I don’t know why I’ve never brought this up on my blog before, but how are you on home security? This is the voice of experience talking. We’ve been burglarized at least four or five times in our lives. And now I am a nut case about home security.
When we moved into this house a few years back, the very first thing we did was go through and update the locks on all the doors and replace the louvered back door with a solid one.
The people who lived here before were amazingly careless. They didn’t have a deadbolt on their side garage door and they never locked their inside door between the garage and the house. That is an absolute must for me. Sure it’s more convenient to just go from the garage to the house, but in one of our burglaries, the people figured out the code to our garage door opener, pulled their car into our garage, then closed the door and spent 20 minutes filling up their car with everything that wasn’t nailed down. Including my baby’s diapers and beer from our fridge. That’s pretty darn low.
And when we are in the market for a new house, I always look at them with an eye towards security. In at least three of our robberies, including the one above, we were on a corner lot, one that was isolated from the others and didn’t have good visibility. Ever since then, my houses have all been smack in the middle of the block with fenced yards all around. That gives you a lot more safety since multiple neighbors would be able to see into your yard and house. And if those nearby homes have dogs – bonus. That provides extra protection for us.
I know what you’re thinking – but we live in a GOOD neighborhood. Tell me, if you were a crook, where would you go shopping for stuff to steal? On the poor side of town? I don’t think so. You’d want to go over to the good side of town where they’ve got nicer stuff to take.
The burglary from the garage took place in a very nice suburb of Salt Lake City, one of the safest and nicest cities in the US. However, I will admit that all the previous ones happened when we lived in Santa Ana, California which is pretty much the armpit of the earth. I would say that was about 50% of our reason for moving to Salt Lake because we knew we would be able to afford a much nicer neighborhood.
Part of the problem in Santa Ana was that they added a homeless shelter in two blocks away from our house. If they ever want to do that in your neighborhood, fight them for all you are worth. I am so totally SERIOUS! I don’t have anything against homeless people, but the problem is there’s nothing to keep them busy in between meals and you end up with them roaming around the neighborhood all day causing constant problems.
There were several times when we would find them in our yard. They would duck behind our block wall to go to the bathroom – ewwww! One time we found that one of them had been cooking his dinner on our barbecue. Another time, we found a guy rinsing off in our sprinklers. I’ll never forget the day when I walked out my front door to go to work and found a guy browsing through my trash can looking for breakfast. I had my baby in my arms and I was so freaked out, I don’t think I even put him in his car seat. I put him next to me in the car and we locked the doors and got the heck out of there!
During that time, we tried just about everything. Double deadbolts, bars on the windows, steel security doors. They still got in. One time someone left an old wooden headboard out for the trash. You know those old wooden ones with the turned wooden spindles on them? They took that, turned it sideways and used it as a ladder. Then they must have taken a kid and boosted him up because he got through a bathroom window that wasn’t a foot tall and was about 10 feet off the ground. Yes, drug addicts can be very determined if they want to rob you. But usually they go for the easy in/easy out method.
One time we helped a homeless man. One of these “will work for food” types. We had some yard work, so we paid him to help us. Yeah, that was a big mistake. He came back a few weeks later and robbed our house. He was on foot, so he couldn’t carry much, so he came back the next day and robbed us again. He was just a little guy, so he took a heavy cement block and battered it through our steel security door. And the next door neighbors saw a man coming out of our house carrying a stereo, but they wouldn’t call the police because they were illegal immigrants and they were too afraid.
Give money to homeless shelters all you want, but helping the individuals directly could be a big mistake. That made us an ideal target. He knew what our cars looked like, what our work schedules were, and had a pretty good idea of what we had in our home. When someone is seeking money for drugs, they will victimize anyone in their path with very little remorse.
For a while, we felt like we weren’t buying things, we were just renting them between robberies. Fortunately, we had insurance so we could replace most of the things, but there were a lot of things that were irreplaceable. Our class rings, our original wedding rings, other jewelry and things that only had sentimental value. And we never got a thing back. The police did catch one ring of thieves, but our stuff had been long gone by then. They would put everything from several robberies in a truck and take it down to Mexico to sell on the black market.
Now I’m not telling you all this to scare you, although I’m sure it does scare you. I’ll tell you, it’s a horrible feeling to know that someone really creepy has been in your house, going through your stuff and taking it away from you. You just never feel the same in your house and you never quite feel safe again. Our last incident was more than 20 years ago and it still makes me quake inside. Especially since I was home alone taking a shower just 20 minutes before it happened. That could have had a very nasty ending, but fortunately, an angel must have been watching over me because I left the house right before the burglary happened. But it still freaks me out that they were probably watching my house when I left.
Most people think “it will never happen to me”. I used to think that too. I think everyone you see in the newspaper every day thought the same thing, but sometimes it does happen to you and all you can do is do your best to protect your family and learn the lesson. Here are the lessons I’ve learned:
– Lock every door every time. It’s a pain, but it’s worth it
– Insurance is your friend. Even if you are renting, it is absolutely worth the money.
– Always lock your car and never leave the keys in it, even if it’s in the garage. Some neighbors of ours did that while they were unloading their groceries and someone took their car right out of their garage. Fortunately, she had brought the baby in for his nap first, or they might have gotten the baby. Chilling….
– Window locks. Get them. They’re like 2 bucks a piece. Get them and put them on every window. Ours can open a few inches and that is all you need for ventilation.
– Deadbolts are your friend. Every outside door should have them and especially the garage. That’s a favorite target.
– Keep a radio or TV going when you’re not home. Burglars usually don’t want to hurt anyone, they just want your stuff. If they think someone even might be home, they will usually pass you by.
– If a stranger comes to the door don’t answer it. But find a way to make enough noise to let them know someone is home.
– If you must talk to someone at the door, don’t count on a chain lock to protect you. It takes half a second to kick in a door. If someone I don’t know comes to my door, I will go out into the yard to talk to them where I am in full sight of the neighbors.
– Sleep with a phone close to hand and if possible, keep your car keys on the nightstand. If you hear a noise and think you might have a prowler, you might be able to scare them away by setting off your car’s panic alarm.
– If you are attacked outside, try to get under a car. It’s almost impossible to drag someone out from under a car and you can be screaming your head off for help the whole time.
– Keep your drapes and mini blinds closed. Don’t leave electronic or video game boxes in your trash. You don’t want to advertise what you have.
– If you suspect your house has been broken into, don’t go in. Back right out and go to a neighbor’s to call the police. You don’t want to surprise a robber.
– Invest in good motion lights and walk around your property looking for areas that are dark or hidden by bushes or fences. I never understand why people turn their porch lights off when they go to bed. That is when you want lights burning the most. Although now that I think about it, all of our robberies happened in broad daylight. Between 10 and 2 is the most likely time because burglers know most people are at work or school then.
– GET.A.DOG. Even if it’s a runty little chihuahua as long as it will bark, it is your best protection. The police told us that again and again, but in California, we weren’t in a place where we could have one. We have had a big dog ever since – even though I’m not a huge fan. But at least they are big and intimidating and we’ve never had a problem since we’ve had one. Knock on wood!
Be vigilant and be safe!