Monday, June 11, 2018

Safety in Blogville - Home Security is More than a Barking Dog


Mom, I barked at the UPS guy and he still delivered the package!

This post has nothing to do with dogs, but after an incident last night in our neighborhood I thought for the safety of those in Blogville I would share

Last night late, as I was up late reading, I noticed a white panel van going by.  Unusual in our street is closed to thru traffic as it is widened and repaved.  Half of the street is not passable so all of the locals are parking a block or two over.  I recognized the van, with some minor damage, driven by a middle-aged guy, looking like any local, not a gang type as it had cruised by my house a couple weeks prior, slowly and staring at the houses. It was the same van last night, stopping several doors down with emergency flashers. The light over the license plate was dark. He had a spotlight and was shining it on several houses that had no lights on.  It wasn't hard to dart out front behind the construction equipment and get his license plate number from the dark plate with a flashlight and call it into the police as he saw a light and took off.  He had a custom plate (not smart for someone casing the place for burglary I guess), and the Village police will be looking for him. (he was gone when they got here).

Some people say "well you have a home alarm system, you should feel safe!" 

You've all probably seen those old ads on TV showing the guy in the hooded sweatshirt stalking some woman coming home from the store and trying to get into the house. The alarm goes off. The security company is on the phone with her in about one nano-second, assuring her the police are on the way as the would be bad guy runs away. Thank you Acme Security Company!

Another one, some young babe wearing small bits of spandex is exercising on her treadmill which is set up in her living room, next to the front door, in front of the open window (sure, that's how I exercise). Shifty looking guys dressed all in black, including the" Spenser for Hire" dark colored watch caps, scurry in front of the window, leering at her. Then, the front door is kicked in. With one kick,  no less, instantly setting off the alarm, out they run. Thank you Acme Security! It's a nice idea, but no security device is going to work well if it doesn't have brain-equipped users linked to it and police VERY close by to respond to the call.  It can be a deterrent but not a guarantee.

Even if the alarm company immediately alerts the police (one time with our FORMER alarm company in Indiana, a dog walker sent mine off by accident, they never did show up, because they were never called), it could be 15-30 minutes or more before they are there depending on where you live.  In that time the criminals could have cleared out any jewelry and electronics I had, stolen all my Terry Pratchett books, molested the yard gnomes and drank milk directly out of the container in the fridge.
The commercials make me laugh. But not at the home invasion scenario. It's very real. According to a Department of Justice report, 38% of assaults and 60% of rapes occur during home invasions. According to that same report, 1 of every 5 U.S. homes in their lifetime will experience a break-in (real or attempted) or home invasion.

Charging through the front door (mine has reinforcement but more on that later) or coming in through the garage, which you left open, is often the way they get in.  Do you leave your door unlocked because you're just taking out the trash or returning a plate to the neighbor next door?  DON'T.
But frankly, most burglaries usually start with a knock at the front door. Do you know how many people will simply open their door to a knock? The criminal may not strike that time, but simply assess your home AND you, pretend to have the wrong house and leave. Have nice things in plain sight? Check! Look small and or helpless? Check!

Common Scenarios include-

*A uniformed individual tells you that they are in the area checking for a gas leak, or a problem with cable or utilities and asks to check out your property. Do you have any idea how easy it is to buy a uniform and make an ID on a computer?  Gas, telephone, electricity, and cable lines are checked from outside, not inside the home. If the person claims that they are there to enter your home for a utility or cable company and/or you are suspicious of the credentials they present (holding them up to your window) do not open the door and phone the company for confirmation. If the service is such that they do need to come in (installation, etc), and you are a female living alone, call a large male friend over to hang out with you when you set up the appointment. When I had cable set up in my crash pad, a coworker joined me, an ex-SEAL coworker. You don't want to advertise to anyone that you are a female living alone, especially in an community neighbor's frequently change. That's not being helpless, that's being smart.

*A uniformed or non-uniformed individual informs you that they have a delivery of some sort, usually flowers, telegram or a package.  If you don't actually see them come out of the USPS, UPS or Fed Ex Truck with your package, or don't see it parked next to your house, don't open the door. Some shippers use third-party contractors that may drive a plain rental van.  I don't open the door for them -  if they have a package they have always just left it and rang the doorbell.

Knock Knock! MAMMO-GRAM!

Knock Knock! LAND SHARK!

*The individual informs you that they are collecting for a charity or some other good cause.  In the situations where you are being asked for charity assistance, use your most conservative judgment. Be especially careful if you see a large van or truck nearby, that may be there to load up your household goods after they've made entry.  I ask solicitors to leave a brochure.

*A stranger claims to be in some kind of distress and asks if he or she can use your landline phone. That is oh, so common. The person looks ordinary, you are trusting and feel sorry for them. You open the door. Their accomplice, who may not be so friendly looking rushes in behind them and next thing you know, you are a victim.  Offer to call any number they have for help or call the police. If you do not know them, male OR female, do not open the door

There are some common sense measures of protection -

*Keep a bright porch light on at all times after dark (try for 100-foot visibility on outdoor lighting). If you only have it on when you are gone, that's not good.

*Install outdoor motion sensor lighting outside near the parts of the house that may be breached out of sight from the street. Hide it, so it's not obvious, and easily disabled. You'd need to climb over a fence with a locked gate and get a ladder to disable mine.

*Look at your windows, some are so cheap they can be lifted out of the frame with a couple of tools, even if locked. Assess your windows with a quick exercise: called the "Try to Break Into Your Own Home."  It's simple, just go out and give your windows a shake and see if they hold up. If you can reach in and turn the lock, or the window is so loose that you can rattle it open, that’s not good. If you could get it open to climb in, so could a burglar.
Look closely at upper-floor windows. If there’s a roof, ledge, fire escape. trellis or ladder nearby, you need to secure those windows. There's info online on beefing up windows, money well spent. Don't sleep with your windows open, unless you can put a locking mechanism where they can't be opened more than a few inches and chose them carefully as those that may be good for childproofing are NOT always burglar proof. For that, you'd need something such as pin locks (but make sure they are easy to remove  from inside in case of a fire)

*When you are gone have lights on timers.  We also have this little light that emits a pulsing colored light that from outside of the house looks as if we are up late watching TV.  It's on a timer as well and was about $20.

*Get to know your neighbors and consider a Neighborhood Watch program.  Our next door neighbor, retired and usually home, is notified when either or both us are gone and will keep an eye on the place, picking up any flyers or local free newspapers that may end up in the yard. We do the same when they are visiting the grandkids.

*Don't let decorative or outdoor stuff pile up on the porch or near the porch to the point it's easy to hide behind.

*Install solid core doors, with heavy duty locks. Use four three-inch screws to secure heavy duty lock strike pates in the door frame. A good solid entrance door, preferably a steel commercial door and frame (like the ugly gray ones you see on industrial buildings) is a very good way to slow down entrance. A similar door with deadbolt for the bedroom door is useful too. It buys more time- wake up with an assailant or four standing over your bed and this really sinks in deep. (Yes, they can be made pretty with wood veneer, both the doors and the assailants, for the goblins the wood veneer is usually an inch thick and about 2' x 2' x 6'.)

Remember though, the door isn't generally the weak point when someone is trying to force their way in. The part that generally fails is the door frame where the lock penetrates.

There is a fix to this that's neither difficult or expensive.  Normally, all of the force of the deadbolt is only applied to the wood directly behind the hole. If you carve out a slot in the frame behind the deadbolt that runs 5 or 6 inches above and below the deadbolt, and then screw in a strip of metal, you spread that force out over a much larger portion of the door frame.

Lock all doors, windows, and garages at all times. If you are working outside alone, keep your eye towards the street.  If you see anything or anyone that is suspicious, go into the house and lock the doors.
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*Keep windows clear but if you do have a few plants, make sure they are the small, very spiny variety to make access difficult and hiding about impossible.  If you have a home alarm, don't forget to wire the windows, it's not always the door they come through.

*Use a secondary blocking device (a simple piece of wood will do) on all sliding patio doors and side sliding windows.

*Set the home perimeter alarm at night, if you have one.

If your garage is attached to your house, lock your door to the garage at ALL times even when you are home with the garage door closed.  I could jimmy a garage door open if I had to. It's not that hard and if you are in the shower or the TV is loud you may not hear it.  My inlaws had a home invasion by a guy high on meth (clues were the only thing he stole other than grandma's car with the keys in it was a package of ham hocks and fried ocra).  They lived in a "safe" farming community, but still, this guy got into the closed garage and the only thing that kept him out of the house was the locked door from the garage to the house.

*If you have a family, have a security meeting. I can't stress this enough. Make sure your children are aware of the dangers of opening the door to people they don't know, even if "Mommy's or Daddy's in the next room". If someone does get in, have a plan as a family. Have a code word for the family means "heads up for danger and run when you can".

Effective personal defense responsibility is a learned behavior.  It should be core curriculum for all children.  Sadly, too often, the weakest link of a home security system is the habits of occupants

I hate to sound paranoid, or an alarmist, but coming from a family that's 75% LEO, and a single female who has been the third party to more violence against women than I would like, it's only prudent to NOT be trusting when it comes to keeping your loved ones and home safe.

Because a barking dog is not enough.

11 comments:

  1. Momma has a good security system and never opens the door to someone she doesn't know. We got one of those new video doorbells, so she can check who's there, whether she's in the living room or at work!

    ~Pigeon

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    1. That's a great idea. Our door has a window, why is why we have a bolt at the base of the door that goes down into the frame of the house. Even if you break the glass to get to the doorknob you can not reach far enough to unbolt the bolt and therefore can't get in, even if the door can be unlocked. It's pretty stout so that door isn't budging.

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  2. Well said! Don't forget many PDs will offer a 'vacation patrol' to increase officer presence in your neighborhood when you are away from home. Also, have the PO hold your mail.

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    1. Good idea on the mail and I forgot about the vacation patrol! A lot of our cops in our little village do bikes so they can get around some of the small streets in addition to the patrol cars.

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  3. YOU are the kind of security system we need. We have a security system and we use it but if the alarm goes off (because Mom or Dad goofs up) the security call center does not always contact us right away. But we suppose it is better than nothing. We always lock our garage door from the kitchen, but Mom is always amazed at how many people do not do that. We need to get a video system up and running too.

    Woos - Lightning, Misty, and Timber

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    1. We got a very hard message on the garage door thing when a pastor's wife in the last town I lived in was raped and murdered in her home after two thugs just walked into the house from the garage. They didn't harm her baby upstairs but it was heartbreaking and in a "good" neighborhood.

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  4. Momma won't open da door to random people.

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  5. that is the post for the mama... she wants an infrared alarm system like they have in museums... but it is noneither dog-compatible nor wallet-friendly... but we are always on duty and we chase visible and invisible intruders away...

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    1. There have been times when the airline Mom flew for went into bankruptcy and she was furloughed and had to sell her house that there was no money for an alarm but we DID have extra stickers from the last one that went on the front window. That and barking. Abby Lab

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  6. Thanks for the tips. It helps if you live right next to the police station.

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  7. That is some very good advice. Thank you very much! Dad is very safety conscious. He actually likes that I bark like crazy if anyone even gets near the house since he is very hard of hearing.

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Welcome to The Book of Barkley and the Blogville dog blogging community. This blog was created for more memories of Barkley as well as updates on Abby the Senior rescue Lab, who we adopted in 2014.

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