Friday, September 03, 2010

Some thoughts after getting robbed

A while back there was a situation involving a news reporter somewhere who did a story on home security in the wake of a wave of robberies in his area.  To inform his viewers on the latest steps they could take to avoid becoming victims of a robbery, he took his viewers on a tour of the most secure place he know - his own house.  He proudly showed off his security system, his window alarms, his motion detectors, and everything else that made his house robbery-proof.  His viewers really appreciated the information.  Some more than others - particularly the robbers who soon hit his house, since he had effectively cased the joint for them.

So I'm not going to do that.

A friend asked me to share with her my thoughts on what you can do to improve security and avoid being robbed.  I put together a list the other night, and I realized that this would be something worth sharing here.  If anyone has anything else to add, please leave a comment and I'll add it to the main body of the post.

1. Assume someone will break into your house or apartment.

2. The most likely way in is to force a door - but a good old-fashioned smashed window is not out of the question. That's how they broke into my house.

3. Getting in without being noticed is 90% of the work. If you can smash a window without anyone hearing or reporting, odds are you can take your time robbing the place and casually getting away. So make it as difficult to get into your place as possible. If you rent, there are probably limitations as to what you can add to doors and windows, or mount to walls. But motion detectors can always be mounted to bookcases or other furniture.

One of my mistakes: the window that was smashed had a storm window, but it was not in position. If it had been, they would have had to smash TWO windows. Which might not have made much difference.

I'm also thinking of bricking over my basement windows with glass blocks. Those are tricky entry points, but once you're in, you're in.  You may want to check with local building or fire codes before you do something like this.

4. Two things are the enemy to a sneaky burglar: time and noise. If you can slow down the intruder and force them to take more time doing things, do it. Sturdy locks on inside doors, things hidden away, obstacles wherever you can get them. (Obstacles in my house didn't pose a huge problem to these people.) Inexpensive ($25) motion detector alarms from Wal-Mart or Home Depot may help, too - I have several of them covering key areas now, and will keep them even after I get a professional system installed. I have also screwed 1/4" wire mesh ("hardware cloth") onto all of the windows in the room where the entry occurred, including the window in the door. It may not stop someone from getting in that way, but it will slow them down.

Interior doors are generally designed more for privacy than security.  Consider installing exterior doors in critical interior points where you want to restrict passage.  Pay attention to the location of hinges - a good lock won't mean much if you can just pop some hinge pins.  But remember:  security measures may turn deadly in the case of a fire.  Will that double-locked door block an emergency exit point?  Do those window bars swing out if you need to exit through a window?

5. Keep an inventory of EVERYTHING, even if it's just a photographic record. You can't report something to insurance if you don't know it's been stolen. A while back I had a beautiful Arcosanti bronze windchime hanging on my front porch, but then I became very paranoid about it being stolen by scrap metal thieves and took it down and put it in the house. Now, where did I put it? I don't THINK it was on the side that was robbed - but, oddly, I found the explanatory insert card on a bookshelf there. So has the windchime (in its gift box) been stolen? Or have I just forgotten where I put it?

6.  Don't make things easier for a burglar.  I installed a lock on one door, and then mused that it would take a burglar about thirty seconds with a clawhammer or crowbar to get it open.  Then I realized that I had both a clawhammer and a crowbar in that very room.  They are now both on the other side of the lock.

This isn't a complete list.  I anyone has anything to add, please let me know.

1 comment:

Todd HellsKitchen said...

Thanks for the reminder to do a photo documentation of my apartment stuff!!! You're right, insurance is pointless if you can't prove you have the stuff!!

Have a great Labor Day weekend!!!

Todd HellsKitchen

Postcards from Hell's Kitchen