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Protecting Against Burglary

Introduction

Burglary is a crime that causes damage to not only property but to the victim’s sense of safety and security. The most current data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting statistics indicates that there were 21,188,005 burglaries in the U. S. in 2011 and that was an increase from the previous year. 1) The victims lost a massive, $4.8 billion in property, of which some was recovered due to insurance and that means higher rates for everyone. 2) Although burglary is not 100% preventable, this article will delve into some techniques that can lower your exposure to burglary and how to better the chances of recovering your property in the event that it is stolen.

Hard and Soft Targets

Within the law enforcement community, commercial and residential structures are graded as being a “hard” or “soft” target with regards to how appealing and easy to breech that structure is for potential thieves. A “soft” target refers to a business or residence that has weaknesses and obvious avenues for breeching. A “hard” target describes a business or residence that is more difficult to break in to and has systems in place to deter people from breaking into it. When officers or detective go to the scene of a commercial or residential burglary, they look for ways in which the property was a soft target and then discuss with the owners ways of improving the security of the area, or on how to “harden” the target to reduce the risk of future burglaries.

One method that is used to deter burglaries is to remove shrubbery from all of the entry points and windows. This makes concealing an illegal entry more difficult. Criminals attempt to find a way to enter and leave a building without being seen from people passing by and also ways that will not be immediately discovered if seen from the roadway. An example of this would be a window that has a large shrub covering it. By removing the shrub, you eliminate a hidden path for criminals to use.

Another important improvement along these lines is to ensure adequate lighting on all areas of the property so that no shadows are left for criminals to exploit. It is a good practice to place these security lights on timers that come on whether the homeowner is at home or not and to have some of the lights be motioned-sensored spotlights that come on unexpectedly. This way if a burglar does find a weak area in your lighting system, his movements may trip lights he cannot see and force him to retreat or face being detected.

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Another technique is to ensure that all valuable equipment, such as lawnmowers, motorcycles, leaf blowers, and power tools, are kept out of sight during the day. By keeping this type of equipment stored indoors, it limits what a passing burglar might see when he is canvasing the area for targets. This includes homeowners closing their garage doors when the garage is not in use. Leaving it open, even while doing yard work on the weekend, is an invitation for thieves to make an inventory of possible valuables to steal at a later date.

One of the most important tools in the battle against burglary is the purchase and utilization of a security alarm system. These types of systems have become increasingly affordable in recent years and the cost to replace stolen items will far outweigh the cost of maintenance and monitoring of an alarm system. It is imperative that yard and window signs are utilized promoting the use of these types of systems. Criminals roam neighborhoods several times before actually breaking into a house and seeing signs showing the use of an alarm system will force them to concentrate on “softer” targets. It is also a good practice to consider adding a video surveillance system on the property. These too have become more cost effective and easier to use for the layperson. A professional thief will see these cameras and be less likely to risk being identified. If your house is violated, the footage can be used to identify the perpetrators or suspect vehicles involved with the crime. Make sure at least one of the cameras faced the roadway and at least one of the cameras near the windows or doors is at eye level. Facial features can be greatly distorted with a camera angle that is above head facing downward.

Using heavy duty dead bolts and other high grade locking mechanisms will make it harder for thieves to break in. Although any door can be breached, the more time it takes to break into a building the better. Criminals know that time is of the essence and they rely on getting in and out quickly in order to stay ahead of responding police officers. The longer it takes them to get in is less time they have to take items and get away with them. An added measure of safety is to use wooden dowel roads or metal rods in windows to prevent them from being opened. If windows have to be broken, the breaking glass will cause noise that may be heard causing the break in to be interrupted. Using rods behind sliding glass doors will created the same desired effect.

Minimizing the Damage

As stated before, not all burglaries are going to be prevented. If someone is desperate enough, determined enough, and ruthless enough, they will find a way into your house or business. There are ways to make the damage that they deal out a little less destructive and to help to recover your stolen property. One of the most helpful tools to recover your stolen property is to make a list of all your valuables with the make, model, serial number, and description of each item. This list should be hidden in the home in an unlikely place as well as kept of premises at a family member’s home or in a safety deposit box. All your items should be photographed and the photos stored on a thumb drive. A picture is worth a thousand words and a picture of your item is going to be much more important to identify the items than just a description will be. Make a specific mark that you can identify on your valuables and electronics in a place that only you know about; this will allow you to identify your property even if the serial number is removed.

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Conclusion

These are just a few of the tricks and techniques that can help you to avoid a burglary and minimize the damage if a burglary does occur. If your neighborhood does not have a neighborhood watch, you may want to invest the time in organizing one with the help of your local Police or Sheriff. The more eyes you have watching your property the better. If you are planning on going on vacation, have someone pick up you mail and notify the police department so that they can perform extra patrols of your home. Many departments do this free of charge to bolster relations with the communities.


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