Yesterday marked the third conversation I have had with a Maine resident who told me that they didn’t lock their doors because, “locks only keep out the honest people.” Honestly, I’m flummoxed by the total lack of logic here, since honest people have never tried to break into my house. This is one of those folksy statements that sounds like it might be true, but is actually really dangerous to put any stock into.
Here’s the deal: Somebody who has dedicated themselves to breaking into your house will get in – no doubt. It’s only a matter of time no matter what precautions you take. However, why are you going to make it easier for them? Making it harder for them to get in can potentially save your life.
The fallout of a break-in can be severe. If you’re not home the loss can be financial, damage to your home, and your sense of security. A friend on Facebook just posted that his 5 year old daughter is having nightmares from an earlier break-in. I can remember the sense of violation and fear that my wife and I went through in Boston when a downstairs neighbor was burglarized.
Even worse is the potential outcome if somebody is home when a break-in occurs. Your chances of being assaulted if you are home during a break-in are 60%. The vast majority of rapes and sexual assaults happen in the home. Being in your home with you, provides an invader with privacy from the outside world.
You need to make break-ins reasonably harder.
Solid perimeter security (door and window protection and alarms) provide a number of safety advantages:
1. Delay – the longer it takes an intruder to break into your house the longer you’ll have to react to a break-in. If it’s hard enough – an amateur looking for a simple property crime might move on. Delaying an intruder gives you critical seconds to react where you might grab a weapon, escape, trip an alarm, or grab a phone and pray that the police come.
2. Detect – somebody simply turning a doorknob and walking in might not be noticed until it’s too late. Forcing a door or breaking a window makes noise. If you’re in the house you might be awakened by the noise if sleeping. If an intruder makes enough noise he might alert neighbors. You can’t defend against an attack you don’t know is coming.
If you are not home when an intruder enters, having a broken window or a kicked-in door when you return might alert you to the fact that a criminal is lying in wait inside your house. At that point you retreat to a safe location and call the police to clear the property. If your doors aren’t locked you may walk into a burglary in process completely unknowing.
3. Deter – Again, a determined intruder will get past any defense, but it will take time. Most criminals do not want to get hurt, caught, or identified. It’s simple economics, the greater the risk to an intruder, the less likely they will choose your house.
Recently someone tried to break into our house, but was scared away by our alarm. They opened a side-door that had been accidentally left unlocked. Good thing we had the alarm. It seems like the potential burglar walked around the house trying the doors until he found one unlocked.
The other argument I get against locking doors goes something like: I have lived here for 11 years and have never had a problem, or, I live out here in the country. In Maine, home invasion is on the increase particularly in rural areas where prescription and synthetic drug abuse is growing rampant. I live in one of the safest towns in the country. The issue is, you just never know.
In Boston, back in 2001, there was a serial rapist attacking women at random in the North End. The North End is a close-knit Italian community with almost zero crime.
Security is always a trade. You have to give something to get a bit of security. Sometimes it’s time , or money. Locking your doors takes around a single second each time. It really seems like a very minor trade for something that may very well save your life.
The reality is that people feel uncomfortable accepting the fact that they might become the victim of violence. The person I was talking to yesterday told me, “I don’t want to worry about those things.” Let me make this clear: preparing and making your family safer does not mean you live your life in perpetual worry.
After all, I have working smoke detectors in my house, but I don’t go to bed shivering in fear that my house might burn down. My doors are dead-bolted and the alarm is on when I go to sleep, and I sleep well. If something happens, I have at least thought about it, and have some preparation. I feel better knowing that, in the unlikely event of an emergency, my preparation means my family is more likely to fare better.
I cannot imagine that sticking your head in the sand and pretending that nothing bad could ever happen to you actually builds a worry-free lifestyle.