Tis the season to be cheerful, jolly and in the holiday spirit but it’s hard to be cheerful when you come home and find your home burglarized. Drawers emptied, missing electronics, jewelry, money, all your belongings gone and your house ransacked.
The poor economy has resulted in an increase of burglaries. Not a day goes by where we don’t have at least 5 or more victims calling in to report a burglary at their home. Sometimes we get dispatched to a burglary in progress but for every burglar we catch there are hundreds more roaming neighborhoods looking for a target. If you read the crime stats burglaries are on the rise and are a problem everywhere.
How they decide on a particular home is each burglar’s decision but most of the time they are not alone. One of them will ring a doorbell and if someone answers, they ask for a fictitious person or say they have the wrong house. If no one answers, they go into the yard looking for an open or unlocked window. Sometimes they will break a window to gain access but most of the time they find a window or door unlocked. Once inside they ransack your home looking for money, jewelry, laptops, guns and other easily concealable items. Sometimes they will take a pillowslip off your bed to carry their haul. If they find keys to a car in the garage they may help themselves to your televisions, computers and other larger items and simply drive off with their loot.
You come home to relax after a hard day at work only to find your home ransacked with your belongings scattered throughout the house and your personal property missing, some of it probably irreplaceable. Not a fun evening cleaning up the mess, trying to do an inventory of what’s missing for the police, and trying to get over the feeling of being violated knowing someone was roaming free in your home going through all your belongings.
There are a few things you can do to lessen your chances of becoming the victim of a burglary:
1) Get an alarm system. There are several companies that offer free or low cost installation of an alarm system by signing a 2-3 year contract for alarm monitoring. If an alarm activates, the monitoring service calls you or a designated person and then the police. You can get door and window sensors, motion detectors, smoke detectors, whatever you want. Alarm systems are great because a burglar won’t stick around long with loud alarms blaring drawing attention to your home. If you have an alarm system, USE IT! I’ve gone to alarm calls where a home was burglarized and when I ask about the alarm panel on the wall, the victim said they were only leaving for a short time and didn’t use it. It only takes the push of a button to arm the system, if you have it, use it!
2) Get a camera system. These are great! The cost has come way down on these systems. You can put small motion activated cameras inside or outside your home and when they sense movement they began recording to your PC or hard drive. They can even send pictures to your cell phone of what is being recorded. We’ve caught burglars in the act after homeowners called the police and gave a description of the suspects after their camera system sent pictures to their cell phone. Even if a burglar gets away, they are recorded and we know who to look for.
3) Dogs are great. Very few burglars will break into a home where a dog is going ballistic on the other side of the door. A timid miniature Chihuahua probably won’t deter a burglar but a larger dog certainly will.
4) Alert neighbors. If you have neighbors that are home during the day, ask them to keep an eye on things and to call you if they see something unusual. If a burglar sees someone watching them they are less likely to stick around.
5) Most importantly; DON’T leave windows or doors unlocked. If you must leave a window open for ventilation, get a window lock that will let you lock the window ajar a few inches. Burglars can squeeze through even small bathroom windows, don’t leave them open. If a burglar sees an open window it makes you a target. Lock the door leading from the garage into the house; if it has a lock, use it. If a door has a cheap lock on it get a good one with a deadbolt. It’s not a guarantee to prevent a burglary but make it as difficult as possible for a burglar to gain entry. It could make the difference between them getting into your home or giving up to find an easier target.
6) Lights. If you will be gone in the evening or during the night, light up your home. Leave porch lights on and a light or two inside. Burglars hate lights. You can get motion spotlights that come on when they sense movement. Get bright spotlights to light up your doors, windows or yard if someone comes on your property and when the motion stops, the lights go off. If your home is dark inside and outside, burglars can approach and get in undetected but if they walk up to a home and the night turns into day, they won’t stick around long.
7) Christmas time brings out even more thieves. Nothing looks more tempting than a ton of wrapped gifts under a Christmas tree. When you are gone, close the blinds or drapes and don’t give thieves a sneak peek of goodies inside. The same goes for your car; don’t leave bags from stores or wrapped presents in your car. We get numerous reports of gifts being stolen from cars while people are shopping or if items were left in a car overnight. Lock items in the trunk or at least cover them so they are not in view.
8 ) Report any suspicious activity. If someone unfamiliar to your neighborhood comes to your door asking for someone who doesn’t live there, make a note of their description(s) and vehicle and call the police to report a suspicious subject. You may end up preventing a burglary in your neighborhood or helping the police catch a burglar with a car full of stolen property.
There are other precautions you can take but these are some of the important ones. If you use some of the above listed tips, you will greatly reduce the chances of finding your home ransacked when you come home.