Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Make Your Home Ugly (to burglars)

Have you ever watched that most awesome show TLC used to have, called "It Takes A Thief"? Two ex burglars case a neighborhood, then break in and rob the house. Of course, it's all legit now so they first get the homeowner's permission, wire the house with cameras, and then give the shit back afterwards. Aside from that, it's something every homeowner should watch. Jon's ability to seemingly climb up vertical surfaces is astounding, but hardly unique to him. Your average crackhead looking to score a TV he can flip for some rock may be too stupid to do anything more creative than break a window or try to kick in a door, but a serious burglar will be alert, agile, and above all, intelligent.

As an aside, I'm always amused by the homeowners who get all mad at him. Hello? You fucking agreed to have him do it, remember? Idiots.

The first thing you have to know is, if someone wants in your house, I mean REALLY wants in your house, he's getting in. No security system, no dog, no hedge, will keep him out. However, these sorts of burglaries are not the norm, generally a product of a personal grudge. With that in mind, it would be to your advantage to avoid pissing off crazy fucks and people who associate with crazy fucks.

A good burglar will carefully case the neighborhood before selecting the house he wants to hit. Much like the two campers who, upon seeing a bear, begin to run and the one camper says, "I don't have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you!", your goal is to make your house look less appealing than those around you. This means using a number of defenses, rather than just sticking an ADT sign in your front yard and calling it good.

Take A Look Around

Take a good long look at your house. What do you see? Are the windows low to the ground, allowing for easy entry? Is the wood around your doors and windows solid, or rotted with peeling paint? Are the shrubs and trees obscuring windows or doors? Now walk up to the front door and stand there. Can you see the window locks from there? Are they unlocked? Head around to the back, where your meters are. How's the access from there look? Is there a nice high privacy fence to keep neighbors from seeing what's going on in the back yard? You may realize your house looks a lot more vulnerable than you realized, and remember that you don't even know what you're looking for. An experienced burglar will spy access points you didn't even think of.

Landscaping For Protection

One of the most cost effective things you can do to deter burglars from your home is to use landscaping effectively. A good landscape job will not only make them frown, but will increase the value of your home. There are a myriad of plants and shrubs that are beautiful to look at, and very painful to touch. For shrubs, check into Barberry, an attractive shrub with a bazillion evil thorns that will shred your legs should you choose to walk through them. Of the hollies, Chinese holly is a killer. All roses have thorns, but some have an ungodly amount of them. Russian Olive is a beautiful grey green, thorned shrub that can be tree formed. Leatherleaf Mahonia is an unusual shrub that has leaves similar to the Chinese holly. Use these nasty plants around all low windows to discourage easy breaking and entering via the window. Also consider making a nice patch of them along the inside of your back fence, to give fencing jumping thieves something "soft" to land in.

Security System

Even if you can't afford one, get a sign for one and stick it somewhere it can be seen from the road. While most burglars can be in and out before the cops arrive, when given the choice between a house with a system and one without, they'll take the later every time.

Dog Doors

Most people think that a dog will protect their house while they're not home. Nothing could be further from the truth. The vast majority of dogs will allow the burglar to do whatever he pleases, so long as you're not home. Their protective instincts kick in only around you, their food, bed, and toys. I never once worried about a dog. The 2 who did cause me a degree of concern were easily handled with a cheap piece of steak I brought along. I tossed it into another room, let them run in after it, and shut the door. Dog problem solved. You can humph and say "well you didn't meet my PIT/DOBIE/ROTTIE/MASTIFF/whatever. All I can say is, no matter how bad your dog is, a bullet in his head will end the threat. Don't count on your dog stopping a burglar. Your best hope is that he deters them from entering in the first place.

Barking won't do a damn thing, because your neighbors learned to tune out that annoying racket a long time ago. I've also found that the dogs you have to watch out for aren't the ones talking all the shit, but the ones who never take their eyes off of you. Back to the dog door though, lot of burglars of a certain ethnicity harbour a deep fear of dogs, so you're better off making them think you have a big one. I don't care if you have a Chihuahua, put in a dog door big enough for a Rottie. Even if they don't see it, they'll assume he's huge, mean, and waiting for them inside. If you're worried about someone coming in through that dog door (a valid concern), just make a dummy door. Board over the backside, and use screws so it can't be easily kicked in. Don't laugh. I knew a very talented burglar who refused to go anywhere near a house with a dog door big enough for a Labrador to go through.

Use Your Locks

Too many people are guilty of leaving doors and windows unlocked, particularly famblies with kids. This is why some burglars target houses with obvious signs of kids living there (cheerleading/football signs, cheap plastic toys in the yard). Everyone knows kids are bad for leaving everything wide open, plus a house full of kids often means a house loaded to the gills with electronics and gaming systems. Those locks aren't there for decoration. Use them, and teach your kids to use them too. Tell them a child rapist got out of prison and is in the area if you have to, but make the little bastards learn to lock the doors. And on that note....

Clean Up Your Fuckin Yard

Keep the bikes and all that plastic kiddie crap in the damn back yard, out of sight. It's cheap, ugly, and your neighbors don't want to see it strewn all over the place every time they drive past. Also, no one gives a shit that your daughter is a Bulldog Cheerleader, or your son is #44 on the JV team. All that shit is nothing more than a calling card for burglars. Busy parents + irresponsible kids = unlocked house, and kids nearly always equal computers, laptops, dozens of expensive and easy to flip games, plus TVs, blue ray dvd players, blackberries, and Wii. Teenage girl? Good chance to score some designer stuff ... and most burglars tend to be male. Male thieves have girlfriends who would love to have your daughter's new Fendi bag and DG shades. For that matter, female burglars might enjoy those items themselves...

Shut The Garage

You'd be amazed at how many snatch and grabs occur in broad daylight, through open garage doors. Kids wander by and grab a bike out of the garage, while more aggressive thieves will slip inside to see if you leave the keys in your ignition. Some may even take a second to peek inside, in case you keep the car and house keys all on a hook beside the door to the garage. And others still may decide to come on inside and see if there's anything, or anyone, inside of interest. It takes one second to hit that button, so shut the garage door already.

Don't Be A Dick

Make friends with your neighbors. It isn't hard to do, and it may save your ass someday. I grew up in a wealthy suburb, in a nice neighborhood, and we were not friends with any of our neighbors. I played with the kids on the block, but our parents did not socialize. If a car appeared in front of someone's house, we just assumed it belonged there. Why was that? I guess we just didn't care... and no one else seemed to either. Minor crimes were common, mostly vandalism, theft out of garages, items stolen from unlocked vehicles. A few break ins. I suspect all were committed by someone living in the area, something that might have been prevented if we'd all been on good terms with each other. I now live in a small community where we all know one another, and we make an effort to stay in contact. Crime is nonexistant... and even if I were not retired, I would never take a chance on a B&E around here. Someone would notice.

Take some time this weekend to make a batch of brownies, or cookies... or buy them if you can't cook... and go visit your neighbors. Ask them how they're doing, compliment them on their home or whatever, but make friends. Your friends will watch out for you long after your unknown neighbors draw the curtains and walk away.