Use It, Or Lose It
If your home is equipped with an alarm system, use it! Neighbors were robbed of all their expensive electronic equipment, including televisions, stereos and computers, even though they had a home alarm system. The problem? They didn’t have it set and they weren’t paying to have it monitored. Now that they’re facing big deductibles to replace their lost property, they’re regretting that they didn’t take the extra step and pay the relatively low cost of alarming their home. Would a loud alarm have made a difference? Probably so. Burglars may still “grab and go,” but chances are they wouldn’t have grabbed as much because they wouldn’t have known how long it would take for police — or a notified homeowner — to show up. When it comes to home alarms, the old saying rings true, “Use it or lose it.”
Someone’s Knocking at Your Door
Two recent tragic shootings underscore the importance of protecting yourself when answering the door. If someone unexpected comes to your door, do not open the door. Instead, request identification and the reason for the visit. Also, don’t stand directly in front of the door. This will protect you from someone shooting through the door or kicking it in. For added security, take your cellphone with you when you respond to someone at the door. If you need to call 911, you won’t have to search for the phone. Finally, if your door has large windows or glass panels, consider installing an intercom system so that you can communicate with people who are standing outside your door without placing yourself at risk of assault or home invasion.
Several Hampton Hills homes are up for sale or lease, meaning interested homebuyers and renters are driving through our neighborhood and may even ask you some questions if they see you outside. Be very careful when talking to strangers. If someone you don’t know asks a lot of questions about you, your neighbors or your area, make sure you don’t provide information that could compromise security, such as, “That homeowner travels a lot for business and is hardly ever home,” or “that resident works from home and has a lot of high-tech equipment.” Many burglars may try to trick you into thinking they are just innocent homebuyers inquiring about the neighborhood.
A Common-Sense Approach to Security
Most burglaries occur while the homeowners are away from the house. It’s often ridiculously easy to spot a house that has been unoccupied for a day or more. Taking a few simple precautions can minimize your chances of being a victim of crime.
Many common sense tips are well known by now. Stop the mail, stop the newspaper or have a neighbor pick them up. Lock up the house and leave a light on. But even these common techniques could use improvement.
Stopping the newspaper could just look like you decided not to have it anymore, so that’s fine. But, stopping all mail delivery is also a signal to thieves, since everyone gets at least some, if only junk mail. Better to have it picked up daily, then taken inside the house by a neighbor, who then exits out the back.
Leaving a light on is fine, too, except when it burns all the time. Then it looks unnatural and staged. Better to have at least a simple timer that turns it off during the day and on at night. Better still is to have one that will turn it off and on at night several times, as you would if you were home. Putting the stereo or radio on a timer is a good idea, too.
If you’re planning to hit the road for a vacation, here are three quick ways to prevent your home from being burglarized:
- Lock your home and activate your security alarm;
- Inform your neighbors about your trip; and
- Make the house and garden look lived in — not abandoned.
Come and Get It!
Recently, we noticed that a neighbor had gotten a 47-inch flat panel television. How did we know? The box was sitting at the curb for bulky trash collection. It was like placing a big sign in front of the house saying, “Hey burglars, come and get it!” Break down boxes from big-ticket items and place them in your trash or recycle bin rather than leaving them curbside.
Make the Case
Take the time to “case” your house, just as a burglar would. Where is the easiest entry? How can you make it more burglar-resistant? Trim trees and shrubs near your doors and windows, and think carefully before installing a high, wood fence around your backyard. High fences and shrubbery can add to your privacy, but privacy is a burglar’s asset. Consider trading a little extra privacy for a bit of added security.
Force any would-be burglar to confront a real enemy — light. Exterior lights, mounted out of easy reach, can reduce the darkness a burglar finds comforting. Time also is a burglar’s enemy. A burglar delayed for four or five minutes is apt to give up and try for another, less difficult location. Simple security devices — including such ordinary equipment as nails, screws, padlocks, door and window locks, grates, bars and bolts — can discourage intruders and keep them from entering. Consider the noise factor. Try to make the general prospect of robbing your home a noisy job.
Many types of alarm systems are available, with detectors mounted on doors and windows. Deciding just how much protection you need — and can afford — is a personal judgment. Just make sure you have an interior and exterior horn or sounding device. That way, if your alarm sounds, someone is sure to hear it — namely, the burglar!
Finally, ask yourself if any of your valuables — such as a painting, a silver collection or an antique chair — are easy to see from outside. Rearranging your furnishings might be advisable if it serves to make your home less inviting to criminals! Incidentally, should you ever need to report a burglary or file an insurance claim, a household inventory — a listing of your furniture and major personal belongings — could be a valuable document.
The Enemy Within
Knowing about a burglar’s three worst enemies — light, time and noise — can help you protect your home from crime. Burglars won’t find your home an “easy mark” if they’re forced to work in the light, if they have to take a lot of time breaking in, and if they can’t work quietly.
The Wrong Signal
Many people leave just a single light on when going out so they don’t have to walk into a dark home when returning. Unfortunately, this kind of lighting signals would-be burglars that no one is home. The solution is to leave several lights on, and to use indoor timers to present the illusion of moving from room to room.
Accentuate the Positive
Burglars choose their target based on three factors:
- Potential Reward (perceived wealth, expensive items inside the home)
- Easy Access (security of doors and windows)
- Perceived Danger (absence of the owner, escape routes, proximity of authorities, security systems)
Your best chances to protect against burglary and home invasion are to influence all three factor to the disadvantage of the potential intruder. Reduce the temptation for the intruder.
- Give the illusion that there’s little value to be gained by entering your home. This doesn’t mean your house needs to look “poor,” but it does mean you should avoid any displays of ostentation.
- Make entering your home difficult. Secure any potential way a burglar might use to access your home. This includes the use of safe locks for doors and security measures for your windows.
- Increase the potential danger to the intruder. Give the impression that somebody attempting to gain access will always be seen somehow – either by making the main entrance routes clearly visible to the neighborhood or by installing security equipment in an obvious location.
If you don’t have a dog there’s nothing stopping you from pretending you do. A “Beware of Dog” sign on your fence, a dog house in the back yard, even a loose dog chain or bowl can drive away a potential burglar.
Don’t make the mistake of believing that your home won’t be targeted if you don’t have expensive contents inside. Burglars will take anything that they think they can sell easily. This includes DVD players, CDs, and even alcohol. Anything that can be sold or bartered is a desirable mark, especially if the thief needs money quickly.
Partners in Crime — Prevention!
The next time you’re joking about donut-eating cops, remember that these people have a lot more than pastry on their plates. They’re responsible for investigating crimes, catching crooks, carrying out crash and fire investigations, patrolling the beat, enforcing traffic laws and helping motorists, looking for missing and lost children, answering domestic complaints, writing reports, interacting with other governmental and justice officials, testifying in court, attending public meetings and preventing loss. Yes, nearly all public safety agencies have loss-prevention programs in place, most of which welcome citizen participation. While it’s true that public safety agencies also rely on criminal paranoia and some sort of rapid-response strategy to deter crime and prevent loss, for crime prevention to be truly effective, we need to get involved. Police can’t be everywhere at once. That’s why they rely on us to be their eyes and ears. When criminals fear they’re being watched and their activity is being reported, they’re more likely to move on.
Change is Good
If you always leave at the same time every day, are gone for the same length of time, and return at the same time, thieves can easily memorize your routine, taking advantage of the times your not at home. Work is work, and you probably can’t change those hours, but if you go to a class or the grocery store at the same time all the time, try to make yourself less predictable.
A Shot in the Dark
If you hear a loud party and then some gunshots, chances are that the partygoers are just letting off some steam. Gunshots followed by squealing tires would indicate a drive-by shooting. Also, consider what day it is — big holidays are also days for random gunfire. It’s difficult to distinguish the type of gun used in a shooting incident unless you’re an educated gun person, but if the occurrence is close enough, you should at least be able to distinguish between a small-caliber weapon and a large-caliber weapon. The main thing to remember is to call 911 every time you hear gunfire!
When gathering intelligence about gunfire, begin by ascertaining the type of gunfire. Random gunfire is distinguishable from other types of shooting incidents such as urban sniper attacks, gang shootouts, domestic homicides and revenge shootings because
- It is strictly an outdoor activity;
- It is not usually part of other criminal activity such as drug dealing, assaults or robberies; and
- Random gunfire shooters do not fire their weapons to intentionally injure or kill people.
Although random gunfire shooters believe their actions are harmless, what goes up must come down. Learn to distinguish between random gunfire and other shooting incidents.
Don’t tolerate low-level lawlessness such as random gunfire. If you hear gunshots, call 911 immediately. We are law enforcement’s eyes and ears. Police depend on us to gather the necessary intelligence that will bring such low-level lawlessness to an end. Remember, police can’t respond instantaneously. It takes time to dispatch a resident’s call to police. It takes time for police to arrive on the scene. Police usually give random gunfire incidents a low priority, meaning they generally stay on the scene to investigate for a relatively short time, because offenders are highly unlikely to remain at a gunfire location long enough for the police to arrive. But the more residents who get involved by alerting police to such incidents, the better our chances of influencing the delivery of police services. The single biggest problem with random gunfire is under-reporting.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that just because your neighbors can see local comings and goings that they will question anything unusual. Good thieves make themselves blend in.
Getting to Know You
Getting to know your neighbors will help them to immediately alert you of any suspicious behavior on your property. Notifying them when you’re going away and how you can be contacted in case of emergency will allow you to be aware of a crisis as soon as it occurs. However, although your neighbors may be trustworthy, they may not spot anything different if a robber is at work inside your house. They don’t have X-ray vision! So don’t rely solely on your neighbors to keep an eye on your home while you’re away. But definitely make them part of your overall security plan.
Leaving empty boxes from a new computer, DVD player or TV on the curb for bulky trash pickup advertises that you have things worth stealing in your home. Break boxes down or cut them up to conceal what they contained and put them in the trash cart.
If it’s dark and rainy outside, be sure to leave a few lights on inside. Although most criminals have the good sense to get in out of the rain, some may actually look for signs of an empty house on a rainy day. Their first clue that no one is home is when they see that the house appears unoccupied.
Yard and garage sales are a great way to make money from unwanted items, but beware. The stranger checking out your sale could also be checking out the vulnerable areas of your home. If you must keep the garage door open, make sure to store equipment and tools out of sight. Also, keep curtains closed so people won’t see valuable electronics and other equipment inside your home.
Spending most of your day in the backyard may be relaxing, but it leaves you clueless as to what’s going on out front. Consider buying a wireless annunciator, which will alert you — anywhere in your home — when someone comes up your driveway or otherwise enters your property within 50 feet of its range.
Just the Facts
Compared with northern Dallas, a person in southern Dallas is more than twice as likely to be a homicide victim; almost twice as likely to be the victim of an assault; about one-and-a-half times as likely to be the victim of a residential burglary; slightly more likely to be the victim of rape or a car theft; and about as likely to be the victim of an individual robbery or other theft. How do we take back our neighborhood? By paying prompt attention to nuisance crimes, maintaining a good relationship with law enforcement and getting involved.
Although law enforcement alone can’t reverse the decline in some parts of our neighborhood, lawlessness can certainly accelerate it. Let’s start by working diligently with Code Compliance to help us clean up our neighborhood. Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. The more we call and complain, the better our chances of getting effective action.
The difference between being assertive and aggressive is that being assertive is getting an intruder off your property before the person breaks into your home. It’s not only keeping the intruder out of your home, but it’s also getting that person off your property before the person can do any damage. Being aggressive is the mental and emotional equivalent of chasing the intruder off your property and down the street. While you might feel this is necessary in order to protect your property, you’ve crossed the line from assertive into aggressive. A lot of people — who thought that they were “protecting” themselves — cross the line from being assertive into being aggressive, and they unwittingly provoke a violent response.
If you have a garage or carport that’s more of a storage area for your stuff than a place to park your car, consider cleaning it out. Your vehicle is safer when it’s housed in a garage or carport than when it’s parked on the driveway. And it’s safer when it’s parked on the driveway than when it’s parked on the street.
Many Hampton Hills residents park their cars on the street in front of their homes or in their driveways. Criminals seldom break into a car if they are unsure of the rewards. An item left on the seat is an obvious reward. While there are certain areas so bad that criminals will pop the trunk just to look, if there is nothing obviously to be gained, most will keep on looking until they find another car where there is something obvious to steal. “Out of sight, out of mind” is the most effective deterrent.
Fear is one of the major issues that hinders personal safety. Believe it or not, this is more a problem of not understanding the nature of fear (and its purpose and benefits) than it is a problem with fear itself. Fear is your friend, not your enemy.
The difference between fear and panic is knowing what to do. If you have a reliable, effective solution then fear is an asset. You know what to do and fear just makes you do it faster. On the other hand, if you don’t know what to do — or don’t trust what you know — then you will freeze in terror, because you have no clear goal or way to get there. Fear helps, panic hinders. Fear is your friend; panic is your foe.
Don’t Be a Victim
There is no reason to live in fear of crime and violence. There is, however, reason to take precautions. And in doing so, you will deter most criminals from choosing you as their victim. The reason is simple: There are thousands of people around who are easier, safer targets. The harder you make it for the criminal to victimize you, the more likely the criminal is to go elsewhere. You won’t have stopped the criminal from being a criminal, but you will have stopped the criminal from choosing you as a victim.
Not Your Type
There are four basic types of burglars:
An opportunist is someone who sees an opportunity — an open garage door, an unlocked car — then dashes in, grabs something and runs. Simple habits such as putting things away, closing and locking doors will deter most opportunists.
A smasher tends to be young and scared or seriously into drug or alcohol addiction. They react on the spur of the moment, smashing and dashing their way through a burglary, grabbing anything they see that can be quickly pawned for cash to feed their addiction. The best protection against such criminals is whatever it takes to make your doors and windows withstand an all-out assault.
A prowler may use smash tactics to gain entry, but won’t dash through the burglary. Prowlers will look around and choose what they will take. They usually have criminal connections for channeling stolen goods. They know all the typical hiding places. They often work in teams, and can be in and out of your home in 10 minutes. The best defense is a good offense. Make a video record of all of your valuables, and mark each valuable with your driver’s license number for identification.
Pros are usually part of a crime ring that uses informants and spotters and point persons to get exactly what they want. They can target a single item in your home or strip the place bare — and they can do it with precision and polish. These types of professionals are rare. What you are most likely to encounter are the first three. Fortunately, many of the measures that work against one work to deter the others.
Keep these two issues in mind: First, criminals don’t care how much destruction they cause to get what they want; and second, criminals are professionals who make their living committing crimes. Criminals will cause thousands of dollars in damages to get something that may only net them $10 or $20. They’ll rip the expensive stereo out of your car’s dashboard to net a few bucks at a pawn shop. They don’t care about the trauma they cause by destroying and stealing your property. That’s why your crime deterrents must be able to withstand an all-out assault.
Remember, criminals are professionals. The best lock in the world won’t deter them if they can easily kick out the door frame. They won’t bother picking a padlock when they can simply smash it with a sledgehammer. In other words, criminals have skills and knowledge that the average citizen doesn’t have. They know what it takes to break into your home. What may stop you and me won’t even slow down professional crooks. They know ways to quickly get through standard “egg shell” security measures. That’s why you must tailor any theft protection system to counter a criminal’s professional skills. That requires knowing something about criminals and how they operate.
A well-kept lawn and landscape can serve as a deterrent. A burglar who sees a house that has a well-kept yard is likely to move on to the next house, because everyone knows a well-kept home is more likely to have layered security in place than a run-down home.
A New Perspective
I’ve got good news and bad news. First, the bad news: There is no such thing as a burglar-proof home or car, or a lock that cannot be picked, drilled or bypassed. There is no security system that cannot be broached. A burglar who is dedicated enough, skilled enough and has the proper tools will get in, regardless of the measures you take. Now, the good news: Unless you have done something to annoy the wrong person or you have something really worth stealing (like the crown jewels) you are not going to have to worry about that kind of dedication to break in. So you don’t have to turn your home into a reinforced bunker. What you can reasonably do, however, is make it hard enough that the average criminal will decide to go elsewhere. This simple shift in perspective goes a long way toward keeping you, your family and your possessions safe. Criminals are not known for their work ethic. Moreover, they, literally, live and die by calculated risks. Assessing labor and risk are very much criminal skills. Too hard and too risky are the best defenses you have. Since the criminal is not interested in getting “you” personally, it’s easier to go where there is less work and fewer risks. This may not be good news for your more vulnerable neighbors, but it can provide you with some peace of mind.
Shroud of Protection
The best lock in the world is only as good as the hasp that holds it. If you take a sledgehammer to a normal lock and hasp, it won’t be more than three or four solid hits before one or the other gives way. The hasps that you find at most hardware store are only as good as the screws holding them in place. Also, a pair of bolt cutters works just as well on the hasp’s tongue as they do on the lock itself. Hasps need to bolt through whatever they are attached to — not just screwed into it. Support them with a steel back plate on the other side of the door. The same nuts that hold the hasp hold the back plate in place. In order for the bolts to tear out, a burglar has to take out the area of the entire plate. And that isn’t really likely to happen. A shrouded hasp protects the lock itself from being directly struck. You can also buy attachable four-sided steel boxes that bolt through the door itself. These units cover both the lock and the hasp and protect them from sledgehammer, bolt cutter and prying attacks.
Avoid using chain to secure your property. If possible, use case hardened steel lines. Chains, like most inexpensive hasp locks, can be easily cut with bolt cutters. Criminals are professionals. Like most professionals, they have the tools of their trade. Bolt cutters and pry bar are, to a criminal, the equivalent of a cellphone and a laptop to the traveling executive. Just because you don’t normally carry them in your trunk doesn’t mean the criminal won’t. A smaller gauge chain will be easily snipped off, and all the money you invested in locks and fencing will be rendered useless. While encased steel cables are harder to manipulate, they also are also much harder to cut. If you use simple chain, get case hardened and the heaviest chain you can find.
If you have a fence, make sure the gates are locked. This is especially important with accesses to the alley. Each layer serves as a deterrent. The more layers and hard work a criminal has to do, the more likely your home will be passed by. A locked fence is something a burglar must climb over while carrying objects. If the gate is left unlocked, however, the thief can just walk right through.
Install effective window treatments — especially on rooms where there is expensive equipment. Thin, sheer drapes — although attractive — also allow burglars to look inside. You may be surprised at how often a home intruder will walk up and look through the windows of a home to see if there is anything worth stealing. Sheer curtains allow the burglar to know this before ever breaking in. Get into the habit of closing drapes and blinds not to reduce the chances of your home being targeted by a burglar. Without the ability to see into the home, there are less guaranteed results for a burglar, which helps to serve as a deterrent.
One Word: Plastics
Consider applying a safety coating on the most vulnerable windows in your home. Safety coat is an adhesive plastic sheeting that makes breaking out windows more difficult.
Plant something prickly such as rose bushes, cacti or holly bushes in front of all vulnerable windows. Thorny landscaping not only adds beauty to your home, but also makes getting close to such windows an unappealing prospect. Remember, the second most common way of breaking into homes is through rear or side windows. A thief can work on such windows with little chance of detection. Standing in the middle of a thorn bush to do it, however, is not a pleasant experience.
Find alternatives to normal deadbolts in doors that have windows (or windowed frames). Why? Most burglaries occur during the day when people are away at work. Unfortunately, many doors are decorative and windowed. It is easy for a burglar to punch out a small window, reach in and unlock the door. A single-key deadbolt has a key on one side and a handle on the other. After punching out a window a burglar can reach in and, with ease, open the deadbolt then the doorknob – elapsed time: five seconds. Placing a secondary lock (i.e., a floor lock) outside of the reach of the windows is recommended. If that is too much, a double-key deadbolt is recommended for non-primary access doors. This secures the door while you are not at home.
If fire safety concerns you (and it should) at night put your keys in the deadbolt. This not only allows you immediate exit should a fire occur, but you will also always know where your keys are.
Criminals often cruise neighborhoods looking for open garage doors or carports. When they find a vulnerable target, they simply pull into your driveway and start loading up. For criminals on foot, a side or rear entry door to a garage is a prime target, as it is often easier to access or escape than the main garage door. Treat every garage door as you would any door into your home — by installing multiple locks and bracing that can withstand a full-out assault.
Brace doorframes and put multiple locks on all outside doors for added security. With a little extra work, the bracing can be hidden behind the doorframe’s internal molding and will not be noticeable from either inside or outside. For a burglar, this is like unexpectedly hitting an invisible wall.
A common combination of cheap locks and small construction flaws that often go unnoticed give criminals the “cracks” in security they need to break in. Many home door locks can be quickly bypassed with a knife or screwdriver slid in the gap between door and frame. After that, the criminal can easily work the tongue of most cheap locks out of the doorframe. A thin kitchen knife slid between sash windows can “tap” a normal window lock open. Hasps and locks can be hammered or twisted off in a few blows, or simply cut off with bolt cutters. Many sliding windows and doors can simply be lifted out of place. In addition to locking your doors and windows, you should also protect the lock and its components.
If you want to know your level of vulnerability, walk around your property and ask yourself: If I were a burglar, how would I break in? Examine your house from the street. Where are the blind spots? Blind spots are areas where a criminal can work without being detected. Also, look for easy access points, such as sliding glass doors, doggy doors or louvered windows. Speaking of windows, stand outside and look into your house through the windows. Can you see expensive electronics or artwork? If you can see your belongings, you can bet that criminals can see them, too.
A door lock is not enough. You must also address the area around it. Extend your thinking about security measures to 18 and 24 inches around the lock itself. That is the area you must protect. A burglar doesn’t care how much damage is caused by breaking into your home. The best locks in the world will do no good if a thief smashes in the door. A pinewood door frame will splinter and give way after a few savage kicks. A deadbolt can often be bypassed by simply breaking a window and reaching through to unlock it. Windows can be broken and locks undone. Many locked gates can be opened by simply reaching around and over. A hasp-and-lock will swiftly yield to blows from a even a small sledgehammer.
Burglars look for easy targets because most of them are amateurs, not accomplished professionals. An amateur looks for opportunities to get valuables in the easiest possible way without being seen or heard. The easier you make it for the burglar, the more likely you are of being burglarized.
Make your home security system like an onion, not an egg. Layers upon layers are not only the best deterrent, but also the best defense against break-ins. Criminals can easily bypass a single line of defense, but multiple layers will slow them down and serve to alert you or your neighbors that someone is trying to break in. If enough of these deterrents are visible, most of the time the would-be intruder will simply choose to move on. A good example of a layered defense is holly bushes outside the window, double-locked, barred and safety-coated windows and something difficult to climb over inside under the window.
Crime prevention is the act of stopping a crime before it happens. Before you can stop crime, you have to be aware of it. That means knowing the who, what, when, where, why and how of a crime. But awareness, unless converted into action, can only lead to fear. So action is what crime prevention is about.
If you have a key fob for your car, keep it beside your bed at night. If you hear a noise outside your home or someone trying to get into your house, just press the panic button for the car. The alarm will be set off, and the horn will continue to sound until either you turn it off or the car battery dies.
It’s a security alarm system that you probably already have and requires no installation. Test it. It will go off from most everywhere inside your house and will keep honking until your battery runs down or until you reset it with the button on the key fob chain. It works if you park in your driveway or garage. If your car alarm goes off when someone is trying to break in your house, odds are the intruder won’t stick around… after a few seconds all the neighbors will be looking out their windows to see who is out there and sure enough the criminal won’t want that.
Don’t be a victim of mail theft. Con artists use this as a means to obtain your identity information and to steal checks and other items of value. This problem can be reduced or minimized by following these tips:
- Do not leave outgoing mail in your unlocked mailbox; make sure your home mailbox is in good condition (mail that is exposed can be damaged by bad weather and is visible to thieves);
- Promptly pick up your incoming mail after it is delivered; purchase a locking mailbox or convert your unlocked box to the lockable type;
- Arrange for your mail to be delivered to a Post Office box for a small fee;
- Arrange for regular income checks to be deposited electronically into your bank account via direct deposit; promptly contact the senders if you do not receive credit cards, checks or other valuable mail;
- When going on vacation, have the post office hold your mail or have a trusted friend or neighbor pick up your mail after delivery; and
- Be observant of activities on your street, including those near your letter carrier, the postal vehicle and residential mailboxes. If you see suspicious persons or activity, call 911 while the suspects are still present.
The Three L’s
Remember the three L’s of crime prevention: Lights, Locks and the Law. Light your residence, lock your doors at all times and call law enforcement when you see something suspicious.
No Wiring Required
If you want to illuminate the alley but don’t have an electrical line, don’t worry! New motion-sensor lights utilize solar power cells and LED technology. They’re bright and effective, but priced a bit higher than standard motion-sensor lights. But the added security is well worth the extra cost!
Guard Your Garage
Most of the garages in Hampton Hills are free-standing, so burglars won’t break into your garage to gain access to your residence. Rather, they’ll try to grab whatever they can from within your garage. Most free-standing garages aren’t wired as part of a home security system — and thieves know that. Plus, most garages provide easy access. Always keep garage doors closed and locked. Inside the garage, keep tools locked up and secure lawn equipment and bicycles with a cable and padlock. If thieves gain access to your garage and discover another layer of security, they’ll likely move on to an easier target.
Beware of scam artists. These criminals prey on innocent victims, frequently the elderly, with a variety of tactics. They may pose as salespeople, repairmen, bank examiners, government officials, charity workers, even clergy or police officers. They’re often difficult to detect by looks alone, but they can be spotted by their words or expressions. Watch out for people who come to you door with offers, arrangements, and deals that involve the following:
- “Cash Only” (Why is cash necessary? Why not a check?);
- “Last Chance” (If it’s worth it, why is this the last chance?);
- “Secret Plans” (Why are you being asked to keep it a secret?);
- “Get Rich Quick” (Any scheme of this type should be thoroughly investigated);
- “Something for Nothing” (Any time you are offered something for nothing, you usually end up with nothing);
- “Contests and Sweepstakes” (Beware if you are required to pay money to enter or to receive your “prize”); and
- “Too Good to Be True” (Such a scheme is likely neither “good” nor “true”).
Bring in all outdoor equipment (bicycles, garden hoses, lawn mowers, ladders, etc.) at night. Leaving these items outside is an open invitation to robbers and thieves.
Turn on the Talk
Tune in talk radio and turn up the volume when no one is at home — it’s an effective deterrent to crime. A burglar who is unsure about whether a house is occupied will likely move on to a more vulnerable target.
One vehicle is stolen every 20 seconds in the U.S. Stolen cars, vans, trucks, and motorcycles cost victims time and money – and increase everyone’s insurance premiums. They’re also often used to commit other crimes. If you are among the many Hampton Hills residents who either park your car on the driveway or on the street in front of your home, here are a few tips to prevent theft:
- Never leave your car running or the keys in the ignition when you’re away from it, even for “just a minute.”
- Always roll up the windows and lock the car, even if it’s in front of your home.
- Never leave valuables in plain view, even if your car is locked. Put them in the trunk or at least out of sight.
- Park in busy, well-lighted areas.
If your car is stolen, you can protect yourself by following these tips:
- Carry the registration and insurance card with you.
- Don’t leave personal identification documents or credit cards in your vehicle.
Increasingly, more people are working from home offices equipped with the latest in computers, scanners, printers, FAX machines and other expensive equipment. Remember, it is important to secure yourself and your equipment when you’re working from home. Hang window treatments that obstruct the view into your office. You don’t want to advertise what equipment you have. When meeting a client for the first time, arrange to meet in a public place rather than your home. Let someone know when and with whom you have appointments. Review your insurance policy — almost all policies require an extra rider to cover a home office. In the event something does happen, you want to be covered. Mark your equipment with identification numbers and keep an updated inventory list (with photos, if possible) in a home safe or a bank safe deposit box.
It’s also a good idea to keep back-ups of your work in a secure, separate location. Use the same caution with deliveries as businesses do. Anyone making a delivery to your home office should be properly identified before you open the door.
The average time a burglar is in a home is three to eight minutes. And in that very short time, they can have most of the homeowner’s worldly possessions. How? They know where to look. They look in dresser drawers, on top of the dresser and under the mattress. They look in the corners of the room for upturned carpets or to see if the carpet has been pulled away. They look in the closet, in clothing pockets. They look in shoes and shoe boxes. They look in the bathroom, either in the tank of the toilet or behind the toilet. They look in the refrigerator and freezer. If there’s a home office, they look in the desk drawers. And if you there’s a fireproof locking safe that’s not secured to the floor, they will take it. In other words, thieves know all the clever hiding places you think you can safely stash your valuables. So don’t allow yourself to develop a false sense of security.
We’ve had several recent incidents of tagging on our streets. Here’s how you can spot a tagger:
- Paint or marker stains on hands, under the fingernails, or on clothes;
- Bulky military jacket, pull-over or zip-up with a hood to help conceal spray cans and markers;
- Blood-shot eyes from being out all night tagging and being exposed to dangerous toxic fumes from the markers and paint;
- Tag names written on the underside of the bill of a sports cap, visor, or on notebooks and other possessions;
- Backpack to hide spray cans;
- Baggy clothes with deep pockets to hide spray cans; and
- Spray paint on sneakers or shoes.
If you see someone you suspect of being a tagger, don’t attempt to apprehend that person. Instead, get a good description of the suspect (and any vehicle involved) and report it to police.
If you must walk alone, especially after dark, think about how you would respond to an armed perpetrator. Don’t ever try to pull a weapon on someone who has you covered with a handgun unless you feel it’s your last chance. Don’t ever agree to be transported somewhere else such as an ATM or other location unless you feel it’s a life-or-death decision. The second crime scene is almost always more violent than in your home or neighborhood. If you have a choice, never agree to be tied-up, handcuffed or be placed in the trunk of a car because it takes away most of your self-defense options. Don’t follow a criminal. Leave that for the police. And don’t fight over property loss such as a wallet, purse or cell phone. These things can be replaced…your life cannot.
Alarm systems are effective — if they are used properly. The reason they deter burglaries is because they increase the potential and fear of being caught and arrested by the police. The deterrent value comes from the alarm company lawn sign and from the alarm decals on the windows. Burglars will usually bypass a property with visible alarm signs and go to another property without such a sign. Some people who have alarm systems think these signs and decals are unsightly and will not display them. That could be a costly mistake. Learn to love your lawn sign!
The secret to keeping your family reasonably safe at home is to have a family security plan. To develop a family security plan you must give careful thought to your family members’ routines and think of ways to make them safer from intruders. The best way to accomplish this is to hold a family meeting to discuss this plan and play “what if” using different scenarios. For example, “What if someone kicks in the door and attempts to rob us?” “What if someone approaches us while we’re outside our home and tries to assault us?” “What if we come home and discover a burglar in the house?” But don’t stop with the “what ifs.” Also ask “What would we do and how would we react? Where would we go and whom would we notify in case of emergency?” Most people have no such family plan and have not met as a family to discuss “what if” situations. Consequently, when or if a criminal assault does occur, the family is not prepared and will have to rely on instinct. Sometimes, though, those instinctive responses are wrong or and reactions are inappropriate.
We recently installed motion-sensor lighting on the back of our garage to illuminate the alley behind our home. It was inexpensive and took very little time to install. If everyone on every block did the same, you can just imagine how a thief would feel when walking through some of our darkest thoroughfares.
Burglars love trees, so trim tree canopies to at least 8 feet to allow visibility into your property. Also, keep limbs trimmed so that they don’t provide a means of getting onto roofs or second stories, or of getting over a wall or fence. Make sure that trees don’t block lights.
A home invasion is when robbers force their way into an occupied home to commit a robbery or other crimes. By contrast, residential burglaries take place mostly during the day and when a residence is more likely to be unoccupied. Burglars tend to avoid confrontation and will usually flee when approached. Most burglaries do not result in violence unless the criminal is cornered and uses force to escape. Home invasion robbers work more often at night and on weekends when homes are likely to be occupied. The home invader will sometimes target the resident as well as the dwelling.
The most common point of attack is through the front door or garage. Sometimes the home invader will simply kick open the door and confront everyone inside. More common is when the home invaders knock on the door first or ring the bell. The home invader hopes that the occupant will simply open the door, without question, in response to their knock. Protect yourself from home invasion by using your porch light to help you see clearly outside; not relying on a chain-latch as a barrier; not opening the door to strangers or solicitors; and by contacting the police if a stranger acts suspicious.
Take a Picture!
Regardless of how careful you are, you could still be the victim of a crime. Lessen the impact of a robbery by photographing your valuables in their locations around your home and making a list of the make, model and serial numbers. Photocopy important documents and the contents of your wallet. Then store the copies in a safe deposit box or with a relative.
A Little Light on the Subject
The purpose of good exterior lighting is to allow you to see a threat or suspicious person lurking in your path or lingering near your property. If you can see a potential threat in advance then you at least have the choice and the chance to avoid it or to take action. Exterior lighting should be bright enough for you to see a distance of 100 feet, and it should help you to identify colors. Good lighting is definitely a deterrent to criminals because they don’t want to be seen or identified.
Get to know your neighbors on each side of your home and the three directly across the street. Invite them into your home, communicate often, and establish trust. Ask them to watch out for your home when you are away and to report suspicious activity. Ask them to pick up your mail, newspapers, handbills, and to periodically inspect the outside or inside of your home to see that all is well. You might also invite them to occasionally park in your driveway to give the appearance of occupancy while you are away. Give your neighbor a key instead of hiding one outside. Experienced burglars know to look for hidden keys in planter boxes, under doormats and above the door ledge. This is a Neighborhood Watch technique called “territoriality,” which means that your neighbors will take ownership and responsibility for what occurs in your mini-neighborhood, deterring burglaries and other crimes. But for it to work, you must be willing to reciprocate.
The Burglar Bypass
Most residential burglaries occur during the daytime when people are away at work or school. Burglaries are committed most often by young males under 25 years of age who are looking for small, expensive items that can easily be converted to cash. In 70 percent of break-ins, burglars use some amount force to enter a dwelling, but they prefer to gain easy access through vulnerable door or window. Their tools aren’t sophisticated. They use ordinary household items such as screwdrivers, channel-lock pliers, small pry bars and small hammers to gain access.
Burglars continue to flourish because police can only clear about 13 percent of all reported burglaries and rarely catch the thief in the act. That’s why we have to be law enforcement’s eyes and ears. Minimize your risk by making your home unattractive to thieves. Remember, burglars use a selection process, opting for unoccupied homes with the easiest access, the greatest amount of cover, and with the best escape routes. Make your home a hard target. Burglars will simply bypass your home if they determine that breaking into it will require more effort, skills or tools than they possess.
Although you may feel safe while walking through the neighborhood, it’s important to remember that armed robberies can occur anytime, anywhere. If you’re walking alone, here are a few ways to protect yourself from armed robbers:
- Don’t carry anything more valuable than you can afford to lose.
- Always leave all unnecessary credit cards at home.
- Walk on the side of the street nearest to oncoming traffic. If accosted by someone in a car, run in the direction opposite the way the car is headed.
- Beware of people who approach asking directions; keep a polite but safe distance.
- Consider carrying a second wallet containing a few $1 bills and expired credit cards, which are normally destroyed or discarded. If confronted at knife or gunpoint, give the suspect the second wallet and concentrate on a good physical description to help the police in making the arrest.
- Upon returning home, particularly after dark, do not linger at the entrance of your residence. Make a quick check for mail or newspapers, and enter immediately. If you feel something is strange, don’t enter but go elsewhere and call 911.
- If you feel someone is following you, go to the nearest occupied residence and ask for assistance.
- If you are confronted with a dangerous situation, yelling “FIRE! FIRE!” instead of “Help!” will generally bring faster attention.
Beware of Dog!
There’s a difference between a watch dog, protection dog, guard dog and attack dog. In most cases, a watch dog may be best addition to your household to deter crime. Watch dogs are four-footed burglar alarms. They bark insistently and steadily when an entry is attempted and go to the entry point to identify it for you as they yap. Small dogs may yelp a lot, but they provide an important service. In a survey of more than 500 convicted property offenders, respondents were asked about the effectiveness of some deterrents compared to others. They said a barking dog inside the house was more of a deterrent than a weapon in the house, random police foot patrols, exterior lighting, Neighborhood Watch programs, deadbolt locks and timed interior lights. In fact, watch dogs were second only to monitored alarm systems and private security patrols in deterring crime.
In a survey of prison inmates who had been convicted of burglary or other residential crimes, 65 percent of respondents said that dogs would scare them away from a residence. Burglars dislike three things: time, light and noise.
- Most thieves like to be into a house in less than 15 seconds; if it takes longer than that the thief probably won’t break in.
- Most thieves prefer to remain hidden or unobserved. A well-lighted house with trimmed trees and shrubs are harder targets.
- And most thieves hate noise. Even a small, alert dog, while not intimidating to most people, is a problem to a burglar.
Here are a few ways to make your home and auto a harder target for burglars:
- Be sure the outside doors of your home have strong deadbolt locks;
- Keep spare keys with a trusted neighbor, not under a doormat or planter, on a ledge or in the mailbox; lock gates, garage doors, and shed doors after every use;
- Illuminate or eliminate places an intruder might hide;
- Set timers on lights when you’re away from home so it appears to be occupied;
- Keep your bike and sports equipment inside the house when they’re not in use; and
- Avoid confrontations with burglars.
Law enforcement and city officials are problem solvers. They want to work with us to prevent crime before it happens. By cooperating with them and keeping them informed, we can take back our streets and our neighborhood and make a real difference in Hampton Hills.
Don’t Be a Statistic
About six out of every 10 burglaries take place through unlocked doors or windows, and renters are burglarized 85 percent more than homeowners. You can reduce your chances of becoming a victim of crime by installing and using sturdy locks on doors and windows, and by getting to know your neighbors.
Watch the Hood
Three factors must be available to a criminal before a crime can occur:
- The desire to commit the crime
- The ability to commit the crime
- The opportunity to commit the crime
Take away one, and the other two are useless. Potential criminals will be less likely to commit a crime if they think they are being watched or where they have fewer places to hide. That’s why it’s important to add lighting and trim bushes and trees. Potential criminals know when a neighborhood is cared for and are less likely to commit crimes there. That’s why it’s important to maintain your yard and your home by disposing of trash, tending to the landscaping, replacing broken windows and burnt-out lights. Bright, clean areas help keep crime away. Let’s make it clear that we not only care for Hampton Hills, but that we also keep watch over our neighborhood.
Bite the Bullet
A bullet that’s shot up will come down. We can curb reckless gunfire in our neighborhood by getting involved. Many people ignore gunshots because they fear retaliation by the lawbreakers or rejection by the police. It’s important that we contact police each and every time random gunfire occurs in Hampton Hills. By encouraging police and prosecutors to more vigorously investigate and prosecute offenders, we will ultimately deter shooters, who fret little about the dangers and even less about the potential of getting busted.
Baffle the Burglars
Burglars focus on convenience, concealment and camouflage. Illuminate or eliminate places an intruder might hide: the spaces between trees or shrubbery, stairwells, alleys, hallways and entryways.
Light the Night
Hampton Hills has few streetlights, and some areas are very dark. Consider leaving your porch or pole light illuminated through the night. Criminals are less likely to hang around well-lighted neighborhoods.
No Daytime Drama!
Because the majority of break-ins occur during the day, it’s especially important that your home look lived in at all times. Before leaving for the day, turn down the ringer on your house telephone. This will prevent a burglar from calling your home from a cell phone and listening for the sound of a ringing phone in the background. Keep your garage door shut at all times other than when it’s being used. And keep a radio or TV set playing.
Neighbors in Need
Hampton Hills has many older residents, some of whom have lived in the neighborhood for most of their lives. Fear can — and frequently does — imprison older people in their homes. Even a minor crime, such as vandalism or petty theft, can cause major emotional, physical and financial trauma for an older person, increasing their fear and isolation. Yet if they know their neighbors, older people are not as afraid of crime and are more willing to help prevent it.
Park and Hide
When you or a visitor parks a car on the street in front of your house or in your driveway, don’t make the car an easy target for thieves. Never leave valuables in plain view, even if the car is locked. Place them in the trunk or at least out of sight.
Graffiti: the Grime Crime
Graffiti can be divided into two types: graffiti done by taggers and graffiti done by street gangs.
Even though taggers and street gangs both use graffiti as an illegal form of communication, their intent is different. Taggers see graffiti as an art form, a game, or a friendly contest. Street gangs use graffiti to mark areas they frequent and to issue threats to their enemies.
NEVER confront or challenge someone who is tagging something. Gang members are often armed and may assault a challenger even if they are not. Even taggers may be armed. If possible, obtain an accurate description of the individuals, graffiti, vehicle and license plate number so that the information may be given to law enforcement.
ALWAYS paint over graffiti immediately. Research shows that areas that are immediately painted over are much less likely to be “hit” again. Graffiti that is left up becomes a status symbol.
At night, if you think you hear someone breaking into your home, leave safely if you can, then call 911. If you can’t leave, lock yourself in a room with a phone and call 911. If an intruder is in your room, pretend you are asleep. Burglars do more than steal. They also commit rapes, robberies and assaults if they pick a home that is occupied.
When a Stranger Calls
If a stranger comes to the door, beware! Criminals sometimes pose as couriers delivering packages or as handymen offering some type of home service. Ask for identification and don’t provide any information about you or your neighbors that could open the door to crime.