One thing you should do when you first move into a house, whether it's brand new or older, is make it hard for burglars to feel good about it. So, be burglar blockers - what to do when you first move in.
Burglars are opportunists. Burglars are predators. What do predators do? They go after the weakest, slowest, sickest, least able to defend itself in any group. Most of us live in groups - apartments, neighborhoods and developments.
Like predators, burglars examine those groupings very carefully. They are very smart, in a criminal way. Once a target is identified, they watch and plan. And take advantage.
On average, burglaries take between 6 and 10 minutes. They are very good at understanding human tendencies. They know right where to go and what exactly to look for when they enter your house.
This post will examine what to do to deter them from ENTERING your house altogether. The next post will explain what to do INSIDE your house if you already live there.
Given the choice to enter two houses, the burglar will pick the easiest. So, what can you do?
1. IF THE HOUSE HAS AN ALARM SYSTEM, USE IT! If it doesn't, consider installing one. Put stickers on the windows and a sign in the front yard. Just seeing that will deter a burglar. They don't want to take the chance that you have a monitored system with a silent alarm that calls authorities.
A smart alarm-system installer will put the keypads in a spot where they cannot be seen from a window or the street. When they are engaged, usually, a red light comes on. If a burglar can look through the window and see the system is turned off, you defeat the purpose of having it!
On inspections, I often give people burglar advice. Here is a client who listened to his home inspector! This keypad is visible from a rear deck! I suggested he cover the system window, and red light, so it cannot be seen from the door. He listened!
2. Add lighting! Burglars hate light! If you have enough light, consider changing them to motion sensor lights, particularly in the rear of the house, or on the rear deck. Keep trees and bushes far away because in high winds you can get a lot of turning on and off of the lights!
3. Get a dog. A big, loud one is best. But at least a loud one. Even a small, yappie dog is a deterrent because burglars don't want noise. They might have watched the house and know you aren't home. But they can't count on a neighbor NOT hearing the dog and calling the police.
I have a friend who is a federal agent. He says that stickers, like the one to the left, are very, very effective.
Forget your politics. Consider putting one on the front door even if there are no weapons in the house! No predator wants to deal with a circumstance in which he doesn't feel superior or stronger. He wants risk free.
4. Change the locks. Better yet, install locks that cannot be bumped. Do you know what bump keys are? If you don't, read this!
This will sound like a small thing and it is not. Look carefully at the photo on the right. That is the strike plate on my rear door, which I installed when I put in the great Medeco locks.
There are four screws. First, the strike plate is secured with 3" steel screws. They sink deep and all the way into the double stud beside the door. Busting through that door will make a LOT of noise! Secondly, the interior space has its own steel surround. It is 1" deep. The striker of the lock goes way into the jam. And it is further protected by steel, which is itself attached with those same 3" screws and ALSO screwed to the studs with 2" screws!
5. Get to know your neighbors! I have not one, but TWO trusted neighbors who have my house keys. This is good for emergencies - ever lock yourself out? But also to check the house if we aren't home. In addition, you can hide a key in the yard. There are various things you can buy to hide keys - the hollow rock or little magnet box. Or simply put keys in a spot nobody is likely to check. THE POLICE HIGHLY RECOMMEND AGAINST HAVING KEYS IN A COMBO BOX SOMEWHERE VISIBLE AND OUTSIDE THE HOUSE. They are too easily compromised with bolt cutters and the like.
6. Keep the front door and windows locked all the time. If your house is being watched and it is evident you are in the back yard and not paying attention, remember, the burglar will be in your house for only a few minutes and is very familiar with human tendencies.
HE IS AN OPPORTUNIST, SO DON'T GIVE HIM THAT OPPORTUNITY!
My recommendation: examine your house. In most areas, the police will come over and actually give you security advice if you ask them. Take advantage of that! They know your area pretty well. Inform yourself and make changes. You will feel better if you do.
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.
Office (703) 330-6388 Cell (703) 585-7560