With home and retail burglaries on the rise, security has become a priority for many Californians, and experts say even simple defense strategies are sometimes all it takes to thwart criminals and protect yourself, your loved ones, and your property.
Security consultants first recommend taking measures to prevent even becoming a target in the first place. Criminals usually search for the path of least resistance, homes and businesses that are easy targets, and many gather both online and onsite intelligence before they strike.
“I always recommend locking windows and doors and arming security systems when leaving the home, even if it’s for just a few minutes,” said Chris McGoey, a Los Angeles-area security consultant and licensed private investigator.
Locking up and setting an alarm every time you leave the house may sound paranoid, but many burglaries happen in mere minutes, and it can make all the difference if a burglar tries a door handle to see if you locked it after leaving to walk the dog around the block. Often, victims have no idea they are being watched as they go about their routine business, and it only takes seconds to get inside an unlocked door or window.
“Most people think there’s little danger when they go out to run a short errand or to walk the dog,” said McGoey. “And surprisingly, most people who have alarm systems don’t use them.”
It’s often assumed that most burglaries take place at night, but the reality is most occur in the daytime when people are at work or running errands. Embracing the habit of locking doors and windows and engaging security systems is one of the easiest ways to avoid being burglarized but often the very rule of security most people break.
If you’ve ever locked yourself out of your home, your racing mind likely began to think about which loose screen or unlocked window there might be, or which one would be the easiest to tamper with and pop open, or perhaps a bathroom window left ajar to let the moisture out. If you’ve ever found yourself considering all the possible options of getting in to your home, then criminals will too.
Loose window coverings and door jams can easily be opened with a screwdriver. Make sure that screens and fittings are secure, and replace all doorjamb hinges with longer screws to help prevent doors from easily being kicked in.
Fortify Glass for Extra Protection
An increasingly popular security strategy for both homes and businesses is to fortify glass with window film that makes penetration more difficult, if not impossible.
According to Brad Campbell of Campbell Window Film in Huntington Beach, installing window film throughout a home or business can be an excellent deterrent, and it gives occupants critical time to flee, take cover, or defend themselves.
“Your time delay with window film is anywhere from 20 seconds to a minute and a half, depending on how determined the guy is, how heavy the tools are, and how aggressive he’s being in trying to break in,” Campbell said.
Campbell says that window film efficacy depends on the thickness of the film, and if the windows are tempered, making sure that the glass and film are attached properly to the frame of the doors or windows. The goal is to dissuade criminals, so the thicker the film, the more likely they will move on when unable to break the glass right away.
Window film is also helpful in limiting damage due to explosions or earthquakes.
“Window film can serve several purposes. It can be very effective in mitigating explosion or earthquake damage,” Campbell said, noting that statistically, the number one cause of death and serious injury in those situations is flying glass—more so than the blast itself or a collapsing building.
After Christmas, Don’t Advertise
It’s a familiar sight each December 26th—garbage cans next to garages, in alleys and side yards filled to the brim with holiday wrapping paper and gift boxes after a Christmas Day full of toys and treasures of all shapes and sizes.
For would-be burglars however, your trash may be just like a brightly lit store window filled with goodies for them to peruse. Unwittingly, people may give criminals the clues they are looking for when deciding on which houses to burglarize, simply by observing their trash.
“We always say, don’t advertise, don’t show everybody who passes by that you got the latest 100-inch TV or the hottest new PlayStation,” Heather Rangel, Public Information Officer with the Newport Beach Police Department told The Epoch Times.
“Break down all your boxes so that they fit in trash receptacles and are not in plain sight. The few minutes it takes could make all the difference when it comes to not giving thieves the clues they want.”
“Even if someone is driving through your community on their way somewhere else, what they see may entice them,” said Rangel. “Criminals will take advantage of that information, so use care when disposing of boxes and other items that may advertise what’s inside your home.”
Other Useful Tips
Closing blinds at dusk is often overlooked in Southern California, especially when the weather is nice, and the days are long. But once the sun goes down and indoor lights go on, a thief can easily observe who and what is inside from the cover of darkness. A purse or wallet on the kitchen counter, a big dog, or whether anyone else is home can easily be seen, helping burglars pick their targets.
Cluttered yards with overgrown shrubbery are often a sign to burglars that a resident is unlikely to have a security system. Trimming back trees and bushes that block clear view paths to doors and windows from the street can go a long way in not providing the cover thieves seek. Keeping trees maintained also lessens the opportunity for them to be used to scale a fence or access other parts of a home.
Never leave stacks of bricks, lumber, or heavy tools around that can be used to break a window or door. Ladders should be secured out of site as thieves can easily use one stored on a side yard to access higher windows and doors often left open by residents with a false sense of security.
It goes without saying that putting a door key under a mat or above a doorjamb is asking for trouble. Hide keys in unlikely locations or well-camouflaged areas using hide-a-key units, or give an extra key to a trusted neighbor.
Motion-detector and security lighting should be located both at the front as well as the back of a home. Although it can be pretty, avoid vanity home lighting as it does nothing to deter criminals. In fact, it may illuminate more than people realize by casting light towards people and valuables inside.
Getting creative with hiding valuables, and planting decoys, is a way to mitigate losses should a burglar manage to get inside. For example, take an old unused purse, or worthless laptop and leave it near the front door where a thief will easily spot it, grab it and take off.
Master bedrooms are usually the first area of a home that burglars seek out to find cash and jewelry, so putting items like these in baggies and hiding them in a spare bag of dog food or flour in the kitchen is a creative way to keep valuables from being discovered.
Security system signage and visible cameras are an obvious choice when it comes to home security, but porch pirates stealing packages often ignore them. Also, posting a “Beware of Dog” sign, even if you don’t have one, can be an effective deterrent since thieves usually avoid homes with dogs. The idea is to create an aura around your home of being proactive and prepared when it comes to safety and security, so thieves will seek easier targets.
Some criminals take to social media to gather information about a home or other location, so be sure to have a family agreement about what content is appropriate to post when it comes to photos inside and outside your home, or when away from home altogether. Posting a seemingly harmless group photo in front of the Christmas tree or out for holiday cheer with friends can give criminals information you may not even realize is included in the photo.
For example, in 2016, a Fullerton college maintenance worker was able to target women by browsing through their open public posts on social media sites like Instagram and tracking the GPS coordinates of the photos. He then drove to their locations and managed to sneak into the rooms of 33 female college students, stealing laptops, jewelry, and even underwear.