Statistics show that burglaries are on the upswing in Sonoma County. There were 120 home thefts reported from September 2012 to November 2012. This year there were 138 reported. Unfortunately, both the number of thieves prosecuted and the property recovery rate are relatively low.
By definition, a burglary occurs when a person(S) enters a structure or locked vehicle with the intent to steal things of value inside. The typical burglar looks for easy pickings and if entering the premises takes too long, he will go somewhere else.
The key, then, to stopping them is to make entry tougher. We, in law enforcement, call that “hardening the target.” Here are some suggestions for preventing a burglary in your home or car.
1. Choose the right place to live. Local law enforcement compiles statistics regarding crimes in an area and publishes crime frequency information on-line where you can read it easily. You can also ask business owners and residents who live in the area about how secure they feel.
2. Take preventative action. Don’t think because you have never been burglarized that it is okay to leave your home unlocked.
- Check your home daily and nightly to make sure doors and windows are locked. Teach other household members to do the same.
- Do not open your door to strangers and instruct your children to follow the same rule.
- Use your automatic garage door, drive in, and then close the door before you get out of your car. It’s also a good idea to unplug the opener when you are out of town and placing a lock on the door rails to thwart manual lifting of the door.
- Do not allow people working in your home to be left unattended.
- If you hide a key outside make sure it is hidden in a not so obvious place. Use a hidden coded lock box.
- Check with family members as you come and go from home.
- Have a family discussion about what to do in the event a burglary occurs or worse, a “Home Invasion Robbery.” Make a plan so everyone knows exactly what to do.
3. Utilize Crime Prevention Services of Your Local Law Enforcement Agency. Ask the Crime Prevention Officer in your neighborhood for statistics and suggestions for burglary prevention. He/she may even be able to conduct a safety analysis of your home.
4. Neighborhood Watch works for everyone. Join or form a neighborhood/farm watch group in your area. I have made numerous arrests as a result of tips phoned in by these groups. With one point of contact in a neighborhood watch group, information tends to be more accurate. The neighborhood watch concept brings a community together working as a whole toward public safety and disaster preparedness.
5. Get a Dog. Dogs do provide a certain amount of deterrence. “Beware of dog” signs help, as well. An alert, noisy dog will bark at strangers and often scare them away.
6. Make sure your house number is easy to see. This will ensure prompt response from law enforcement and fire personnel. Know addresses, nearest cross street and other landmarks around your property so that you can provide sound directions to dispatch personnel.
7. Pick up your newspapers. Make sure your house looks as if someone lives there. Do not leave newspapers or garbage cans out for prolonged periods of time. Packages left on front porches are a sure sign that no one is home.
8. Don’t advertise that you are away from home.
- Place a hold on your mail when you are away from home.
- Place interior lights on a timer
- Consider a reputable house sitter that may take care of your pets and home at the same time. This might save you money in pet boarding.
9. Secure your doors. Most thieves use doors to get inside. Make sure yours are secure. Many burglaries occur as a result of unlocked doors or a door left open for a pet. Recently we investigated an incident when the thief entered the home through a pet door.
- If your locks need to be upgraded now is the time to do it.
- Place a minimum of 3″ screws in the strike plate on your door frames.
- Thicker is better. Replace hollow core doors with solid ones of wood or metal.
10. Windows: Make sure your windows stay locked and closed. If you do open them, make sure they open no more than six inches. Place dowels in the windows and sliding doors to prevent them from being forced open.
11. Secure your home:
- Lighting. Make sure porch and perimeter lights are working. Replace bulbs if necessary. Motion detector lights are a plus. Make sure lighting is out of the reach of persons that may tamper with them.
- Fences are a proven security measure. Make sure your fence is secure and safe.
- Keep shrubs and trees in your yard trimmed so there are no hiding places. Vegetation in front of windows should also be pruned so that there is a clear view of the window.
12. Alarms. If you have an alarm make sure it works. Keep the alarm company up to date on gate combinations and contact information so you can be reached quickly should need arise.
13. Cameras: Prices for DVR camera systems have come down over the years and the quality is improving. Trail cameras are another inexpensive option and they are wireless. With today’s smart phone capabilities some of these DVR cameras will send you an alert and you might yourself witness someone attempting to break into your house and can notify authorities instantly.
“Target Hardening”: as you may recall in previous articles I spoke about “target hardening” as a rule of thumb to simply make it harder for you to become a victim of a crime. Take the simple steps listed above and you may very well prevent a burglary to your home or business. If you have any questions, contact your Rural Crimes Task Force Deputies at 707-565-3940.