Home for the holidays? Think like an intruder

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11/13/2012

We’re getting into the time of the year when opportunistic thieves make the most of others’ holiday cheer and generosity. Packages left at the doorway or a pile of presents that can be easily seen from outside a home send a signal to the unscrupulous: Come and get it.

Alarm systems are an obvious deterrent, with the signs and decals accompanying them often enough to make thieves think twice. But for true peace of mind, there’s no substitute for an actual system. The problem is that many alarm users don’t know how to properly use their systems, or if they do, they neglect to do so.

The Security Industry Alarm Association estimates that 77 percent of all false alarms are due to end-user error. Many of those end users could just as easily forget to arm their systems amid the bustle of the holidays, essentially leaving the door open to property crime. It’s safe to say most alarm companies could tell a tale or two along those lines.

There are other ways to reinforce security at home, though, measures that might seem obvious but somehow are frequently overlooked. With that in mind, the Electronic Security Association has rolled out a tip sheet to help homeowners think like an intruder. Alarm companies can also use the tips to remind their customers to think deterrence, especially during the holidays.

Here’s an excerpt of what the ESA had to say:

Most home intrusions can be classified as random opportunistic acts—not planned events. Homeowners can protect against a home intrusion by looking at the weaknesses of their home from an intruder’s point of view. Here are a few questions an intruder might ask when deciding on a house to target.

 

Is anyone home?
The first thing many intruders do is check to see if anyone is home. Sometimes the intruder will simply knock on the front door. If someone answers, the intruder may make up an excuse for the disturbance, such as being lost and needing directions. If no one answers, the intruder may do further research to ensure the home is vacant. He or she may look into windows and listen for the sound of someone watching television. Other times, if the knock at the door goes unanswered, the intruder may try his or her luck at an unlocked door. Three out of 10 times, he or she will hit the jackpot and walk right in.
 Homeowners should try to make their homes appear occupied at all times. Timers for inside lights and televisions serve as easy solutions. Another effective and cost-efficient measure to consider is motion sensor lights. Placing these lights in dark areas outside of the home may scare away potential intruders lurking in the shadows.

Is the home equipped with an alarm system?
A 2009 study by the Rutgers School of Criminal Justice found that an installed burglar alarm makes a dwelling less attractive to would-be and active intruders and protects the home without displacing burglaries to nearby homes. Additionally, the Cromwell-Olson-Avary study, conducted to better understand offenders’ perception of the risks and rewards involved in criminal activity, found that nearly all convicted intruders (90 percent) admitted that they would avoid homes that are equipped with alarm systems. Additionally, the study revealed that if a potential intruder sees a yard sign or window decal from a credible security company outside of a home, around 75 percent would think twice about going through with an attack. But signs and decals aren’t enough to deter an intruder; alarm systems are the best protection against home intrusion.

What is the easiest way to break in?
On average, intruders will spend no more than 60 seconds breaking into a home, since a longer attempt may result in detection by a neighbor or passer-by. First, they will seek out unlocked or open doors and windows—even on the second or third floor—that can be accessed by a ladder. And sometimes, a standard locked door or window won’t always be enough to stop them. Homeowners should consider upgrading to deadbolts and reinforcing the frame of their front door to make a break-in more strenuous for the intruder.

Will anyone notice?
Intruders tend to target homes that they can get away from easily. For an intruder, an ideal home would be located in a dark, lifeless neighborhood with good hiding places and escape paths, such as overgrown bushes or trees in the yard. Hiding areas can be eliminated by keeping the landscaping neatly trimmed and using outdoor lights so the home is well lit at night. Homeowners are encouraged to start or join a neighborhood watch group. These groups can help reduce the risk of home intrusion for everyone in the community. By enhancing the home’s security features with electronic timers, motion sensor lighting and a professionally installed security system, homeowners can protect their property and keep their family safe from crime.