We have a natural sense of safety and security in our homes. We go out into a chaotic, hostile and sometimes violent world looking forward to our return to sanctuary in our personalized space. Home invasion is probably one of the most deeply traumatic crimes. The thought of someone tearing through our belongings, keepsakes and valued items like they were trash is terrifying.
The home invasion can be placed in two basic categories: burglary and robbery. The Burglary is a home invasion where no victim is a witness to the crime. In other words, you are not home or you do not realize that you are being burglarized, until after the crime is over. The home invasion robbery is the more scary of the two, because you are directly involved in the crime as an assault victim, not just your property. The latter is a stories of horror movie game, and usually the first thing we think about when we broach the topic. The following rules should help prevent either of the two. Keep in mind these rules are in no particular order of importance.
Did I miss any? What are some of your rules?
1. Lock all your doors and windows.
As a police officer and while researching crimes, it is amazing how many times the bad guys just walk through an unlocked door or window. There are criminals out there that do not case a house before attacking; they just go from door-to-door checking to see if they can get in. They may be the desperate type just looking for a quick buck, but it is probably the most common by statistic. If he is caught checking doors, the bad guy can just pretend he is trying to talk with someone on the inside. All kinds of excuses can be pre-planned. I don’t know about you, but if I were to be a victim of this type of crime, I would hope that my home would have caused a little more difficulty than just simple checking the door.
2. Use strong doors, windows and locks.
Another common tale is the bad guy walking up to the door and being able to smash it in. Most bad guys want to get in and out. We had a term for this crime, the ole’ “smash and grab.” The bad guy would kick in the door, go straight to the bedrooms, pull the drawers out and dump all the contents on the bed. They could get through a room in less than 30 seconds. They could hit the entire house in under five minutes. They want the entire process to be as short as possible, so spending an extended amount of time trying to pry, kick or smash a door in is not in their best interest. Not to mention too much banging, thrashing and smashing outside exposes them to detection. Talk with a good locksmith and they will gladly point you to the good dead bolt locks, door frames and strong doors.
3. Lights, lights and more lights.
A great saying goes something like this: “Those that want their deeds hidden will flee from the light.” When it is dark outside, we naturally look toward lighted areas. If your home is well lit on the outside, especially at the home’s entrance points, the bad guys will want to spend the least amount of time there. They will definitely pick the dark house down the street to invade, as the chance that anyone will see them will be much less. You can get tricky with the motion-detector lights, since we are naturally going to look at light that was once darkness, and the bad guys know this. It also gives the impression that someone turned it on to see what is going on. Now, a smart criminal will case the house and know there are motion lights, so that may be lost, but he still will not want to be in the light. Look into some good floodlights.
4. Keep your windows and blinds closed.
The bad guys do not know what treasures you have in your castle if you keep the windows closed. The bad guys covet what you have. If they have no clue, they will probably go covet someone else. The closed windows also create a sense of the unknown when it comes to the layout of the house and whether there are people home or not. The bad guy has to think there is a possibility of running into a homeowner or a vicious animal on the inside if he is clueless as to what awaits him behind the curtain.
5. Get a guard dog.
Bad guys generally do not like our four-legged friends, especially the ones that may inflict some damage. The little ones can act as good mobile alarm systems, but the bigger ones tend to be a bigger deterrent. The bad guys do not want to be in a situation where this creature can be lying in wait ninja-style during shopping spree through your house. It doesn’t have to be a professionally trained guard dog, just one that you think they would respect.
6. Get an alarm system.
If you cannot afford an alarm system, then pick up those fake door stickers and signs that make it seem like you have one. They are a very cheap way to add another psychological deterrent to the home invader. Alarms are good for providing a warning system, especially if you are asleep. Most emit a piercing sound that will definitely signal something is wrong. The bad guys know this and generally choose those homes that are easier prey. I have only seen one case where a “smash and grabber” kicked a door in and continued the crime despite the blasting alarm. In this case, the criminal stole the enormous change jar that was visible from the porch — violating Rule No. 4. The alarm system has the added benefit of notifying the police to come and investigate the crime.
7. Note and report all suspicious activity.
Bad guys like to case a house prior to actually committing the crime. They will come by as salesmen, surveyors or maybe just look around. They are looking for a good reason to invade your home and that takes a little bit of reconnaissance. While gathering the information they need, they are vulnerable to detection. Awareness is the best prevention for almost all criminal activity. As far as reporting, a simple phone call to the non-emergency number of your local police department may lead to increase patrol in your area. If while casing a neighborhood the bad guys notice more police activity, they may think they are found out and move to another target. It should also be noted to challenge all those that approach your home uninvited. Bad guys pose as average people or even good guys to get you to let your guard down. Make sure you confirm their purpose before opening yourself or your home up.
8. Guard your information.
Bad guys can determine you are a ripe target by all means. Your trash, for example, can tell them every new purchase you have made. I am not necessarily talking about identity theft, but if you just bought a new television, XBox or Blu-Ray player. The boxes we leave at the road’s edge shout to the world our new expensive toys. We also need to be careful when letting delivery guys into our homes, even if it is just right inside the doorway. There has been more than one occasion where a pizza delivery guy cased a home while on the job.
9. Be a good neighbor.
Neighborhood watch was a household term in the ‘80s. Now, I am not saying form citizen patrol groups — they have worked for high crime areas — but simply be a friend to your neighbors. If they care about you and your property, they can be a great asset in detecting bad guys coming. Volunteer to keep a look out of their property, and the law of reciprocity will push them to look out for yours. It is also a good idea to know your neighbors and who they are as people. Unfortunately, on more than one occasion, a person close to the victim ended up being their home invader.
10. Think like a home invader.
Be mindful of your vulnerabilities. If you can see weak spots, then a career bad guy definitely will. Ask yourself how you would invade the home and then take steps to fix the problem. If you are imaginative enough, you can prevent the most skilled of criminals from getting the job done. If you are having trouble thinking that way, solicit help from a friend or do a little research on home invasions. These are not all stupid people; to think so underestimates them and puts your family at risk. Remember, this rule is about preparation, not paranoia, so have fun with it.
These rules are not the be-all, end-all of prevention, but they will definitely go a long way toward stopping one of the most demeaning of crimes. If you take the time to put some or all of these steps in place, the criminal will be forced to choose someone who violates these rules. Stay safe!