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Home Invasions, Part 1: Prevent & Plan

Home Invasions, Part 1: Prevent & Plan

FBI statistics show there are 1.65 million home invasions in the U.S. each year. A home is broken into every 30 seconds.

The rate of burglaries varies from state to state. For example, New Mexico has 696.8 burglaries per 100,000 while New Hampshire has only 126.3. States in the South and Southwest have some of the highest rates, e.g., Oklahoma (671.7), Mississippi (627.00), Arkansas (599.6), Louisiana (579.0), South Carolina (533.4), and Alabama (531.9). States in the East and Northeast have some of the lowest rates, e.g., New York (141.9), Virginia (162.8), Maine (174.8), Massachusetts (179.0) and Connecticut (180.7).

Keep in mind that these are statewide rates. Individual localities can have rates that vary greatly from the state average.

While it’s not likely that you’ll experience a home invasion—especially if you adopt the recommendations that follow—the potential is real enough to warrant deliberate prevention and preparation, especially when you have a family to protect.

In my years as a police officer, I responded to many home invasions. I also received much formal training and learned from experts about how families should prepare and deal with them.

There’s two aspects to preparing for a home invasion: 1) preparation to prevent a break-in from occurring, and 2) preparation for what to do during an actual home invasion.

Prevention Comes First

The saying, an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure, is highly apt for home protection.

To prevent a break-in, your goal should be to make the perimeter exterior of your home look formidable, especially compared to other homes in the neighborhood. Predators in the wild, when stalking a herd of prey, target the weakest member, e.g., young, old, handicapped. Similarly, criminals look for the most vulnerable targets, the path of least resistance. Stage your home exterior to appear as one of the most difficult to penetrate.

A good way to see how your home compares to others is to case the neighborhood like a criminal and try to look at everything from a criminal mindset. Which homes seem most vulnerable? Look for the presence, or absence, of such things as alarm signs, cameras, glass-break window sensors, and signs of a dog. Is there overgrown shrubbery or other obstacles near windows and doors one could easily hide behind?

According to FBI statistics, homes with no security system are 300 times more likely to be robbed, so clearly it’s ideal to have exterior cameras and a home security system with an alarm. But reality is one thing and perception another. If it’s too expensive, you can still create the impression that you’re prepared, with fake cameras and an alarm warning sign. If you don’t have a dog, you can leave the impression you do with a Beware of Dog sign, and leave dog bowls and chew toys outside.

I highly recommend putting glass-break vibration sensor alarms on your windows. They're inexpensive, make a lot of noise, and their visibility on your windows (they're about 3 inches in diameter) tells burglars you’re serious about home security. They'll go off when a window vibrates, not just when it's broken (you can adjust the sensitivity).

Motion-sensor exterior lights are also highly recommended. And as mentioned above, make sure shrubs are trimmed and don’t provide a hiding place, especially near windows and doors. Don’t leave ladders laying about or the garage door unlocked. Don’t leave mail piled up in the mailbox, a signal to criminals that nobody’s home.

Creating the impression that somebody might be home is helpful, because FBI statistics show that 72 percent of burglaries occur when nobody is home. The other 28 percent is of real concern, because it presents a potential danger to you and your family.

Preparing for a Home Invasion

To safely deal with an actual home invasion, you need a predetermined action plan for all family members who are old enough to follow it. Importantly, this plan should be rehearsed, practiced, so that it'll be second nature should a real incident occur.

Every family situation is different. However, the foundation of most home invasion plans should be 1) immediately call 911 for help, and 2) get everyone into one room, a safe room, where defense can be well staged. Typically, this will be the master bedroom. It’s where the parents, where you the protector, will be in the middle of the night. Even if the intrusion occurs during the day (and most do), you still need to get everyone to a safe room.

Most interior doors are weak, but the safe-room door needs to be fortified so it can’t be easily kicked in. It can be strengthened with extra locks and extended hinge plates with extra long screws. It can even be replaced with a solid-core door.

Once everyone’s inside, you should further secure the door (have a plan to do so) by sliding a heavy piece of furniture in front, or using a floor jam lock or other dedicated tool to prevent it from being kicked in. You should also immediately close the windows and shades/curtains/blinds so nobody can see in. Many break-ins involve parties of two and someone could be on the outside. You don’t want to give them any information.

You and your family can now hunker down and wait for the police to arrive. If you can get to this point, with everyone barricaded in your fortified safe room waiting for the police, you’re in good shape.

In my experience as a police officer, what I’ve learned from the guys we locked up, is that in 99 percent of home invasions the intruder thinks no one is home, even at night. Intruders do not expect nor want to come in contact with you. If they learn people are home, they’ll try to get out.

The above explanation, however, skips over a lot of complexities, especially: How do you get your children into the safe room, the master bedroom? They may be on a different floor from you—perhaps the floor where the break-in occurred. That’s the tricky and dangerous part. I’ll cover this in Part 2.

Please let me know any questions or concerns.

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Read Part 2:  Planning the Tricky Part

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Ron - February 25, 2024

Great information for civilian defenders.

Most residential bedroom doors are flimsy hollow core. Are Big Box locations (Home D) the best place to find a more desirable alternative?

Like many, we do not have a land line in the master br. Cell phones are less reliable for dispatchers to pin-point home invasion location. Thoughts/perspective?


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