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Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ December 2020

For Your Awareness

How to Prevent Your Home from Being Burglarized

By Jay Santiago

According to the 2019 Maryland Uniform Crime Report, Montgomery County ranks fourth among the top five counties with the most breaking or entering offenses in the state.  About 61 percent involved forcible entry and 67 percent were residential.  While these statistics can be unsettling, and we are hunkering down during the Covid-19 pandemic, there a few things you can do to lower the probability of being victimized.

A few years ago, a group of investigative reporters in Portland, Ore., surveyed 86 inmates serving time for burglary in the Oregon Department of Corrections.  The reporters asked seventeen questions ranging from how they made entry, time of day they preferred, and even to which homes they avoided [www.ktvb.com/article/news/ crime/we-asked-86-burglars-how-they-broke-into-homes/277-344333696].  What these reporters learned is exactly what I saw during my eight years as a patrol officer in the northern part of Montgomery County.  I responded to numerous residential burglaries.  In my experience, burglaries happened more often during the day, as noted in the Maryland crime stats report.  In fact, in 2019, 3,878 happened between 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and 2,530 between 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.  I personally noticed that homeowners could have avoided the entire ordeal by simply locking the doors or reinforcing their locks.  A good way to identify what you should do is by understanding a burglar’s method of operation, which boils down to three steps:  selection, approach, and entry.

Here are a few recommendations to make a burglar think twice about selecting your home.  Remember, the trick is to make him or her think someone is home at all times and there is no place to hide before they enter.

  1. Consider asking your neighbor to pick up your newspapers or deliveries while you are out.
  2. Always try to leave a car (or a neighbor’s) in your driveway or in front of your home.
  3. Open second floor blinds and leave a light on or TV on to make your home look occupied.
  4. Trim or cut down all bushes and shrubbery against the home to avoid giving the burglar a place to hide from passersby.
  5. Do not put out empty boxes of expensive purchases for recycling until pick-up day.

Make it extremely difficult to approach your property without being seen.  While the responses from the inmates varied on security systems, I have known them to serve as great deterrents, especially if the cameras are visible upon approach.  To make them hesitate as they approach, consider the following:

  1. Invest in motion activated lighting and ensure your front and back yards are well lit.
  2. Ensure surveillance cameras can be seen from the sidewalk.
  3. Install a doorbell camera. Most allow you to answer remotely.

Again, if someone appears to be home, it is less likely a burglar will try to make entry.  When you leave your home, even for a quick run to the grocery store, make sure to lock all entry points (doors and windows).  Replacing the screws in your door lock’s strike plates with 3-inch screws that screw into the 2×4s supporting the frame is a cheap and effective way to secure your door.  Reinforced strike plates accompanied by an audible alarm go a long way to thwart entry.  It can take seconds for a burglar to enter your home.

Here are three other simple upgrades you can do to increase the time it takes them to enter and the chances of being seen or heard:

  1. Add an auxiliary foot lock or lock pin to stop or make it hard for a burglar to force a sliding glass door.
  2. Install hinged wedge locks on your windows.
  3. Install 8-mil Security Window film on your windows, which prevent windows from shattering [www.amazon.com/Security-Window-Film-Wide-Roll/dp/B004LDBPY2].

[Jay Santiago is a pseudonym for a former local police officer now in federal law enforcement who grew up in the neighborhood and recently moved back.]   ■


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