Psychologically we are able to fathom a cagey burglar breaking in and stealing something when he knows we are not home. The notion that two or more criminals would burst in and invade when they know we are home is chilling.
This is not just a property crime. Home invasions include a display of power and a desire to control and terrorize, rob, kidnap, rape, assault or flat out murder the victim(s). A growing number of invaders wear soft body armor and brandish intimidating weapons. More often than not these are hardened criminals with extensive records who will not hesitate to resort to violence. The good news is that overall, home invasions tend to be on the decline, but solid safety and security protocol should always be in place. After all, favorable statistics mean nothing if heartless criminals target your dwelling.
Here are some things you can do to harden your home and make it less vulnerable to a home invasion.
If the home is recessed from the road, does the driveway have good lighting? A British study reveals that dusk-to-dawn low level lighting is thought to be a more effective deterrent than motion detector lights. I like both! Be sure the garage, parking area and sides of the dwelling are also well lit. Prune or remove bushes and shrubs that offer natural cover, especially near ground floor windows and all entrances.
If your property is fenced, take the time to close and lock gates. Ask yourself if your 230 pound nephew on football scholarship can kick in your front or side doors. If the answer is yes it’s time to beef up the frame, the door itself and all hardware. Deadbolts should have no less than an inch of travel into the frame.
Applying modern laminates to the glass makes breaking through a window more difficult. Sliding glass doors must be reinforced. Windows to the basement should have bars. A bed of small river pebbles strategically placed in front of windows make a quiet approach more difficult.
If you have an alarm, use it. Criminals know that most home owners never arm their systems. Know how to use the panic features. If you have a wireless panic button fob, keep it on you. Teach your children how to use the panic button too. When you park in the driveway, bring the remote to the garage in with you. Always lock your internal garage door. This is a common entry point since invaders know we tend to leave that door unlocked.
It is best to close drapes at dusk, dawn and during night time hours. During their surveillance phase, criminals will feel less sure about attacking if they cannot establish who is at home, in what rooms, and if they can account for everyone in the dwelling. Be aware that an invader might have done pre-crime surveillance of the home when delivering something, or working as an installation technician etc. Instruct children to never open the door for a stranger and be wary of any unexpected visitor, even during the day.
Don’t leave stepladders on the side of the house. They offer easy access to upper floors. So always lock upper story patio doors and easy to access windows.
Keep all doors to the home locked, even during the day. You would be surprised at how many people don’t, stating, “But we live in a safe neighborhood”. Long gone is that nostalgic and care free Norman Rockwell existence. Anything can happen anywhere at any time. If someone is determined to get in, make them work for it. Anything that allows you detect and delay an entry buys you time to react. An unlocked door gives you neither.
Designate a “Safe Room” with a sturdy door where you can retreat with your cell phone if need be. Be sure that you receive a cell signal in this room. Keep an index card with your home address, a flash light, bottles of water and a fire extinguisher in the safe room. If you are not calling from a land line, the 9-1-1 operator will not know your address. You can easily read your address from the card if you are in a state of fear. Make your children aware of this room and why it exists. Practice moving to it efficiently as a family. If you live in a larger or two-story home, you may want to setup more than one safe room.
Remain alert when leaving or returning to your neighborhood. If you think you are being followed do not drive home. Proceed back to a well lit busy area or a police station and call for help. In the case of the home invasion and murder of Dr. Petit’s family in Cheshire Connecticut last year, the perpetrators first noticed Mrs. Petit and her daughters when they were in town shopping and then followed them home.
If you don’t already have one, get a dog. Large or small, they are excellent early warning systems with far better special senses than ours. Dogs are also consistent in their vigilance unlike us humans who become complacent, take short cuts and eventually forget about the golden rules of home and personal safety.