This article will be about how to evaluate your home’s curb appeal to burglars and other scumbags who want to take your stuff and kick your door in while you’re watching TV at night. It will be holistic approach that will build layer upon layer of security without spending an inordinate amount of money. I will be using my house as a ‘case’ study (without giving away too many personal security details) to illustrate the methodology for doing this. In future posts, I’ll highlight the specific upgrades that I’ve done to deselect and harden my home from criminals.
Mission: Systematically evaluate our own homes for vulnerabilities and weaknesses to burglaries, and then harden our homes both physically and by projecting strength with simple budget minded improvements.
What are Burglars looking for when they are choosing a target?
I had been researching and reminding myself about all of the home invasion and burglary statistics I could find over the last several weeks. Then, like a tactical angel, Greg Ellifritz shared a very timely post with some stats and information that was new to me (and more recent). In it, he links to a really neat study “Understanding Decisions to Burglarize from the Offender’s Perspective”. I encourage you to read Greg’s summary of the study so you can get an idea of what sort of person we’re looking at, what they want, how they choose their targets, and what deters them.
For this article, we’re only really interested in what deters them. Here’s a quote from the study,
“Close proximity of other people (including traffic, those walking nearby, neighbors, people inside the establishment, and police officers), lack of escape routes, and indicators of increased security (alarm signs, alarms, dogs inside, and outdoor cameras or other surveillance equipment) was considered by most burglars when selecting a target”
“About 60% of the burglars indicated that the presence of an alarm would cause them to seek an alternative target altogether. This was particularly true among the subset of burglars that were more likely to spend time deliberately and carefully planning a burglary.”
We want to use these facts, and our own common sense to deter and deselect our homes from burglaries and harden against home invasion. To summarize:
The Layered Approach
In order to successfully deter this sort of crime, we need to have a layered approach. We need to project our security to the street, to dissuade bad guys who are ‘shopping’ for a home to burglarize. We must physically harden the points of entry so that if we DO get chosen, we make the entry as difficult as possible. If we can’t harden a point of entry, we have to provide ourselves an early warning to the intrusion. We must lastly have our safe room prepared so that we can have place to make our last stand.
Case Your Own House
- Walk as far away from your house as you can while still maintaining a view of your house. How far away can you be and still see your home? If you have woods, walk into the tree line, and see what you can see. What doors, windows, entrances can you make out? Are there any shrubs or bushes that block your view of a window or door? Are there any windows without shades or blinds that you can see into? If someone were standing in these perimeter points, would they have a reason to be there besides casing your house (across the street at gas station, for instance)? In urban areas, look to see if you see evidence of people loitering in these observation points (cig butts, spit, empty cans, etc.)
- Now as you walk back, look at routes towards your house. Are there any obvious routes towards the entrances? Are there any natural or man-made obstacles in the way? Anything that would have to be disturbed that you would notice out of place if someone moved towards your house? Are there any fences or natural obstacles? Would these fences hide nefarious activities?
- Look into your windows. What can you see around shades, between blinds, and through the side lights around the front door? Do you see anything of value like your computer, office, TV, so on. Where could you hide right up against the house that can’t be seen from the inside?
- Have a friend walk around the perimeter of your house while you stand in different rooms of the house. Where can you see them as they approach the house? Are there any routes that keep them hidden as they approach? How close can they get before you hear them? What does the front porch sound like when someones walking on it? How about the crunchy pea gravel behind the house? Pay attention to how things sound when someone is encroaching on the house.
- Look at where your external lights illuminate. Are there areas that your motion sensing floods don’t reach? Remember, you want to illuminate both areas you can see, and those you can’t.
- Look for overgrown shrubs and trees that could hide a bad guy’s movement. Trim the hedges back so that you can see the windows from the road. Burglars aren’t in the business of being seen.
MS PAINT DIAGRAMS!
Now I want you to find your house on google.maps. Take a screenshot of the aerial view and paste it into MS Paint. Draw lines that correspond to your view from inside the house looking out. Also draw lines that show where your flood lights or spot lights shine. You will quickly get an idea of the areas that demand attention first. You will see the obvious approach routes, and the places that would be darkest for a bad guy to work. You can get quite elaborate here. You could document which bushes need to be trimmed, where you need shades in the house, and so on.
This is the first step in hardening your house. Think like a bad guy as much as you can. Be devious. Where would you break in? When would you break in? You have to build a plan to break in. Then you have to shut down your own plan with some simple and inexpensive upgrades. We have quickly evaluated how enticing our house looks to potential bad guys. In subsequent posts we will discuss simple tactics to bluff that you have more security than you do, some hardware associated with hardening the house, early warning systems, lighting choices, and the safe practices and the mindset it takes to keep ahead of home invaders and burglars.
Protect the Brood,
Jim Grover, “Street Smarts, Firearms, & Personal Security”