The Burglar Jamboree: Nine Ways to Protect Yourself

Yesterday at four o’clock in the morning La Bethulia was awakened by a knock on the front door. A cop was standing out there, inside the courtyard. When she opened the door to him, he said, “I think we have something of yours.”

And thereon hangs quite a tale.

As it develops, the entire neighborhood was targeted by a band of burglars last night. One of them entered La Maya and La Bethulia’s courtyard and stole a small, slick piece of a table, apparently to use as a tool in burglarizing their neighbor’s house.

Meanwhile, the Next-Door Neighbor Husband awoke some time before 4:00 and walked out to the kitchen to get a drink of water. As he went toward the front of the house, he noticed the lights were on in his car, which he’d parked in the driveway. Looking out through a window, what should he see but a guy methodically going through the vehicle, stealing everything that wasn’t red-hot or nailed down and neatly stacking it all in a box.

Rather than confront the creep or try to scare him off, he called 911.

The 911 dispatcher told him that all the cops in our area were occupied, dealing with other burglaries in progress in the neighborhood! They sent a squad car that was, at the time, clear over on the east side. It took about a quarter of an hour for this crew to arrive.

While the cops were in transit, Perp strolled across the street and broke into another car, having carried all the loot from Neighbor Husband’s car around the corner to his accomplice, who was waiting in the getaway car. The neighbors watched as he looted that vehicle, too.

Eventually the police arrived. They trapped and caught the perp, but the guy in the getaway car escaped, taking with him everything his pal had taken out of Neighbor Husband’s car, including about $700 worth of stereo equipment. The officers did retrieve the piece of junk Perp had lifted from La Bethulia and La Maya’s yard.

Perp, it develops, has quite the rap sheet. He and his colleagues live next-door to each other, apparently in a colony of felons. They targeted our neighborhood last night, spreading out to raid the properties that interested them most.

Fortunately, they didn’t enter Neighbor Couple’s or La Bethulia & La Maya’s homes. But as you can imagine, the women were pretty creeped out, realizing the perp had been right outside the vast and vulnerable banks of French doors and windows that look out onto the enclosed courtyard. La Bethulia attempted to repair the lock to the courtyard door before she left for work, succeeding only in jamming the mechanism. So now that will have to be fixed, presumably by a locksmith.

What does this mean for us bystanders? Knowing that our homes are targeted now or one day will be targeted, what can we do to defend ourselves?

First and most obvious: don’t park your car on the street. Clean out the garage and park your cars inside.

If you live someplace where you have to park on the street, for heaven’s sake don’t leave any valuables in the car. And don’t equip your car with expensive electronic equipment!

If you have to park your car outside, drive a junker.

Perp didn’t touch the aging Toyota La Bethulia had left in the driveway. She bought her daughter’s car recently, when Daughter moved to Hawai’i, and she hasn’t had time to sell it. So the decrepit car was sitting right under Perp’s nose. With richer pickings nearby, Perp left the pile of junk unmolested.

Lock your doors and windows at night.

Alarm your doors and windows.

If you don’t have a burglar alarm system (they’re expensive and a nuisance…some of us do without them), you can get small, unobtrusive alarms that emit an ear-splitting squeal when their magnetic connection is broken. They’re very cheap and very easy to install—they run on small batteries and require no wiring. I bought a package of ten at Costco, and found they work on screen doors as well as regular entry doors and windows. So I’ve got one on the sliding screen for the Arcadia door and one on the security door in front. Security doors are easy to break into…but won’t Perp be surprised when he takes a crowbar to that thing!

Amazon sells them in packs of four as Mini Door & Window Contact Alarms rel=”nofollow”. I think they’re well worth the low cost. Fifteen bucks is sure cheaper than whatever a burglary might cost you.

Don’t own a lot of expensive junk.

This basic tenet of the frugalist works nicely to frustrate burglars. SDXB was visited by burglars the night he moved into his house around the corner from me. Foolishly, we remarked that he could stay at my house that night, since his house was chaos…and we made that remark in front of the moving men. Equally foolishly, he had an NRA sticker on his truck, advertising his interest in guns. That night “someone” came through the only door that didn’t have a deadbolt on it (interestingly, they didn’t try any of the other doors or windows) and went through all his boxes looking for weapons. He had stored his guns elsewhere during the move, but they took a collector’s bow and all the knives and machetes he’d collected during his military travels. The bow was the only thing that really mattered…otherwise, his possessions came from thrift stores. Poor guys—they made a wasted trip.

Don’t put an NRA sticker on your vehicle.

This is a big red flag that says “I have a gun in my house.” Thieves are attracted to guns as flies to molasses.

Lock weapons, cash, negotiable instruments, and jewelry in a safe.

Gun safes are expensive, but your investment in arms also represents a big expense. More to the point, though, no lawful gun owner wants to contemplate having his weapons used in a crime or shipped across the Mexican border to be used in that country’s drug wars.

Be sure your safe is bolted to the floor.

Insure your home and its contents.

If you do own anything of value, get a rider to cover it. While a rider does add a small amount to your homeowner’s policy, if you have to make a claim, you’ll be glad you planned ahead.

Don’t even think a dog is going to protect your property or you from a burglar or home invader.

Though I had one German shepherd that chased off a home invader, that is not what dogs normally do. If you’re not home, it’s pretty easy to make nice to the dog. If it’s a protective or mean dog, all the burglar has to do is shoot it.

In our part of the country, burglars are given to tossing poison over the fence where targeted homes have a large dog. A day or two after the dog is out of the way, they come visiting again.

Rely on locks, alarms, and common sense instead. They’re a lot more reliable, and it’s fairer to the dog.

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Budgeting in the Fun Stuff July 9, 2010 at 5:03 pm

That’s scary! I’d be freaked out! I agree with all your tips, especially the one to not rely on dogs. My biggest hope if our house is ever burgled is that they ignore our barky little dogs. They don’t yap, but they do bark at strangers. If I have to be stolen from, I just hope they feed my dogs some treats and leave them be…

That’s the second time you’ve mentioned your very awesome German Shepherd…fantastic dog!

Lynda July 10, 2010 at 12:36 am

All excellent advice: don’t forget the average felon waits for the owner to claim on insurance then comes back for the new stuff. (Probably through the window you’ve just had replaced. Voice of experience? Yep.)

Hope to Prosper July 12, 2010 at 4:47 pm

We live in a really nice neighborhood, but some idoit bought three of the houses and turned them into drug rehab houses. Soon, we had speeders wandering up and down the street surfing all of the cars at night. After a ton of complaints to the police, the guy sold the houses and things are back to normal.

One thing I want to say is that I love my german shepherd and we didn’t lock our back door for many years. Unfortunately, she is 14 now and no longer a deterrent. Our new lab puppy is adorable, but she not a loyal protector, like our shepherd was. They are awesome dogs.

funny July 12, 2010 at 4:57 pm

@ Hope: Good for you, getting rid of the rehab house. Good intentions notwithstanding, they really trash a neighborhood. We had a halfway house for male juvenile delinquents in one part of our area. Though the boys were quiet, as far as I know, the house ran down, and because no one wants to live next door to a residential reform school, neighbors fled and in doing so sold their homes at deep discounts to people who couldn’t afford to or didn’t want to keep them up. The result: even though the halfway house eventually closed (it also was sold at a bargain-basement price), the whole street is run down and probably never will recover. Blight spreads, and when a recession like the one we’re having now hits, it spreads irrevocably.

Bide your time with the lab. It takes about 18 months to two years for a dog to become protective. Labs can be very protective indeed. Be sure she’s well socialized now, so that when her adult instincts kick in she’ll be able to recognize acceptable humans from suspect ones.

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