Early Saturday morning I left home with my family. About 8-9 minutes later someone unknown to us tried to gain entry to our house. He or she opened a door we almost never use and was apparently frightened away by our alarm system responding.
Some minutes later the police responded and secured our home. Nothing was taken or was out of place. When I returned home, I went through every room, closet, and garage to make sure.
Here’s the thing: I live in one of the absolutely safest areas in the country. My town has a nearly non-existent violent crime rate, and a very low property crime rate. But this can happen anywhere.
While somewhat disturbing, our secondary line of defense (the alarm system), worked exactly as it should. We’re now reviewing our home security to further prevent and incidents like these. What should you do to better prepare yourself and your home from unauthorized entry?
First, become aware of the reality of burglary and home invasion. Like self-defense, most people get their ideas about burglary and home invasion from TV.
How and When do Burglaries Most Happen
Unlike on TV, most burglars don’t wear a ski mask, strike in the dead of night while you are home. Criminals who are after your property do not want to get caught, hurt, or identified.
Statistics show that most burglaries happen during the daytime and most entries are made through a door (second place is a window). An interview with a professional burglar said he preferred the back door because the police always came through the front and it would be easier to escape.
Home Invasion Statistics
Home invasion is when a break-in happens when a home is occupied. Here are department of justice statistics about home invasion:
- 38 percent of assaults and 60 percent of rapes occur during home invasions
- One in five homes undergoes a home invasion or break-in
- There are more than 8,000 home invasions every day in North America
- 50 percent of home invasions involve the use of a weapon; the most common weapons used are knives or other cutting instruments
- In 48 percent of home invasions, victims sustain physical injuries
- Victims age 60 or older make up 17 percent of home invasion victims
- In 68 percent of home invasions, victims and the accused are strangers; in 11 percent of these cases, victims and the accused are friends, business associates, or family
Congressman Chris Murphy (D Connecticut) is currently trying to make home invasion a federal crime – a move I welcome.
Burglary and Home Invasion Prevention
I’d like you to consider all of your personal security needs with the idea of defense in depth. This means that you have layers of security in place in case one or more layers fail.
Previously I wrote that our alarm system was a secondary layer of security – actually it might even be third.
Layer 1 – Operational Security
In this age of social media, people tend to over-share. How many people post vacation plans to Facebook, or “check in” to places when they are away. Insurance companies are now even considering looking at your social media status when doing a risk assessment before issuing a policy.
Loose lips sink ships. Simply don’t give information away that could be used against you – it’s pretty common sense.
Operational security also includes awareness. You can have a healthy level of awareness without going into paranoia. If there’s a neighborhood watch, it might be a good idea to join. Don’t let people follow you into your house – be aware of people following you.
Another layer of operational security is in flaunting wealth. It may be great to flash that $30,000 Rolex at the club, but to a drug addict looking to score – that’s going to be a tempting prize. For security purposes, it is often better to fit into your surroundings than to stand out. You must use your discretion in this regard.
Owning an nice home in an affluent neighborhood doesn’t necessarily make you safe. Burglars frequently target nicer homes because they have nicer possessions. I read an interview with a burglar who even burgled Liberace’s house.
Layer 2 – Perimeter Security
Your perimeter security is anything that keeps unwanted people out of your house. This includes doors, locks, lights, and alarm systems.
I don’t want to get into too much technical detail with door and lock systems, but there are ways to reinforce these so that they are harder to pick, bump, drill or force. I would encourage you to do your own research here.
A good alarm system is great. Even having the sign on your lawn may deter the average criminal from trying your place. Do your own research, but an alarm company I recommend is FrontPoint Security. Their rates are extremely reasonable and the way their system works make it very hard to defeat. You can usually get a break on your homeowner’s insurance by having a monitored alarm system.
Good lighting is a deterrent and also a means of increasing awareness of potential threats at night. I mention it last simply because most burglaries happen during the day.
Layer 3 – Endpoint Security
This layer is everything you do to prepare should your first two layers of security fail. In other words – someone gets in.
Here are my top recommendations:
- Have an escape plan with your family – treat a home invader as you would a fire. Everybody gets out as fast as possible and meets up somewhere.
- If you can’t escape – have a safe room. Use a code phrase like “safe room” and, if anybody yells that, the whole family runs for that room. That room should be able to be locked from the inside and it’s a good idea to keep any weapons and a charged cell phone in that room. The first person in should dial 911. It doesn’t have to be million dollar Panic Room like in the Jodie Foster movie, but you can do some simple things to fortify it.
- Train every adult or teen in the family in armed and unarmed self-defense. Even if you don’t own a gun or plan to – get gun training (in case you ever take one away). Learn how to use a knife, stick and bare hands under pressure. You don’t have to beat up a 300 pound sociopath – you merely need to facilitate an escape.
This is just the tip of the iceberg on home security. I encourage you to learn as much as you can, and I’ll write further on this most important topic.