Could someone be watching you as you leave your residence for the purpose of home burglary? Could you be an easy target?
A few days ago I had an experience nobody wants to think about. In a short three-hour time span, I was the victim of home burglary. It was Friday evening and I was looking forward to being home for the evening after a long, stressful week. My plans were for some relaxation and maybe a little television. I was preparing a large pot of homemade taco soup in anticipation of sharing with my daughter on a cold, snowy weekend.
I had just dumped the ingredients in the slow cooker and walked into my living room to turn on my television. It wasn’t there! Immediately my eyes fell on a glaring vacancy where my 32” flat screen TV had once been. Detached cords were hanging off the mantle and dangling down to my (yet unused) fireplace. My jaw dropped open in shock with the realization that I had been a victim of home burglary. I quickly phoned my daughter with the words “I’ve been robbed! My TV is gone and I have no idea what else has been taken.” ‘Call the police!’ she exclaimed.
Angry and shaken, I found the number and dialed the police non-emergency number. “Someone will be right out.” The police dispatcher reassured me.
Soon a uniformed officer arrived at my door. He was escorted into my living room where I gestured to a bare wall where my TV had once been.
“Did you have your doors locked?” asked the officer.
“Yes of course. I always keep my doors locked.” I replied.
“How did they get in?” he inquired.
“I have no idea. I haven’t had a chance to look.” I answered.
The officer’s eyes then fell upon my back door. He walked over, took hold of the doorknob, gave it a turn, and the door came right open. He then looked on the outside of the door below the dead bolt.
“Here it is.” He remarked. “They pried it open with a flathead screwdriver or a crowbar. I’m calling in the forensics team.”
“Have you discovered anything else missing?” he inquired.
“I have already checked my most valuable items and I don’t see anything else missing other than the TV.” I said, still shaken.
“Did you have the serial number written down?” He asked.
“No, of course not.” I sheepishly replied. “I have the paperwork here somewhere. I always save the owner’s manuals.” I then began rummaging through the drawer with folders containing owner’s manuals of every variety of purchases I had made. I eventually found the one for my TV, but there was no serial number in the paperwork, only a Model #.
“They probably didn’t get $100 for it if they pawned it.” The officer remarked.
Somehow, this was not encouraging. My TV was less valuable to the thief than it was to me! It would cost me far more to replace it than $100. “It’s Super Bowl weekend” I offered sarcastically, “maybe they just needed a TV…or drug money.”
“Do you have any idea when the burglary happened?” The officer continued, report in hand.
And then some previously dismissed details occurred to me. On Thursday evening, I had left my house at 6:30 p.m. to go to my daughter’s house. I returned around 9:30 p.m., was tired, and so I quickly turned out the downstairs lights and went upstairs to bed. Once at the top of the landing, I noticed both my guest bedroom door and my bedroom doors (usually always kept closed to keep my cat out of the bedrooms) were slightly ajar. I remember thinking to myself “Hmmm…looks like my cat managed to push both doors open. That’s odd.” Then I quickly dismissed further thoughts and went on to bed.
By the time I discovered the burglary, I had gone an entire night and next day with my back door pried open and unsecured. If I had known, there is no way I would have slept. Nothing had been ransacked or appeared the least bit odd except for the two bedroom doors being ajar. It was that smallest little out-of-place detail that I dismissed when I shouldn’t have. What if they had been hidden inside my house even after I arrived home? What if? It is at that point of discovery I should have had heightened awareness of my surroundings. I did not. Fortunately there was no jewelry or other electronics missing.
“I think you must have scared them off when you pulled in the driveway.” The officer remarked.
“Do you have someone who can either stay with you or you can stay with them tonight?” He continued.
“No, I’m not going anywhere.” I angrily insisted. “This is my place and no thief is going to cause me to live in fear. If I leave I might as well just invite them in again! Besides, if they return, I’ve got a ‘surprise’ for them and they’re not going to like it. They might have to try and “break out” if they try to rob me again. It might even make the 6 o’clock news!”
At this comment, the forensics officer chuckled as he walked toward the back door. The uniformed officer said “You’re certainly not going to hear us telling you NOT to defend yourself!”
There was no evidence collected to my knowledge, no fingerprints lifted. At that moment I had little hope I would ever recover the stolen TV. The positive thing that I did was immediately go up and down my street notifying my neighbors of what had happened and put them all on alert. I needed to alert my neighbors so they would not be victims of the same crime.
Before going to bed, I slid a huge oak bench in front the back door and locked it (as best I could). I went to bed, but I’d be lying if I told you I really slept. I have never felt more violated and insecure in my own home.
The next day was Saturday and a close friend who saw my frantic Facebook post about the burglary the evening before met me for brunch. Afterward, she accompanied me to the local hardware store to buy various home security devices and warning alarms. Then we went to the nail spa for “therapy.”
In the days after the burglary, I did more personal inventory of preparedness and security than I did of property inventory. I didn’t rush right out to replace the TV. I didn’t visit area pawn shops in a frantic search for my stolen TV. Even if I found an identical TV, I couldn’t prove ownership because I had never taken the time to write down the serial number! I needed to get my own “house in order” first in terms of making myself a harder target for further crime.
Here are some of the positive things I learned from this very negative experience:
- Leave some lights on if you are going to be returning after dark. A motion sensor light would be even better. Put some lamps on timers, preferably to come on at different times.
- The majority of door-lock strike-plate’s are installed and screwed into the door jam with SHORT SCREWS. A door can be easily kicked in if it has strike-plate screws which are only about 1-inch long (often typical). It is an easy task to replace the existing strike-plate screws with longer screws, say, 2 or 3 inches long. All you need are the screws and a proper sized drill-bit to pre-drill deeper holes.
- Use an inexpensive door jam device that fits under your doorknob and prevents your door from being kicked in.
- Leave your blinds closed when you are gone. No need to allow would-be thieves to “window shop.”
- Pay special attention to basement or ground level doors and windows or secluded entrance or side doors that would allow a thief to enter undetected. Shrubbery should not allow places for thieves to hide or enter your home undetected. Keep it cut below the height of your windows and cut back away from the side of your house so intruders can’t hide.
- There should be bars placed in the door and window tracks to prevent them from being slid open.
- Vibration sensors are available to alarm when glass is vibrated or broken.
- Door and window sensors: These alarm when doors or windows are opened. (I even have a door stop alarm on my bedroom door that emits a 120 decibel alarm if someone tries to enter my locked bedroom door.) This gives me ample time to grab, point and shoot!
- My cat is worthless in the event of a break in. In fact his name is Button (He might be “cute as a Button” but he is also “not worth a Button” except for being a great little companion and lap kitty.) Think guard dog. A yapping toy or miniature breed will do little to intimidate an intruder.
- If you just can’t own a dog, there are actually barking dog security alarms available with excellent ratings. Increase the authenticity of the barking dog deterrent by adding a “Cujoe”-sized dog bowl on your porch!
- Add security signage to your yard and windows.
- Lock your doors (and windows) even during the daytime when you are home or as soon as you enter the door.
- Take the time to write down the serial numbers of your purchases and store them in a safe place (such as a lock box).
- Do a video inventory of your major valuables and store for safe keeping. You will need it for insurance purposes in the event you are robbed.
- Have your jewelry and valuables appraised (along with photos) so in the event of a burglary, you can show this to your insurance company.
- Buy permanent UV markers with invisible ink. Mark your valuables with your Driver’s License number (& State). This form of identification will be undetectable to a burglar, but will be visible under a black light to show proof of ownership.
- Get to know your neighbors. You may find you can establish an informal neighborhood watch. For example: I have since learned that one of my neighbors is in the military and owns firearms. I am betting he could come to my aide much faster than calling 911 or the police (although I will definitely call both if I need to). We have exchanged phone numbers for just such emergencies.
- Have a trusted neighbor pick up any packages that may be delivered for you when you are not at home. Unsecured packages would make it obvious to a daytime intruder that you are away.
- Use the peephole on your front door and don’t answer the door to strangers. Unexpected persons arriving in an official capacity should be able to show proper identification. If you didn’t order pizza or you didn’t call a repairman, don’t open the door! If you feel unsafe, listen to your gut and call 911 for help.
- If you are leaving your home and you notice you are being watched as you leave, better notify the police. If you see a vehicle parked near your home with people sitting inside with engine idling in the wee hours of the morning, take photos, get tag numbers if possible and notify the police. If something seems amiss, listen to your gut!
- Subscribe to your local police department’s alerts regarding crimes in your specific area. In Lexington-Fayette County (Kentucky), it is Raidsonline.com. Be sure to subscribe to this free service for alerts specific to your neighborhood.
In closing, all these tips have been added to help make you and your home a harder target for criminals and home burglary. For more safety tips, check with your local police department.
Have you ever been the victim of crime? Feel free to post your comments below. If you have additional safety tips, please add those as well.
Pam Baker, RN
Posted in Safety and Security by Pam Baker-Redman with 4 comments.