Last week, on Memorial Day, I wrote about “A Day of Remembrance.” When that blog posted at 5:00 AM, there was no way to predict that the day would evolve into a day to remember for altogether different reasons.
and shattered the back glass door.
When I arrived home, pulled into the carport, and got out of my car, I had no awareness that anything was wrong, that there would have been – or might still be – criminals in my home. I was in a great mood, having spent a lovely holiday with friends. I unlocked the door, and as I opened it, I noticed that the freezer and refrigerator doors were wide open. My first thought was “How did raccoons get in the house?” Then I entered through the door and saw the total chaos that only human animals could have caused.
I have looked at these pictures – and many more – over and over for almost a week now. I need them for evidence, for the police report, and for insurance claims. They don’t seem as scary any more. Not the pictures. But the memory of walking into my home that day is still fresh. The initial shock has worn off some. But the sinking, sickening feeling that strangers were in my house, tossing things around, rifling through my clothing, stealing my valuables and my family treasures, is still with me.
The burglars stole more from me last Monday than electronics, jewelry, and cash. They stole my sense of security. My peace of mind in my home. The psychological effects of burglary are similar to those victims of any assault, rape, or violent attack. I felt that my home was no longer safe, beautiful, or clean. I have to admit that I now suffer from symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
And they stole a week from me so far – a week I was to have gone to the beach, spent writing, relaxing with friends. Instead, this week’s agenda is filled with police reports, investigations – looking at photos of suspects –filing insurance claims, and ordering the chaos.
I must admit, I was one of the “It won’t happen to me” people. I don’t have that much. Don’t live in an affluent neighborhood. I lock my doors. I don’t need an alarm system. I was wrong.
When I asked one of the investigators if there is a chance they will come back, he said “It happens. Sometimes the thieves wait until the insurance company settles, gets you back your stuff, then they might come back for more.” Comforting. Now, I have an alarm system. Another cost of this home invasion.
Here are some things I have learned the hard way. To protect yourself, your family, and your home:
- Always lock all doors, windows and garages.
- Make sure home entrances are well-lighted, and minimize bushes where intruders can hide before their ambush. Be aware of the bushes surrounding exterior windows.
- Keep your house well lit at night to discourage would-be criminals. Have motion detecting flood lights on low-lit areas of your home.
- Post stickers and alarm signs on the exterior of your home. Statistics show that even fake alarm decals and signs can be a deterrent.
- Don’t leave heavy objects in the backyard that can be used to throw through windows, particularly patio furniture (or shovels! There is now a lock on the tool shed).
- Use highly-visible house numbers so that the police can readily identify your home.
- Lock your gates using a padlock at the least and leave some nice surprises on top of the fence if they think about scaling it.
- Don’t enter your home if it looks like it’s been illegally entered; leave the premises and call the police.
- Be aware of the trash you leave on the curb. Break down boxes from recently purchased items like TVs and conceal them from prying eyes.
- Don’t open the door to solicitors or strangers.
- Install solid-core doors, heavy-duty locks and window security systems.
- Upgrade your locks to high security locks. Most household locks are simple to bypass.
- Get a wide-angle peephole and use it before answering the door, but consider covering it up while not in use.
- Invest in anti-kick doors or a police lock to prevent brute force entry. A door chain isn’t going to help one bit, even answering the door. If you have one, don’t open it part way to see who is there.
- At the very least, you should install longer screws into your door jambs and hinges, preferably 3″ screws to prevent criminals from kicking in the door.
- If you have a spare key hidden, be sure that it is in an uncommon place, or better yet, with a neighbor.
- Fortify basement windows with bars or anti-break window film. Secure windows where A/C units are attached.
- Put a dowel rod in the track of your sliding glass door to prevent it from being opened if the lock is bypassed.
- Get a security alarm with interior motion detectors and set the alarm when you’re at home (obviously not the interior motion detector). Criminals rely on an alarm not being set while someone is home and awake.
- Insure your alarm is monitored and will continue to work in the event you lose your power in a storm or it happens to be neutralized. Look into cellular monitoring.
- Keep your cell phone by the bed ready for you or another person to call 911.
- Change alarm codes often.
- Record serial numbers of expensive items and have backups of your computer off-site using Dropbox, Carbonite, or iCloud (Apple).
- Mark and engrave your property with your driver’s license number (not social) to aid in returning your stolen property or discourage theft in the first place.
- Discuss the importance of home security with everyone in the home. It only takes one person to forget to lock a door or window.
- Have a plan for your family or roommates in your home in the event of a home invasion. Talk it over and know what each person’s responsibilities are. That plan should include ways to escape the home if necessary.
- Consider a safe room as a rally point where you have the ability to protect yourself and call the police. Stash a spare cell phone here.
- Keep spare vehicle keys or any important spares in a lock box or safe.
- Always keep the alarm set on your vehicle, even in the garage. Consider a Club or secondary device to prevent theft, even in your garage.
- Having your the keys next to you while you sleep, you can press the car alarm panic button in a pinch.
- And, finally, install a home security system from a trusted and reliable company.