- Home Improvement
How To Make Your Home Safe From Intruders
A Different Type of Cat Burglar
How I Became the Victim of a Home Burglary
Nothing quite prepares you for the sickening feeling of both fear and anger when you return to your house to find the front door and front window open, but that is exactly what I faced on a dark Wednesday evening recently.
If I had of followed my common sense, I would have pulled out my mobile phone and called the police, but high on instant adrenalin and cloaked in a thick, leather motorbike jacket that I reasoned would protect me to some extent, I entered my violated house and quickly ascertained that the cowards that had broken in and burgled it had vacated the premises.
I guess my bravado entrance into my house was also due to the couple of beers I had consumed at a local bar.
What followed that evening was not quite what I had expected, so read on to find out how I have made my house the least desirable to any future burglars as well as what you go through when you are the victim of a burglary.
Increasing My Home Security
A home security system works as a first defence in that it is a great deterrent. Should it fail to deter the intruder it will then notify the world that your house is being robbed. As a final bonus it will also send you and a friend a message on your mobile that it has been triggered. A great investment in your homes security.
Fingerprints - Not as easy as on TV
You Call the Police - Then What?
Australia's version of 911 is 000 but they now frown upon any call that isn't an emergency (think crime in progress, someone laying unconscious on the footpath emergencies) so the first thing I had to do when I had secured my house was to work out what number to call to get some sort of police response.
Luckily I had my smartphone on me and quickly worked out that I had to call my local police station.
Now this is where television and real life take a detour as the very nice night shift police officer took my details over the phone and then proceeded to ask me what had been stolen. With my scant knowledge as to what had been taken he made a quick list and informed me that someone would be coming out to see me the next day.
There was no other communication. None of the we will send a car round or make sure I don't touch anything to preserve fingerprints that you see on TV.
The next morning two police officers turned up and proceeded to fingerprint all the surfaces that I showed them the burglars had touched as well as bagging a glove that that they had left behind. Unlike on the television version of CSI where every small finger smudge leads you to the crooks and even though at least one of the home burglars had taken off his/her glove, they managed to get 1 single useable fingerprint, which may or may not have been mine!
Apparently shiny surfaces just don't hold prints. The police took a detailed description of all that had been stolen, left me a blank property sheet in case I found further items had been stolen and they were then on their way.
Almost a month later I have had one follow up with the police and that was a courtesy call to remind my to change the locks on my house, to scour the local pawn shops and that the glove was with the DNA testing team.
Unlike on TV where the crook is usually rounded up in a few days when they leave fingerprints and DNA, in real life, especially in my case when it is only a "property theft", I fear that could be the last I have heard from the law enforcement community.
Clock Safe - Using Every Trick
A burglar usually has less than 6 minutes to canvas your house and grab whatever is easy to find. The harder you make it to find things the more chance that they will leave empty handed. Book safes and clocks safe are just part of the subterfuge you should employ to make a burglars life as hard as possible.
A Bad Window Lock
Making Your House Secure So You can Avoid Being Burgled
The people who burgled my house awoke me to quite a few failing I had in my home security, especially in the locks I had on the windows. This is how they broke into my property. I have an old house with old windows and very quaint brass sash locks that just twist to lock the two panes together.
It seems that after trying to use a nail file (which they left at the scene) they attempted to use brute force, which thanks to the locks poor design, worked. So after using this as a starting point, here is how I made my house burglar resistant:
The first thing I did was to add a bolt lock to all my windows. A bolt lock passes through the frame of the window and into the solid frame. This way the lock cannot be detached by either nail files or force. Effectively this type of lock makes the two separate sash windows one piece and part of the solid window frame.
I have a bad habit of leaving spare keys laying around my house, so what did the burglars also steal? All my spare keys, including my spare car key. This meant that I needed to change all the locks on my doors, which if you have deadlocks like me means a trip to the hardware store to buy replacement barrels. It is a simple, but mildly expensive exercise.
Police Advice - The police recommended changing the locks even before they knew the spare keys had been stolen. I would recommend it as well since the thieves may have already had a key and just broke the window lock to cover their tracks. This is especially true if your house has ever been leased out. You will also feel a lot more secure with new locks on your doors.
I also have a very decorative stain glass panelled front door, which because of the insecurity a break in instils in your mind, will now be replaced with a solid wooden door as I no longer feel comfortable with a door made of 50% glass.
I live in a very quiet street where there are 4 other houses and one street lamp, so it was relatively easy for the burglars to break into my house under the cover of darkness. The next day after the burglary I installed a solar panelled, motion sensor spotlight on the front porch. If anyone else tries to break in they will have to do it under the glare of a spotlight.
I had a very old and inactive burglar alarm installed in my house as it seems you become quite complacent the longer you go without being robbed. I have now rectified this by installing a wireless motion activated alarm system which also includes trip sensors on all the doors and windows. Again, no home burglar will spend a quiet time in the dark rifling through my underwear drawers.
However these were just the first few actions I took to make sure that my home and castle stayed safe and secure.
Read on to see what I believe is the most powerful tip to deterring house burglars.
Book Safe - More Subterfuge
Similar to the clock safe, this Bible provides a great place to store some of your private possessions. Even if the thief finds it they then have the hassle of trying to break into it. No thief wants any hassle in their 6 minute window.
Angry - Scared - Depressed
How it Feels when Your House is Burgled
The primary emotion I felt when my house was burled was anger, sheer straight up white lightening rage, so I am glad that no tardy robber was still in my house as I know one of us wouldn't have been walking out the door (or climbing out an open window).
But once the adrenalin and bravado had subsided and the night had again grown quiet, it was surprising how quickly it was replaced with a feeling of fear and trepidation. Every little noise was greeted by me jumping out of bed wielding a large carving knife and stalking around my home, which I had now lit up to resemble a peninsular lighthouse.
Once the sun had risen and the police had performed their duty, I headed out and bought new locks for the doors and better locks for the windows. It was only once I had fitted these did I feel marginally comfortable in my own house.
The first thing you find yourself doing after you have changed all the locks is you start washing. All the clothes they had touched and all the surfaces they had violated were scrubbed. I didn't want any reminders of this uninvited intrusion into the inner sanctum of my life.
Once I had done all of this, I found myself sinking into a small depression, as each day I discovered something else that had been stolen and I blamed myself for not being more secure.
It took about a week for me to forgive myself and to also stop sleeping with a large carving knife next to me.
Make Sure Your Property is Well Lit
Self charging so there is no wiring or battery replacement required, this solar powered porch spotlight was the perfect tool to ensure that the next burglary attempt was well lit and not hidden in a dark alcove.
Tip - Burglars don't like light
Your First Defence - A Timer
My Top Tips to Deter Home Burglars
The home burglar is looking for two things when they select a home to rob. The first is they want an easy target and the second is that they want a vacant one.
On average a burglar is in your home for just under 6 minutes, so they don't want any difficulties and they certainly don't want to be confronted by an angry Ted of TedWritesStuff wielding two large carving knives.
I have covered the first one with the list of security upgrades above. Your house will quickly seem a much too difficult target with its motion sensor lights, difficult to break locks and ear piercing alarm systems. They will quickly move on to a much softer option.
However to ensure that this is the case, you want to make sure that your house always seems occupied (without the hassle of actually being there 24/7). This is my number 1 tip to deter any opportunistic home burglar.
Yep, do everything you can to make your house look occupied. The simplest trick I have used is to install timers in my house that turn on lights and appliances. There is no way a prospective burglar will take a chance on a house with its lights on and the television or radio on. Why would they when there will always be a house just down the road sitting in quiet solitude.
However the other subterfuge I have employed is to make sure that any items of value I have left are hidden out of sight. It may seem like a cliché to say hollow out a book or buy a clock with a hollow back to protect precious jewellery or documents, yet as most thieves are only inside for less than 6 minutes they wont have the time nor inclination to search your house properly.
As a salient example of what I have said, I have two netbooks in my house. On the night I was robbed I left one on the lounge room coffee table and the other under a single sheet of paper in the front office below the window the burglars broke in through.
Which one was stolen? The one at the back of the house in plain sight on the coffee table. The one they had to almost climb over as they came through the window was left completely untouched. A single sheet of paper had saved it.
If thieves don't have the time nor inclination to search an office for a netbook then they will definitely not find one hidden under a couch cushion or your favourite ring hidden in your clock safe.
It may take a little extra time to hide things away every time you depart your house, but there will be a good chance it will still be there when you return home.
My greatest loss? The netbook and backup 500gb hard drive that had 10 years of photos and the first chapter of my long procrastinated novel on it. If hiding my netbook under a cushion could have saved it, then the 20 second inconvenience would have been well worth it.
Always Remember - Subtefuge
Setting up a lamp and a radio on a timer system will make sure your house always looks occupied. To make sure that any diligent thief is even more deceived, change the timer setting on a weekly basis. They will soon move on to a softer target.
Don't Leave Spare Keys Lying About
Spare Keys and the Car - Don't Make my Mistake
The two most foolish things I did were to keep a single unsigned credit card in my house and to keep the spare keys to the house and car on the floor in the hallway of my property.
With the credit card I was lucky as it was from an overseas bank which was probably unfamiliar to the thieves and as thus they left it behind.
The spare keys are another story. The house now has all new locks, but as the salient police officer remarked, "they normally return to steal the car later".
The first thing I did at 2am on the night of the robbery was to let down the tyres on the car, this was an instant and successful deterrent. I then purchased a solid, keyed steering lock to make the car even harder to steal. The third action I took was to remove spark plug leads and fuses each time I left the car outside my house.
Finally, to make sure that any return visit to my little Hyundai was thwarted, I have ordered a central locking car immobiliser system from eBay that will not only shut down the car if an attempt is made to try to start it, it will also scream at 110db that a thief is in action. Suddenly my car, like my house, isn't an easy target.
Tip - Use a hollowed out book or clock/floor safe to hide your spare keys in.
Final Words of Advice
There will always be someone looking to steal from you. It is almost human nature to covet what someone else has. The difference between you, me and the common house burglar is that they have no sense of right and wrong.
So bearing that in mind, make sure that you make your property the hardest target. There will always be someone else who is a much easier target if you do, and as callous as it sounds, if a crime does take place it is better to read about in the papers than actually be the victim of it.
Great Advice to Think of Your House like a Burglar Does
A Quick Postscript
So what happened in the months following my home burglary? Well after the initial contact with the police and a follow up phone call, nothing. I spent a few hours wandering my local high streets and checking out the stock of the pawn shops, but there was nothing of mine there. I went online and checked ebay, craigslist and gumtree, again to no avail.
Eventually you get to a point where you just move on with your life and the memory of what was stolen fades into the background.
So next time you are watching CSI on the television and they catch the criminal because he or she left behind a single flake of skin, remember that my bumbling criminals left behind a nail file, put their (ungloved) hands all over my house and forgot one of their gloves (how I know they were ungloved!) which would have contained their DNA, yet they got away with robbing my home.