Last weekend a close friend of mine had their house burgled. It's a horrible thought. A stranger, in your home, rummaging through your most personal items. Luckily, they weren't home at the time, and they didn't lose a lot. A few hundred dollars' worth of belongings along with the disappearance of most of their liquor cabinet, but that's not the scary part.
Imagine what would have happened if they were home. If the situation was different.
Today, I want to do another post on home security. We've touched on ways that you could better fortify your home against an intruder, and in this post, I want to cover all the problems I saw when I went to console my friend. Many of these issues I see in many of my student's homes. So, pay attention, and ensure you're not making any of these mistakes.
Secure your perimeter
Most of us have a fence around our property, but that usually doesn't do much more than serve as a deterrent. It's easy enough to simply walk up and open it. My friend's property had a decent fence, but there was no lock on the gate. I'd buy a padlock for this to keep it secure, at least at night, or get a simple auto-locking deadbolt. It won't stop someone from climbing the fence, but you'll be making it a little more difficult than just walking in.
Next came the light. Their backyard was pitch black at night, so we picked up about 12 of the solar-powered garden lights to place all along the inside of the fence. These come on automatically when the sun sets, and give you enough light to see what's going on without needing to shine a torch or head out into your backyard yourself.
I also saw that their motion-sensor light was turned off. They had gotten used to flicking this off at night, which was a big mistake in my book. You want this to come on and scare off any potential intruder before they even get close to your back or front porch. In my yard, it lights up like the Fourth of July, but it gives me plenty of eyes on whoever it is approaching my home.
I also recommend getting a set of security cameras. There's many options, but we simply bought a set of closed-circuit cameras from a local electronics store, and installed them ourselves. For two reasons. The presence of the cameras may be enough to deter the thieves, and if not, you'll have video evidence of the thieves that will help the cops bring them in to justice. Oh, and you can also remotely connect in to check on your home when you're away.
Secure the basement
This was how the thieves had actually broken in. Their shutters were secured with just a latch, and whilst the interior door was locked, the burglars were able to hide in the space in-between to be out-of-sight while they broke through the door. Not good. We called out a locksmith to add deadbolts to the basement door, and we also bought a new latch and lock for the shutters, that can be opened from either the inside or the out.
Oh, and don't forget the importance of curtains. Those tiny windows in your basement give wannabe thieves a good look into what's actually inside your home, especially if you're prone to leaving the lights on a night. So cover these up. It doesn't need to be fancy, but you should never let someone who is looking in, see what's going on inside your home.
Secure your house
Once the thieves were into the basement, they had access to the entire house as my friend didn't have locks on any of the internal doors. We replaced these, along with the interior door in the garage, so that they automatically lock once they close. It won't stop a determined intruder, but it adds one more layer of security to give you more time to escape, or arm yourself, if someone is trying to break in.
By now I'm going to assume you've already got a cover for your peep-hole in the front door, along with the reinforced plates that stop your door being kicked in. If not, invest in these too.
Next, comes the general maintenance of your home. Keeping things tidy is a good start to good home defense, as it shows that someone is always around taking care of your place. I'd recommend keeping any bushes or hedges nearby your home well-trimmed, so these aren't able to be used to give an intruder cover as they approach.
Finally, remember to arm yourself, just in case. I don't always carry my firearm with me when I'm at home, because in almost every room of my home there's a weapon in easy reach. The last thing I want to happen is get caught out without a way to defend myself. So buy pepper spray. Extra handguns. Whatever it takes. Imagine this. You're loading the washing in your basement, and someone breaks in upstairs. The gun you've got hidden in your dresser is now useless, because the thieves are in the way. You need to always have a means of defending yourself, within easy reach.
Having someone break into your home is a scary thing. They violate your one sanctuary in the world, and you'll be feeling unsafe for months on end. But often, it's the fault of the homeowner that their house was targeted. Criminals are usually out for an easy hit. The only way to combat this is to improve the security around your home, so they give up and move on to the next property. So, take a look around your home. Is there anything that should be improved, upgraded or secured today?