminals to “keep walking,” because your property is not worth the risk of being caught.
CHOOSE YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD
Before you sign a lease or purchase a home, be sure to spend a few hours on a Saturday night near where you are considering living. Drive through the neighborhood or sit in your car with the lights off, observing what type of human traffic and activity are prevalent. You would be shocked at how much an area can contrast from one time of day or day of the week to another. You can also stop by the local police or sheriff’s department and find out what kind of reputation for illegal or anti-social activity exists in the area you are thinking of settling in. Another thing to look for is the presence of community watch signs. A neighborhood with an active community watch indicates that the residents are proactive about keeping crime out and that they can be counted on to be part of the solution over the long haul. If you want, or need, to live in an urban or suburban location, try to find a location that has a thriving economy, a strong middle class and a large population of young, educated professionals. These types of areas enjoy the lowest overall crime rates. It is also important to pay attention to the physical characteristics of the property you are considering moving into. In semi-urban and suburban areas, look for a house with a garage for off-street parking. If you are looking at condos or apartments, look for how well the grounds are lit and landscaped. Is staff on site and available 24/7? What kind of passive or active security measures are in place? Does the facility have surveillance cameras, doormen, and roving security or emergency call boxes in the parking lot? You can also take a look at the cars parked in the parking lots or garages. They are a definite
indicator regarding the affluence and lifestyles of the residents. A gated community is often an advantage in a suburban setting—but it can also be a bit of a “paper tiger” if the criminals from whom you are trying to protect yourself live within the gates. On the other hand, if your bank account can handle it, there are gated communities that go far beyond the simple presence of a gate with a passcode. If you have the money, find a community that uses security cameras with 24/7 monitoring, as well as gate guards with direct communication to the residents, armed security patrols and other security amenities that help mitigate the risk of crime. If you want to live on a larger piece of property, you are probably looking at living in a suburban or rural community. Many rural areas in America have been devastated by the reduction of available agricultural jobs, the exit of factories and the loss of those income sources. The lack of jobs on such a large scale can bring drugs and crime to these rural communities. The bottom line is: When you choose the neighborhood you live in and the neighbors you live next to, choose wisely!
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
If you already live in a community that has a problem with criminal activity, there are plenty of things you can do to up your security posture; and with the help of neighbors and concerned citizens in your area, it won’t take much to dramatically increase the community’s
overall security posture. You should always start by getting to know your neighbors. You will find that the greatest and most powerful tool you can have to lower the risk of becoming a victim to crime is the concerned and observant eyes of your neighbors. It never ceases to amaze
... YOUR BEST BET TO LOWER YOUR RISK OF BECOMING ANOTHER STATISTIC IS TO TAKE A “HOLISTIC” APPROACH TO YOUR SECURITY. BE AS PROACTIVE AS YOU CAN AND TAKE MEASURES INTO YOUR OWN HANDS TO LOWER YOUR CHANCES OF BEING VICTIMIZED.
me how people can live next to someone for decades and still know nothing about them. Even if you or your neighbors are not sociable types, you should at least make an attempt to maintain a cordial relationship and to exchange contact information, as well as travel plans. There are also plenty of other things you can do to bring people together in the interest of securing your home and community. You can join a local religious or social organization, because they provide an excellent opportunity to network with other likely security-minded people within the community. Local gun clubs and firing ranges are another way to come together with other people within your community who are as dedicated as you are to making the area a safer place for everyone. The more you know the people who live around you, the more effective your outer security ring is going to be. Some people are afraid to initiate contact but are motivated to help. They just don’t have the social skills to make the first move. Don’t isolate these kinds of people, insulate them! Make the first move and start the conversation about coming together as a community to make it a safer place. In addition, if there is no neighborhood or community watch, contact the local law enforcement agency for assistance in getting one started. You will be surprised how many
people are willing to follow your lead but are reluctant to take the first step.
A LITTLE HEALTHY PARANOIA GOES A LONG WAY
Put your paranoia to good use by proactively taking the steps to secure your home, property and loved ones. Be very suspicious of strangers, especially if they are asking personal questions about you and family members or neighbors. If work crews and utility companies are operating near your home, contact their respective companies to verify the nature of their work and the personnel assigned to be at that site before letting them into your house or onto the property. Many of these workers carry photo IDS, so use this opportunity to verify their identity and intent. Be very cautious of salespersons, pollsters and other strangers present in your area. If a vehicle in the neighborhood looks suspicious, write down the license plate number, along with the car's color, make, model and distinguishing characteristics. Alert police immediately. If something looks or sounds suspicious, do not be afraid to contact the police. When you are planning on being away from your home for more than a day or two, arrange to have your mail picked up and your trash can rolled back to your house. If
you travel in the winter, have your driveway plowed and walks cleared. Alternatively, ask a neighbor to make footprints going to and from your doors. In the summer, arrange to have your yard mowed periodically so the grass never looks overgrown. These are all indicators criminals look for to determine if anyone is at home. You can also purchase an inexpensive light timing system to control lights throughout your house to give the appearance that someone is always home. A dog is also an excellent “thief-repellent”—but that doesn’t mean you need to own a German Shepherd to get the job done. In fact, the sound or sight of any dog, regardless of breed or size, will lower your risk of being robbed. If you can’t have, or don’t want, a dog, you can buy a device that “barks” loudly, both randomly and whenever it senses movement. Criminals do not want to be detected. That is why the majority of home invasions happen between 1:00 and 2:30 in the afternoon— when most people are at work or school. Criminals also don’t want to be shot, so you would think a “Beware of Gun Owner” sign would be a deterrent. In fact, the opposite is true: If you own guns, don’t advertise them, or you might be targeted specifically for the purpose of stealing them. Whether you’re home or not, keep the house locked and the garage and outbuildings secured. If your house keys are lost or stolen, or you’re moving into a previously owned residence, replace the locks immediately. Many cars have an alarm button on the key fob. Keep it near you at night and activate it in the event of a suspected prowler or breakin. It will attract your neighbors’ attention and might even scare off the intruder.
AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION
From the first steps of perimeter protection—choosing the right neighborhood, joining with neighbors to share overwatch responsibilities and hardening your home to criminals—it’s up to you to set yourself up for successfully creating a place that is unlikely to be broken into. You’ll find that your peace of mind will be worth every ounce of effort you expend.
i Right: Defeat bolt cutters by using a bolt cutter-resistant lock from your home improvement store.
h Below: A door is only as secure as its locking mechanism. Replace your old, flimsy locks with a more secure, reliable and durable locking system.
h Sliding glass doors are notoriously easy to break into. You can increase the odds this won’t happen to you if you reinforce the door with a steel bar or 2x4 door jamb.
h If you’re moving, stop by the local police or sheriff’s department and find out what kind of crime exists in the location you are thinking of settling in.
i Right: Neighbors keeping an eye out for one another’s property is one of the best things to do to lower the chances of someone breaking into your home.
h Start the conversation going about coming together as a community to make it a safer place.
h While this type of warning often works for professional criminals, the world is full of amateurs.
h Above: It is smart to keep a safe in your home to secure your valuables. Be sure you secure it to the wall or floor so a thief can’t simply take it.
h Back up your surveillance video with “cloud”-based memory, so you’re sure to have the evidence, if needed.
h For a small investment, you can buy a set of indoor/ outdoor video cameras that connect directly with your smart phone.
i Right, bottom: While the sound or sight of any dog will lower your risk of being robbed, it can’t hurt to own a dog that looks as if it could eat a criminal for an afternoon snack!
i Right, top: When returning home, have your keys out and ready to unlock the door so you spend as little time as possible in this potentially vulnerable position.
h Near left: Ask your neighbor to hold your mail or return your trash can from the curb. Arrange to have your grass mowed while you’re away to prevent signaling criminals that you are away from home. h Far left: This “smart” doorbell allows you— from a connected device—to see and talk to anyone who rings your bell, giving a would-be thief the impression you are home.