Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Safety 101: Do you know what they are after?

Spring is here and home break-ins are abloom. Want to know what they are after?

Prescription drugs.

While electronics, jewelry and cash are still on their radar, prescription drug related break-ins have significantly increased over the past few years. Burglars will first and foremost bee-line straight to the master bathroom to raid drawers and closets for drugs that 1) they can re-sell for instant cash and/or 2) they themselves are addicted to.

Contrary to popular belief, it's not the warmer weather that brings out more burglars. Criminal tendencies and addiction continue year round and when times are tough financially, people become desperate beyond rational behavior. Burglary however is a crime of opportunity and when homeowners get increasingly careless about security when spring weather arrives, it's an open invitation for such behavior. People leave open their windows. They start spending longer days out and about and are less careful about closing windows and doors when they leave. And traveling increases.
One common characteristic of most all burglars: they are keenly observant. You know those bothersome door hangers people put on your front door, plugging a service or product? Police say burglars look for homes where the hanger stays on, because that’s a sign no one is around. There have been cases where burglars have even created bogus door hangers advertising fake businesses and services as a ruse to see who’s home and who’s not.

It is recommended that before you go on vacation, you take a “visual snapshot” of your routine over a typical seven-day period. For example, if you usually go to bed at the same time, install timers to turn the lights off at a set time in certain rooms, and then turn on again when you normally would. You also can set radios or televisions to go on and off at certain times. Or just leave the radio playing.

Burglars also have their eyes on your trash. They will allegedly target homes where trash cans are put out several days early, or where empty receptacles were sitting curbside several days after. It is suggested that you find a neighbor or someone you can trust to put out your trash and bring it back while you’re gone.

And if you have a lawn service, continue to have them cut the grass while you are away. Burglars love a house that is overgrown.

Some other helpful tips straight from the horse's mouth:

1. Of course I look familiar. I was here just last week cleaning your carpets, painting your shutters, or delivering your new refrigerator.

2. Hey, thanks for letting me use the bathroom when I was working in your yard last week. While I was in there, I unlatched the back window to make my return a little easier.

3. Love those flowers. That tells me you have taste... and taste means there are nice things inside. Those yard toys your kids leave out always make me wonder what type of gaming system they have.

4. Yes, I really do look for newspapers piled up on the driveway. And I might leave a pizza flyer in your front door to see how long it takes you to remove it..

5. If it snows while you're out of town, get a neighbor to create car and foot tracks into the house. Virgin drifts in the driveway are a dead giveaway.

6. If decorative glass is part of your front entrance, don't let your alarm company install the control pad where I can see if it's set. That makes it too easy.

7. A good security company alarms the window over the sink. And the windows on the second floor, which often access the master bedroom - and your jewelry. It's not a bad idea to put motion detectors up there too.

8. It's raining, you're fumbling with your umbrella, and you forget to lock your door - understandable. But understand this: I don't take a day off because of bad weather.

9. I always knock first. If you answer, I'll ask for directions somewhere or offer to clean your gutters. (Don't take me up on it.)

10. Do you really think I won't look in your sock drawer? I always check dresser drawers, the bedside table, and the medicine cabinet.

11. Here's a helpful hint: I almost never go into kids' rooms.

12. You're right: I won't have enough time to break into that safe where you keep your valuables. But if it's not bolted down, I'll take it with me.

13. A loud TV or radio can be a better deterrent than the best alarm system. If you're reluctant to leave your TV on while you're out of town, you can buy a $35 device that works on a timer and simulates the flickering glow of a real television. (Find it at

14. Sometimes, I carry a clipboard. Sometimes, I dress like a lawn guy and carry a rake. I do my best to never, ever look like a crook.

15. The two things I hate most: loud dogs and nosy neighbors.

16. I'll break a window to get in, even if it makes a little noise. If your neighbor hears one loud sound, he'll stop what he's doing and wait to hear it again. If he doesn't hear it again, he'll just go back to what he was doing. It's human nature.

17. I'm not complaining, but why would you pay all that money for a fancy alarm system and leave your house without setting it?

18. I love looking in your windows. I'm looking for signs that you're home, and for flat screen TVs or gaming systems I'd like. I'll drive or walk through your neighborhood at night, before you close the blinds, just to pick my targets.

19. Avoid announcing your vacation on your Facebook page. It's easier than you think to look up your address. Parents: caution your kids about this. This happens everyday. 

20. To you, leaving that window open just a crack during the day is a way to let in a little fresh air. To me, it's an invitation.

21. If you don't answer when I knock, I try the door. Occasionally, I hit the jackpot and walk right in.

Sources: Convicted burglars in North Carolina , Oregon , California , and Kentucky; security consultant Chris McGoey, who runs and Richard T. Wright, a criminology professor at the University of Missouri-St Louis, who interviewed 105 burglars for his book Burglars on the Job.  

Ways to have a burglar-resistant home:

— Consider a home security system.
— Leave the key with a neighbor or someone else you trust, not under a flower pot or in an easy-to-find-spot.
— Don’t announce your vacation plans to the world on Facebook and Twitter.
— Keep your lawn mowed and your large trees and shrubs trimmed back from windows and other entry points.
— Keep lights on inside or use timers to turn lights on and off at specific times. Put outdoor lights in places a burglar might hide.
— Keep doors and windows closed and locked, especially when away for any length of time.
— Install deadbolts on exterior doors.
— A piece of wood placed inside your window can keep a burglar from sliding the window up from outside.
— Engrave your driver’s license number on valuables inside the home.
— Putting all your valuables in a safe does little good unless the safe is properly mounted to a wall.
— Have mail and the newspaper stopped if you are away for several days.
— Be aware of what burglars are seeking: prescription drugs, jewelry, laptops, iPads, cash and valuable coins. Stash them in unassuming places.

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