We’d never suggest that you shouldn’t pay the fifty bucks a month to have an alarm system and automated alert service. It’s a good investment and a reasonably effective deterrent. The reality is, though, that its highest level of effectiveness may just be that sign on your lawn.
Again, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the cost. Deterrents are deterrents. It’s important to realize that that’s all alarm systems can be sometimes. Most (retired, we assume) burglars will tell you that if no one’s home, they easily have a few minutes to grab what they can and leave even if an alarm is blaring. Law enforcement response times can be upwards of 40 minutes in busy, heavily populated areas.
The primary effect of an alarm is to, well, rob any would-be robbers of their silence and ability to operate in secrecy. That’s a powerful thing, to be sure. And given the choice between the house with a security system sticker in the window and the one next door without one, they’ll almost always opt for the easier heist.
So what are other effective deterrent means to secure your home, possibly to supplement an alarm?
That sign we just talked about in the window? You might find that a “Beware of the dog,” sign alongside it is pretty effective and turning away would-be thieves. Who wants to deal with an angry canine in the dark, even if it’s your loving golden retriever that your kids use as a pillow? Remember, no one knows what’s behind a door. A big bark is enough to turn most intruders away (plus, if someone were to try to invade your home while you were there, a dog would let you know much earlier than an alarm).
Keep in mind that most burglars want to operate in secrecy and meet little resistance; most will pick the easiest target that affords them the opportunity to hide. You can do a few things right now that will make that job a lot more difficult for them.
For one, open up your landscaping. Shrubs near the windows are pretty much a cat burglar’s dream come true. They can hide behind them and pry open a window without being seen.
Getting across the yard in the dark to that window – which you’re hopefully considering removing that shrub from – is another task you can make more difficult with an open, flat yard. Consider some simple outdoor lighting. It can even be string lights over a patio or something tasteful. And if you need to have shrubs, be sure to keep them trimmed regularly.
Motion-detecting floodlights are another good way to force a would-be thief to reconsider trying to enter your home. Most people have them around the front and back of the house, and that’s a good idea. Consider putting them at the corners too. They’re not that expensive, nor are they complicated to wire up or mount. Since they’re motion-sensitive, they’re not going to turn on without a good reason, and ideally you won’t even know they’re there most of the time.
Cameras, or even dummy cameras, are a good deterrent as well. Granted, they’re not as likely to yield actionable evidence in the event of a break-in, but they’re good to have all the same. At the very least, you don’t just sent the officer away with nothing but your statement. And there’s the deterrent factor to keep in mind as well. Why risk being caught if you could break into the house next door and get away with it?
As a final note, there are a couple precautions you can take as everyday tasks to minimize your risk to being a victim of a break-in. The first is that most crimes are opportunistic in nature, with risk-to-reward being a consideration of most criminals. A person in the home is a lot harder to deal with than an empty house, so if you can, try to leave a car in the driveway whenever possible. When you go on vacation, leave your spouse’s car there. If you have to fly, take an Uber to the airport. If you have a car that dies one day, leave it in the driveway (as long as it doesn’t look junky and annoy your HOA). The reason we’re going out of our way to suggest this is because cars in the driveway, or the implication that people are in the home, is one of the strongest deterrents to burglars by their own admission.
Speaking of people in the home, when you’re gone, leave a light or two on and have the TV on. It’s not going to drive your power bill up much, and may give off the impression that someone is home.
Finally – and this is important – break down and dispose of your package boxes. You might have only bought a set of $40 shelves from Walmart, but nothing screams, “Rob me because I just bought a big-ticket item” quite like a big box by the curb waiting for recycling to pick it up. This is especially important around the holidays, when a lot of people leave their gift item boxes by the curb at trash day. Your new TV? The X-Box you bought your teenager? All suggest you have valuable items that are ripe for a quick grab-and-dash.
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