Despite the possibly-media-induced crime paranoia, eye-catching statistics tells us that there is a need for us to at least think more about our home security and safety. The FBI estimated around 2 million reported cases of burglaries in the United States in 2011 alone (although we assume there are more of this as sensible thieves won’t report to officials about other thieves stealing their drug stash). To help Americans in reducing these numbers, various home security products are available in the market, from the simply ingenious to the vastly complicated home security alarm systems. But even if we’re equipped with the latest in 21st century technology, some of us still find ourselves coming home to a wildly trashed house with valuables missing here and there.
If ever this happens to you (commence knocking on wood), you naturally ask yourself the generic question of “what went wrong?” A number of things, obviously. But here in this article, we narrow it down to a few most probable reasons why we’ve exposed ourselves to crafty (and sometimes not-so-crafty) cat burglars and why we’re ultimately the ones responsible for it in the first place.
6. Having the flair for dramatic landscaping
Besides being a popular collection in FarmVille, topiaries serve a more sinister purpose to bad guys wanting to steal all your stuff in their good hiding places. Especially if they’re near windows, bushes can be a good spot to observe the inside the house without being detected. Powered with this opportunity to observe, they can gain information on the location of certain valuables, the time on when the house would be vacant for a period of time, the weakest entry point and the kind of security system installed (or lack of one).
What to do?
Trim your hedges. You don’t need to sacrifice the your landscaping and remove all the shrubberies and topiaries on your lawn.
Just cutting your hedges down to a small size where no one can hide behind can surprisingly be a lifesaver. It would lessen the possible hiding places for would-be burglars to make surveillance and, can probably stop any sinister shadows into fully infiltrating your home.
5. Too much ‘The Boy who Cried Wolf’
False alarms are a common pet peeve among most of us. And it’s not just the noise that’s problematic. Police officers taking the time to respond to alarms that turn out to be false can be expensive, costing just one city around $2 million dollars per year. But even if home alarm system companies have taken precautions to dwindle the statistics of false alarm down, police and civilian attitude still remain.
Meaning, if an alarm goes off in your house, people passing by would just scrunch their faces and curse you in their heads while covering their ears. Police have also been known to ignore security alarms even when there’s a robbery in progress.
Even homeowners tend to think that when an alarm sounds, it’s just another glitch in the system and they would ignore it until it’s too late. Although we cannot argue with what statistics tell us, having a mindset that alarms are only annoying sound hounds could be troubling. Burglars are opportunists and would certainly take (or are currently taking) this to their advantage.
What to do?
It’s just simple. Don’t be ignorant. It’s good to ask questions once in a while. Because you’ll never know, that alarm just might be the sound of someone sneaking in and aiming to talk to the queen.
4. Believing in Hollywood
Hollywood has given us bits of fiction that we consider as facts. Here are a few examples: home burglaries are mostly done at night. Burglars are loners and have the skills of a professional spy. It takes sophisticated gadgets to disarm a location’s surveillance and security.
If you believe in all of the above, then it’s time to lessen the time you spend in front of the TV.
According to FBI statistics, home invasions and burglaries are mostly done during the day when no one’s usually at home. Thieves target residential areas more than they do commercial ones. They also are probably a member of a syndicate or a gang. Meaning they can also be drug addicts or have a partner or other accomplices or, more terrifyingly, both.
What to do?
What most of us don’t realize is that by basing what we see in TV and movies, we tend to be shortsighted to how thieves operate in real life. This would make us have poor judgments in deciding on how to deter them. What we should do is to simply do our homework: use deadbolts on our doors, don’t leave any entryway open when leaving and hide money in good places if we really need to leave it in the house.
Then again we could just hide it in our laundry basket, or perhaps a disgusting-looking underwear that is actually a safe.
3. Being too sociable on social networks
Some of us nowadays don’t realize that there is such a term as “being too talkative” on Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and other social media sites. We’ve encounter dumb tweets and status updates all too often. But too few realize (aka most people are ignorant and just want to brag) that the mundane and normal tweet, post and check-in could compromise their home security.
The data publicly posted on social media sites can be used to know someone’s home address and cross reference it to that person’s current location. It has already been done as a creepy “social experiment”.
What to do?
It’s not bad to post something online but there’s always a limit. Seemingly normal things like a vacation or an out of town trip or real-time pictures of them on the road can open a window of opportunities for burglars. Everyone knows how to do a Google search. So people who posted their current locations publicly might as well have placed a “please rob me” sign outside their house.
A lesson for all social media addicts out there: if you really have to state vacation details, make sure to check the privacy options. It’s also wise not to add people who you really don’t know… Or better yet just think very, very hard first before posting anything (we really don’t need to know what you’re doing every minute of every hour).
2. Human stupidity
American homes now have some kind of home security installed in them ranging from simple and affordable to expensive and kick-ass sophisticated. But the property crime rate statistics remain staggering.
The reason? People forget two things: (1) to turn their security systems on and (2) to lock their doors and windows.
That “turning on of their security systems” may still be forgivable if you take into consideration that not all of us are technologically gifted (even when it’s just pressing buttons). But the second one is the more surprising bit. According to the FBI, 33.1% of the burglaries in 2011 are unlawful entries or entries without force. That’s more than 600,000 cases wherein people seemingly had a lapse in memory.
But then again even prominent address owners are not safe. Style-crazed teens have been known to steal clothes and jewelries from various celebrities’ homes and the way how they’d gotten in is through an unlocked front door and once even through a dog door.
What to do?
When you realize that thieves just use good ol’ dumb luck most of the time, the sensible thing to do is to not give them a chance at having one. The least you can do is to lock every window and door before you leave and it’s a good thing to at least read a bit of the words printed on your home security manual.
1. Thinking that we are smarter than burglars
When blogger Jeffrey Strain asked a former burglar what is the best place to hide the money inside the house, the answer he got was a simply nonchalant “it doesn’t matter”.
Burglars, even stupid ones, only have two things in mind: to steal anything they can profit from and to make a getaway as quickly as possible. The bad guys always get the upper hand when you underestimate their luck and abilities. As much as you try to hide your valuables, any determined burglar will find it if he has the time and, if he’s been doing that for a long time, he probably will know the usual “unexpected” hiding spots. So, you might say, that you’ll try even harder to hide it. But sometimes trying too hard may lead to your downfall.
Last 2012, a man from Australia he hid the money he got from selling his car in their oven. While this may raise flags to other people, this man thought he was being a smartass since they rarely use their oven anyway. But weirdly and unfortunately enough, his wife decided to use that oven that same day. The next thing that happened was a no brainer.
What to do?
Various safes that are disguised as household objects can be a good place to hide them but as long as the safes are stored where they are supposed to be stored (a can of fruit in the bedroom is suspicious) and that we remember what they really are.
As the former burglar mentioned, a good place to hide money is the children’s bedroom. It makes sense since parents don’t usually trust kids with money and hiding it in a messy kid’s room with toys lying everywhere would make searching for it longer.
So basically the trick here is to hide valuables in a good place, meaning in plain sight.
But then again, we could save time and effort if we just deposited our money in the bank.