Monday, July 23, 2012

20 Ways to Deter Burglars

We finally met our next door neighbor the other night and found that she is just getting ready to move to Florida.  She is a very nice lady and it is too bad she is leaving!  She mentioned that someone had attempted to break into her house the previous week which really set me on edge.  I mean, it looks like we live in a nice neighborhood but you never know (Vegas neighborhoods are really quite different than the laid back, rural neighborhood we lived in outside of Seattle).  No wonder everyone wants to live in a gated community here!
Then I was reading through a bunch of blogs on my blog roll and came across this post by Louise and nearly freaked out.  I'm sure the massacre at the movie theater didn't help either but it really made me wonder what this world is coming to (and sent me into a panic about being robbed or having something equally horrible happen).  Which led to me making a list (I always make lists when I am in a panic, it helps to calm me down).  Then I set hubby to work on the list.  Fortunately he is in full agreement that we need to take our safety seriously and one way to do this is to make our home as unappealing as possible to burglars (on the flip side, if a burglar did break into our house he would be sorely disappointed as nearly everything we own came from the Goodwill and what little that is of value is usually taken with us as hubby wears his jewelry, and I cart my laptop with me everywhere which leaves exactly two TVs that would be worth anything at all).
So, back to the list.  Here are 20 things that we are working on in order to make our home more secure:

  1. We put up "beware of dog" signs on the outside fence.  Not that we own a dog but this may be a small deterrent.  We've talked about getting a dog (a better deterrent than just the sign) but we have always had large, outside dogs and I can't see keeping a big outside dog here where they can't even go outside because it is too hot for four months out of the year.  Note that even a small, yappy dog makes an excellent burglar deterrent.
  2. I will also put up a 'no solicitors' sign.  We have had many people knocking on our door recently trying to sell us things (I think these companies get a list of people who have recently moved into the neighborhood) and on one occasion it seemed like the people were more interested in seeing what was in our house rather than selling us something...maybe they were casing our house for a future burglary?  I've decided to not open the door to people I don't know.
  3. We will make a video inventory of everything in our house to use in case we do have anything stolen (this is much easier than trying to remember everything we own).  I used to write out a list of our home inventory but doing it on video, then storing the video in a safe location, is much easier and possibly better for an insurance claim.
  4. We need to install a motion detector light in the back yard.  There is one light there now but it either is on or off; a motion detector light is a better deterrent when it comes to people creeping around your back yard.
  5. We need to trim the plants that are in the front yard.  They are getting kind of big and would provide a bit of cover to someone trying to hide on the front porch and break in so these are going to be cut down to size ASAP.
  6. We put a big, strong padlock on the back gate yesterday.  The neighbor said that the small padlock that was on her back gate was cut off when someone went into her back yard and tried to get into her house through the back door.
  7. We need to get timers for a couple of lamps in our house.  Usually we are home by early evening anyway but for times when we aren't, having lights going on and off at random times makes it look like someone is home.
  8. We are going to engrave our driver's license number on larger items (basically the two TVs).  If I had a lot of money I would put tracking chips on these and other important/expensive items we own).
  9. We have made "safe rooms" both upstairs and downstairs.  We will install better locks on these doors, add flashlights, and possibly put cheap cell phones in these rooms as well (the phone doesn't need to be active in order to call 911).
  10. We were looking at alarm systems yesterday.  While we don't want to get a monitored service (the cost is too high for what little we have to protect), we did look at a variety of door and window alarms which looked useful.  
  11. We have considered putting a remote, wireless camera system in our home.  We have installed a couple of these systems for friend's businesses and while they are a bit expensive, they are quite useful.
  12. We will also look for better security for the front door and back slider.  Currently we have a deadbolt on the front door and a regular slider lock on the back door but there are better items out there to reinforce these doors.
  13. Hubby also made a rope which loops around the bedpost that would allow us to escape from our upstairs bedroom (this is more for fire safety).  Obviously this is better than just jumping from a two story window but I can't picture either of us descending gracefully on a knotted rope...but it is better than nothing.
  14. I told hubby we should add a container of bear spray to our arsenal.  This stuff works pretty well and it is a non-deadly form of protection.
  15. I also told him it would be nice to have a hand alarm (something very loud that you just need to push a button to activate) available.
  16. I have seen some pretty interesting "hidey holes" that people create in their house to store valuables in.  There are dozens of ways to do this, everything from creating fake books to actually building secret storage areas in your home.
  17. We are both usually armed.  Obviously a big deterrent but this is a big decision for people to make.  I have always had an interest in firearms and have been shooting since I could pick up a gun (targets, I don't like hunting animals).  I don't recommend that people just go out and buy a gun for protection since a lot more goes into this sort of decision than what type of gun to buy (close quarters combat tactics, the legal ramifications of shooting an intruder, etc).  Also, obviously, this would be a last resort when it comes to someone breaking into our house.  I would much rather deter them from the start and create enough difficulty getting in that they go elsewhere.
  18. I've considered starting a neighborhood watch group.  I don't see that there is an active group in our area but having neighbors watching out for each other is a good idea.  I plan to attend the next HOA meeting and bring this up.
  19. We are consistently inconsistent.  Since we are basically retired, we come and go from our house at all hours.  It looks (on the crime map) like there have been a half dozen burglaries in our neighborhood over the past year, usually at times when people are at work.  If someone is casing our home they will notice there is no certain time we are at home or gone.
  20. Finally, I think it helps that our house is usually pretty busy.  We have people (guests, friends) coming and going at all times as well.  I think it would help to always have a car parked outside to make it look like someone is always home but at the moment we only have one car.  
That's all I can think of now.  Are there any other tips that I am missing?


  1. If taking a video or photos of your items upload them to a free internet provider for storage. I use flickr and you can set it so no one else can see them (unless you want to share photos). Also photograph the serial numbers. Totally free and if your house was gone (here it would be fire I would be concerned about) these are very useful. Even take photos of all the clothes in your closet as it is too easy to forget items once they are gone.

    We are lucky, we have an police man who lives in the next house and live on a keyhole street that no-one drives in unless you mean to. All the houses on our block are now occupied since the last one sold to the policeman.

  2. Summer always brings out the door to door people. The Jehovah Witnesses were out in force today. My dog's bark is like a German Shepherd, so when the doorbell rang, I just let her bark until I saw them walk away. I never open the door for strangers, which is pretty much everybody. In my other house, I had a motion detector thingie I bought from a mail order catalog. I hung it on the wall. It had an alarm that would go off if anything moved in front of it and a keypad to disarm it. It just made noise, but an intruder wouldn't really know that it wasn't part of bigger system. I wonder if you could buy fake alarm system warning stickers for your windows?

  3. If you have a deep freeze, store your jewelry/small valuables in it.

    I heard there was some sort of iPhone app where you could set up tiny cameras throughout the house and monitor it on the road? That way, if someone did break into your place, you would have a positive ID of them and proof that they were the ones who did it.

  4. Let me give you a bit of reassurance and tell you that more burglaries happen than robberies. The difference is burglars are cowards to wait to break in when people are not home - they're just after your valuables and won't break in when you're there because they're not brave enough to threaten and hold you up. Robberies are when people purposely break in while you're there and threaten and use intimidation to humiliate and make you feel afraid. These occur, to be sure, but the randomization of robberies is far less than the randomization of burglaries. Usually robberies happen because there's some kind of connection between the robbers and the victims (friend of friends, stalkers, etc). There's a misconception that people get when they're burglarized and think "oh gosh, what if I had been home," and to that the answer is if you had been home, it wouldn't have happened. Not to say you don't feel violated, it's for sure a horrible scary thing that leaves one feeling incredibly violated. But just know that burglars are only after stuff, and not intending to hurt you. (I'm a journalist so I had to learn the difference between burglaries and robberies in school) That being said, I think your list is great. One place I thought is a good spot for hiding paperwork or other things is board game boxes. I mean, what thief is interested in a shelf full of Monopoly, Clue, or Life? Fake books are definitely a good idea too. Anything that doesn't look like you're trying to make it a hiding place. I've also seen these fake outlet covers that you can open up and hide jewelry and things in, you just have to drill a hollow into the wall and install. Don't hide anything in your kitchen freezer or fridge, that's one of the first places thieves look for drugs. Sorry this comment is so long :)