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Target hardening of the home at Christmas time

Updated on July 29, 2011

Target hardening of the home at Christmas time

The Christmas season is always stressful for a lot of people. It comes partly from the insufficient funds to purchase enough or the right gifts for their family and friends. Not everyone responds the same ways, but some ways are worse than others. Burglary is one of those possible wrong responses to Christmas stress. Although that is not the only motivation, Christmas time makes nearly every homeowner a suitable target. Through the use of certain crime prevention techniques especially Target Hardening, home owners can protect their property from burglars at the most vulnerable season and all year round. Target Hardening will make the home more difficult to commit felonies inside of and therefore less appealing to criminals.

A Colbert home in Madison County Georgia was found, by a child in the family who lived there, with the front door kicked in and $10,000 worth of items were missing, including the gifts from under the Christmas Tree. The most common methods of burglary include entering a home through unlocked doors and windows as well as breaking them if they are locked. Generally they are back windows that are not exposed to the street and cannot easily be seen by neighbors. While building fences and planting large bushes provide privacy from neighbors, it also makes the job of a criminal much easier. By placing large objects, bushes, and other plants near windows, people expect that potential thieves cannot see what is inside and will not enter. Unfortunately, as the 25th of December draws closer, criminals know that there will be available, removable, valuable, enjoyable, and disposable goods inside and don't need to see exactly what they are. The visual obstructions work to the advantage of the criminals here. It is always true that these obstructions aid the intruder, but even more so at these times. Instead, home owners should keep blinds and shades closed so that the criminal cannot see in, but he can be seen from the outside. High surveillability puts the criminal at a disadvantage.

The very first step to securing the home is to keep all doors and windows locked and window stopping tabs open when it is unoccupied. Although they will most likely be displaced to a neighbors house, many potential criminals will be deterred under the assumption that a Breaking and Entering charge requires entering by literally breaking the window or door. This is false, and simply breaking the plane dividing the exterior of the home and the interior is enough for a B&E charge. Some will not be deterred, and for them, stronger door frames and dead bolts will help. Dead bolts should be installed so that the screws fastening it are all the way through the door frame and into the wall. If the offender cannot get inside the house, they will not be able to steal what is inside. Still others with sophisticated tools will not be deterred and will get in however they can.

The next step then would be to install an alarm system. An alarm has multiple functions. Firstly, it will alert the police or service provider who will contact police. Second, the loud noise attracts the attention of anyone in earshot. Neighbors or passerby will know that there is an intruder attempting to enter the dwelling. Both of these functions cause possibly the most useful result. The burglar himself will hear the alarm and fear detection. Only highly experienced criminals will not be deterred by the sound of an alarm. Some will even be deterred at the sight of a sticker or flag from the alarm system provider, even if the alarm is not active.

An experienced criminal will not be stopped by locked doors or windows. Doors strengthened by properly installed or stronger dead bolts will help, but a serious criminal with tools will still get in if they want to. It is important therefore to keep the receipts for all the purchases made, in case they do get stolen, you can prove that they were previously inside the house. In addition, it is a good idea to label the expensive items, or the packaging they come in at the very least. Thieves will not be able to sell these items on the street because it will be clear they were stolen if your name or a number is on them. Serial numbers should be recorded and the list kept in a safe place. All this will help the secure that the items will be returned to you if a suspect is found with items fitting the descriptions listed. Labeling and recording the items will also help connect the suspect on trial to the burglary in question. Taking pictures of the items before wrapping them is a good practice as well. If large bills or large amounts of cash are kept in the house, the numbers on them should be recorded as well for the same reasons stated above.

Before leaving for an extended time, to go on vacation for example, homeowners should inform their neighbors, the police, and the postal service. Neighbors can watch the house and record and report any suspicious activity that may go on in the absence of the owner. They should be instructed to take note of the make, model, and color of the vehicle used, the number of people engaged in the suspicious activity, their descriptions (including relative age, height, weight, race, identifiable marks, and clothing), a description of the suspicious activity, and the times at which they occurred. Neighbors should also know that the should not attempt to intervene if they do notice, but to call the police immediately with as much of the above information as possible. If a spare key is given to the neighbors, they can also make regular checks inside the house in case a criminal previously entered undetected.

The postal service will temporarily stop delivering mail to the unoccupied home so that motivated offenders will not notice that no one is home to receive the mail. Burglars do not want to enter an occupied house, so the best case scenario for them would be for the family to be on an extended vacation. Another way to give a house the appearance of being occupied when it really is not, is to leave a car in the driveway and to put interior and exterior lights on timers. Someone keeping surveillance on the house, as long as they do not notice a pattern, will assume that there is at least one person inside the house who is turning the lights on and off. Motion sensing lights directed towards the driveway and other strategic places around the house will increase surveillability of the offender at nighttime, and increase the chances that someone will get an accurate description of the crime and suspect.

By informing the police that an extended vacation is being taken, they will increase patrol in that area. Individual officers can make routine checks on the house to look for broken windows or doors and other signs of intrusion. It is unlikely that police will catch the suspect in the act, but with descriptions of suspicious persons and vehicles, they can start an investigation. It is important that the police have a way to contact the individual or family who is away from their home in case they need any information after a break in, or prior.

Research shows that criminals are most often deterred by dogs. Dogs are naturally very protective and can cause serious injury to people who threaten the dog or the home it protects. A barking dog is possibly a better deterrent than an alarm. In addition, while a neighbor or relative takes care of the dog, they can make a routine check of the house keeping an eye open for signs of unwanted entry.

As always, firearms should be kept locked, disassembled, and stored separately from the ammunition. A common mistake is to keep the key too close to the safe that contains the weapon and/or ammunition. The best thing is to leave the key with a neighbor or relative, or even keep it on hand at all times. The serial numbers of weapons, especially firearms, should be recorded as well.

These target hardening techniques will make it nearly impossible for even an experienced expert criminal to get away with breaking into a home and stealing valuable items inside. If a criminal is able to burglarize a home even after all the hardening techniques have been applied, it is unlikely that they will get very far before getting caught. These techniques increase surveillability and risk, and decrease the chances of success. Every house becomes more susceptible as Christmas gets closer, and even into the new year. Taking these precautions can prevent homes from being victims of burglary and other property crimes.


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    • DJVeRB profile image

      DJVeRB 6 years ago from Providence, RI

      Thanks for the comment, you're absolutely right about digital cameras (especially those in cell phones) can be awesome crime prevention tools. Be careful, though, to not provoke anyone unnecessarily. Also if you notice any suspicious activity, be sure to notify police immediately, then start taking photos if you believe that it is safe to do so.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

      This is important info. Voted up, useful, and interesting.

      We and our neighbors regularly take photos of strangers in the neighborhood. The digital phone camera age makes this very easy. We do not hesitate to let the strangers see that we are taking the photos. If one is being taken, the stranger can be sure that others are being taken in tandem. We even send them to each other.