Neighbors Burglarized: Hi-Tech, Low Cost Deterrents

It's a thought everyone dreads happening to them: being burglarized. But that's exactly what's happened to three of the homes next door to my mom's since the beginning of 2012. Apparently someone (perhaps a team) is scoping out homes during the day while people are away for work or running errands, and breaking into homes for jewelry and other smaller valuables...

Shortly afterward we spoke with a friend who works in the crimes division in law enforcement. With years of investigating similar crimes, she informed us a common tactic is for burglary teams to dress the part of door-to-door salesman, knocking on doors and taking note which homes went unanswered, then sneaking through back entries and walking out the front door with valuables. But she also noted burglars scope out homes day and night, looking for the easiest homes to target...basically any unoccupied home.

Back in the 80's our house was burglarized twice. That stopped after we took in a German Shepard, one of the best anti-crime measures pound per pound. But my mom isn't keen on adopting a dog and taking care of it, so I had to cross out that option.

A few years ago she had an alarm system installed, but she kept setting off false-positives, and the costs related to these mishaps turned her off to having an active system which she had to always worry about.

So this time it's up to me to determine an affordable and hands-off combination of deterrents. Despite sensationalist news of home robberies, the vast majority of stolen property happens when nobody is around, as described by the Crime Doctor:

The majority of home and apartment burglaries occur during the daytime when most people are away at work or school. The summer months of July and August have the most burglaries with February having the fewest crimes. Burglaries are committed most often by young males under 25 years of age looking for items that are small, expensive, and can easily be converted to cash.

Favorite items are cash, jewelry, guns, watches, laptop computers, VCRs, video players, CDs and other small electronic devices are high on the list. Quick cash is needed for living expenses and drugs. Statistics tell us that 70% of the burglars use some amount force to enter a dwelling, but their preference is to gain easy access through an open door or window. Ordinary household tools like screwdrivers, channel-lock pliers, small pry bars, and small hammers are most often used by burglars.

First, I'm going to install an alarm system with the option to operate without emergency notification. I've installed the SimpliSafe alarm system here at our own apartment and as the names implies, it proved to be both simple to install and use.

But more importantly, it's better snooping thieves are deterred before even getting close enough to test your deadbolts and windows. That means putting up visual warning signs the residence is under surveillance: security cameras.

Awhile back ago, one of our past contributors was having problems with destruction of property, primarily while he was away. Installing a few security cameras both visibly in plain sight and hidden (he installed one camera inside a plastic owl!) may help deter theft and vandalism. The threat of being caught on camera and the hassle of circumventing surveillance systems is usually enough for burglars to move onto an easier target.

A good trick is to purchase a set of working wireless security cameras and throw in a few additional dummy cameras to make the coverage of surveillance seem as noticeable as possible (throw in a few of those security system stickers and signs, just to be safe). Some models even move in a sweeping arc, blink regularly, and come equipped with fake power cord to complete the ruse.

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Another tech-related measure is pairing up a weekly automated outlet timer with a device called the FakeTV. Viewed from outside after dusk, FakeTV is reported by users as a pretty convincing facsimile of someone actually watching television while at home. Burglars will likely pass onto the next home if they believe someone is inside, so I'm also telling my mom to turn on her favorite classical music station on moderately loud (not enough to bother the neighbors, of course!) if she's away for longer than a few hours.

I've also pondered purchasing a robotic stand-in for a real canine: Rex Plus Electronic Watchdog, Barking Dog Alarm. The reviews for this device are a little more divided, some noting the motion detection is too sensitive or not sensitive enough. Others complain the recorded dog barking sounds unrealistic, thus announcing to burglars, not only is there not really a canine inside, but you're not home!

But likely the most cost effective solution is the most low tech, the .96 cents window lock. Sometimes it's the smallest changes that can make the biggest impact.

I'm going over tomorrow to install several of these security measures, alongside a new deadbolt and some motion detecting lighting, in the hopes I can secure the home and also secure my mom's worries. As much as any of these devices and security measures help, it's good to remember the best security is being aware of your surroundings and being communicating with your community/neighbors (community watch) to help cast a wider net to catch any suspicious behavior.