Target Hardening

Written By: John Blenker
Published: July 1, 2013

In many of my past articles I discussed various aspects of “Target Hardening”. This month I would like to reiterate reasons why this concept is important in enhancing the overall security of your homes, ranches, businesses and lessening your chances of becoming a crime victim.

“Target Hardening” is a term describing actions taken to make your ranch or rural residence look less attractive to criminals by increasing their chances of being seen, heard and caught.

Most people do not realize how easily they can become a crime victim. Conversely, it is just as easy to prevent becoming a victim by using a few proven techniques. Careful analysis of both individual crime reports and overall crime data show that a small investment of time and money in advance leads to a priceless payoff by reducing worries about your property and increased confidence in your family’s safety.
Several components have been found important to preventing residential burglaries and I believe they would be just as effective in preventing rural crimes as well.

The concepts are as follows:

Neighborhood/Farm Watch

The Neighborhood Watch Program is endorsed by local and national law enforcement agencies as an integral part of keeping communities safe from crime. We encourage all residents to consider starting a program. Logically, you and your neighbors are the ones who really know what is going on in your community. By cooperating with each other and with law enforcement, you can fight crime before it happens. The effort costs virtually nothing, yet has proven to be extremely effective.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office will help any community launch its own Neighborhood Watch. The program teaches how to identify and report suspicious activity, how to better safeguard home and property and how to be prepared in case of emergencies

In addition, the Sheriff’s Office offers free crime prevention help to all citizens. These services include material on local crime statistics, signs and useful crime prevention literature.

Other helpful actions to safeguard ranch and home Residential
Security Check List

  • General: House number clearly displayed so that law enforcement and other emergency vehicles can find the house quickly.
    Shrubs and bushes:  trimmed so there is no place for someone to hide.
    Light the Night leave no dark areas around house, garage, or yard at night that would hide prowlers.
  • Entries:  Every outside door should have a bright, working light to illuminate visitors.
    Outdoor lights: Keep on in the evening-whether someone is home or not.  Install motion sensitive lighting.
  • Lock Up: Gate latches, garage doors, electrical circuit boxes, and shed doors with high-security padlock.
  • Grills, lawn mowers, and other valuables: store in a locked garage or shed, or hide from view if left out in the open,
    Doors: solid core or metal-core and secured by a deadbolt lock with a minimum 1-inch throw, equipped with 4-inch strike plate plus 180 degree viewer.
  • Windows: adequate locks screens and are free from concealing structure or landscaping.
  • Interior: Alarms: should be maintained and tested regularly.
    Timers: Install at least two light timers set to turn the lights on and off in a logical sequence, when away from home.

Personal Property

  • Record Serial Numbers:  Serial numbers of valuables such as televisions, stereos, and computers should be documented.
  • Home inventory: Keep it up to date and include pictures. Keep a copy in a secure place.


Alarm systems should be part of an overall home security strategy, but keep in mind that even the most expensive security system will fail if the structure is left unlocked or the alarm is not working or activated.  Before investing in an alarm system, you should obtain at least three estimates and get ideas about what will meet your needs and lifestyle. Although there is no ideal system that can be recommended for everyone, a few basics apply. For instance, every exterior opening, including those on the upper level, should be alarmed.

Know How the System Works

Is it hard-wired or wireless-remote? What is the unit’s frequency and what else is operating on that frequency? Does it use magnetic contact points on the openings, and which doors and windows are included if it does? Are there motion or noise sensors, and are you aware of common causes of false alarms, including insects and pets?

Become Familiar with the Features

Has the alarm company thoroughly explained all of your system’s workings with you? Is there a hidden panic button or code? You should be aware that no alarm activation goes directly to a law enforcement agency, but rather uses a phone line to call the monitoring company. At that point, the company notifies the Sheriff’s Office on the non-emergency phone line and waits for assistance. What about the maintenance of the system and a required battery back-up? If you are out of town and your system malfunctions, what plans are in place with the company?

False Alarms

Having an alarm on your premises requires accepting responsibility for false alarms. They are potentially dangerous and wasteful to our deputies on patrol. We handle hundreds of false alarms every month and many are a result of faulty equipment.

Secure Your Valuables

Most rural crimes are crimes of opportunity, wherein the victims have left their homes or vehicles unsecured.  Unfortunately, thieves seek out these vulnerable opportunities, accessing homes and garages through unlocked doors and windows with minimal effort. Reliable estimates from reports and analysis indicate that the average burglary takes just three to five minutes.  Most burglars will pick the most vulnerable and easy to access target giving them the best opportunity to get in and out quickly.

Whether you are at home or away always make sure you keep in mind the crime prevention measure you have put in place and use them.

Remember to:

  • Lock all doors and windows
  • Put away valuables outside, such as lawnmowers, bicycles, tools farm equipment.
  • Lock sheds or other dwellings on the property
  • Don’t leave valuables or keys in your vehicle, even if it is in your driveway
  • Don’t leave valuables in plain sight when you are not home

If you have questions please contact your Sonoma County Sheriff’s Rural Crimes task force or Crime prevention officer to set up a neighborhood/Ranch watch program in your area.

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