Friday, November 30

Break In

Last year my security company called me around 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving to ask me if everything was alright at my house. Since I wasn't there I had no idea. The police were dispatched and found the back door had been kicked in. My dad drove across town to secure the house and give the police officer the information she needed to file a report.

Luckily the house breaker(s) didn't seem to get much further than the doorway before the alarm went off and apparently scared them away. Why you'd bother breaking into a house that clearly advertises that an alarm company monitors it and doesn't appear to have much worth stealing I don't know. I also know that it doesn't take long for the Tulsa police to respond to a call in my area (see the story here).

However, I'd like to take a minute to talk about some tricks for protecting your home while you're out of town.

Having my home monitored gives me a discount on my home insurance, but from what I've read a lot of people who pay for home security systems don't actually use them. I always do. If I'm leaving for 20 minutes I still turn the alarm on, I'm paying every month to have the system monitored. That only happens if I turn it on. There are occasionally false alarms and I have accidentally set the alarm off myself, but if you make setting the alarm a habit then you get used to not opening doors when the alarm is on or turning it off as soon as you walk through the door.

The only real damage from the break in was to the door frame. Except for my front door (which is thick wood) all my doors are metal. When they kicked in the door the only damage was that the cosmetic molding came off (but didn't break) and the wood frame cracked. My dad managed to fix the door so it is even more secure than before. However, I still take the added precaution of barring the door with chairs now as well.

Simple door jam stick.
Where can I find something basic like this?
I want to buy door jams (like the ones in the picture), but most of the ones I've found online are pretty pricey. The one in the picture belongs to my grandma, she's had them as long as I can remember and they are pretty simple. All the ones I can find online are "fancy" which probably explains the high price tag. I'd really prefer something more basic.

I've also taken to having a friend check on my house or even stay if I'm going to be gone overnight.

Another great idea is to put a hold on your mail and newspapers. The police officer who responded to the break in said the fact that the mail was in my mailbox probably tipped the housebreaker off that no one was home. I hadn't thought to put a hold on my mail because of the holiday. Of course, I've also changed to a more secure mailbox, but that wasn't really a result of the break in.

Growing up our neighbors would leave their radio on whenever they were out of town. That way if someone was snooping around outside it sounded like someone was talking or listening to music. You can also buy timers that will make your lights, TV or other electronics turn on at set times. When I worked as a reporter I had a police scanner. If I needed to go out in the evening I would leave the scanner running in my apartment while it charged.

One feature that is nice about my house is the outdoor lighting. Not only do I have some really bright landscape lights in the front, but I have motion sensitive lights all around the house. It can be irritating when a cat or something sets off the one outside my bedroom window in the middle of the night, but I'm glad they were installed.

Even before the break in I was careful not to mention an out-of-town trip online until after I got back. No point in announcing ahead of time when the house will be empty. Everyone uses social media, and it isn't hard to find someone's personal information with just a quick Google search.

Have you ever had to deal with a break in? Was anything actually taken? Do you have precautions for when you leave now that you didn't have before?

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