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Springtime, the Very Pretty Burglar Time…

Bougainvillea3The weather gets nice, and all sorts of flora and fauna emerge from hibernation. Among them: the burglars who live in the slums across the Conduit of Blight to the west of us.

News came in from the president of our neighborhood homeowner’s group, who relays a report from a neighbor:

******Burglary on 11th Ave and Erewhon*****************

 We were badly burglarized last Monday. We live at 11th Ave. and Erewhon. They gained entry via the alley by breaking our gate then forcing entry into the back french doors. Our alarm was on, but it was not monitored (lesson learned!). They really took their time. We had a safe installed in my husband’s closet and they sawed it out. They emptied every drawer and got every item of value.

<<< Really sorry to hear this Becky but glad, as I know you are, that no one was hurt. It’s difficult to know how the burglars figure out when you’re not home. It’s a good time for everyone to remember that most times, they are watching our house, watching us leave, looking for signs that we’re not home. Remembering this may cause us to change some habits and lessen the chance that the bad guys get that opportunity.>>>

This is the second incident following that MO that I’ve heard of lately—the other was three houses down from La Maya and La Bethulia’s place. That means we’ve probably got a specific set of sh!theads targeting the neighborhood.

Think of that: they managed to remove a built-in safe. Doesn’t say whether it was bolted to the slab, but “installed in a closet” seems to imply that.

We’ve all been following the lynch-mob frenzy over the killing of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-0ld who tangled with a volunteer neighborhood watchman. No one deserves to die for burgling or for looking like he might burgle. But it’s mighty risky behavior. You can be sure if one of our local thieves gets into my house while I’m here, he’ll very likely get himself shot. Wandering around the street looking suspicious, though…not so much.

Still, you have to figure people are on edge. And we have a gun-loving culture that encourages citizens to imagine they can “defend” themselves if they can just carry heat wherever they go. If it’s true that the young man actually jumped the amateur security guard, then clearly lugging a gun around doesn’t prevent an attack on one’s person. But whether the incident came down that way or not, under the circumstances it’s not surprising someone was killed in such a confrontation. It was bound to happen sooner or later.

Single heads of household now outnumber couples, and last year unmarried women made 21% of the home purchases in this country. Men, though they may not want to admit it, are no less uncomfortable about the prospect of some criminal breaking into their homes than are women, and as many men as women must be living alone—since 2005, single people have comprised the majority of home buyers. Knowing there are shady characters roaming around your neighborhood watching you and planning how they can break into your house is guaranteed to give a solitary homeowner (or a renter) the jitters.

Anything we can do to make ourselves safer? Welp…waving a gun around is not one of the possibilities. Most people will not shoot a person unless they’ve been trained extensively to do so. Even under duress, one pauses, and that can give an aggressor just the edge he needs to grab your gun and turn it on you. Very stupid. There are easier and less problematic strategies:

Make it appear that your house is occupied, even when you’re not home.

Leave a radio or the television blatting away while you’re at work during the day. Yes, it runs up the electric bill. But between you and me, I’d rather pay three or four bucks more each month than come home and find all the valuables cleaned out. And the safe sawed off its bolts.

Use timers to turn lights on and off when you’re out at night.

These are very cheap. If you attach several to different lamps, you can create the illusion that occupants are moving from room to room: have a family room light (and maybe the TV) go on at dusk; these go off a couple of hours later, when another light goes on in a bedroom. You could set it up so lights go on and off in back rooms in a seemingly random way all evening.

Leave a light on in a room that has no windows or whose windows are well covered at night.

If a prowler can see that a light is on somewhere in the house (because light is visible down a hallway) but can’t be sure whether someone is there or not, he’s going to be less likely to break in. I often leave the hall bathroom’s light on—you can’t see into the room from outside the house, and so it’s impossible to tell by looking into any of the windows where the light is coming from.

Install motion-sensitive lights around the outside of your home.

You can now get decorative motion-sensitive exterior lights inexpensively at the warehouse stores. I’ve installed them at the front and the back of the house and on either side of the garage door. They look just fine—no ugly glaring spotlights—and they come on if someone walks up to the door. Burglars don’t like that.

I also have a pair of spotlights in back that come on if anyone enters the back gate or walks across the expanse of yard behind the house. These do double duty, because they also light up the barbecue area and come on every time I go out there to throw a piece of meat on the grill. Very handy.

Secure the gates into your yard.

Our latest burglary report has the perps breaking down a gate. Hereabouts, most backyard gates opening onto the alleys are just nailed-together wooden things. Obviously, a lock on a flimsy gate can be circumvented with a few swift kicks.

For not very much money, you can get a metal-framed gate. Wood boards are bolted to the wrought-iron frame, creating an attractive appearance. Assuming you have a block wall (true, many of us do have wooden fences…), one of these gates can be securely installed onto metal uprights bolted to the wall. They don’t sag, and they’d be pretty hard to kick down.

Whatever kinds of gates you have, keep them locked. The burglars may still get into the house, but if they have to heft things over the wall, they at least may leave some of your stuff behind.

Grow man-eating plants around windows and along fences or walls.

What could be prettier (and ornier) than a rose, eh? How about a bougainvillea? They have claws like a well-fed wildcat’s. A Spanish sword agave lives up to its name: this is not something a burglar wants to climb over or land on as he’s jumping a wall or fence. Decorate with defensive plantings.

Want to raise chickens in your backyard? Get a goose.

They’re aggressive to strangers and they bite.

When you leave the house, look up and down the street to be sure no one is watching you.

Check cars parked along curbs for people sitting in them. Never leave your house when someone you don’t know can see you drive away. Better to be late for work than to come home and find your home cleaned out.

If you see someone you don’t recognize walking a dog, don’t leave your house until after they’re out of sight. Also from this week’s neighborhood report:

***********Suspicious Activity************

(Thanks Wayne and Darren for reporting this suspicious character to the police and letting us know. If others observe this activity in your neighborhood do not hesitate to call the police)

There has been a dirty grey Honda AZ license, with damage and black paint near the right rear fender well driven by a 20’s white male subject with a pit bull type of dog in the neighborhood for three days in a row apparently casing the neighborhood.

He parks and walks around back and forth with the dog with no apparent destination. This evening a 20’s Hispanic male with his baseball cap on backwards in a very dirty beat up white sedan (Honda??) bearing Colorado license was aimlessly cruising around and stopped off the end of my house to peer into the open garage door, when the driver observed me in the garage he punched it and took off he had made two passes in just about 2 minutes.

On Thursday February 23rd at about 3 p.m. I observed a car parked at the south side of my property on El Milagro east of 16th ave. He proceeded to get out of the car with a dog and he walked 1 block to the east, turned around and walked past his car and then 1 block to the west. He then got in his car and drove toward the park. I called crime stop and reported his description and plate #. On Friday at 11 a.m. he was back again and parked in the same spot and walked his dog again repeating the same actions as the day before.

I again called crime stop and relayed the same plate # and description. It does not make any sense to drive past the park if you intend to walk your dog. He is a white male, in his 30’s, 6ft tall, 190lbs wearing sunglasses and a baseball hat. The dog was tan & muscular like a pit bull. He drove a silver 4 door Toyota Camry (approx 2000 yr) w/hub caps and tinted windows. AZ ACF5337. The responding officer agreed the actions were suspicious and encouraged us to continue to report such activity.

Cancel newspapers and suspend mail delivery when you go on vacation.

We have one neighbor who goes off all the time and leaves newspapers piling up on the front sidewalk. They could save money on the newspaper subscription by simply putting up a sign that reads BURGLARS ENTER HERE.

Whenever you’re out of town, ask a neighbor to pick up advertising litter hung on your doorknob or thrown on your lawn, too.

Never leave a message on your voicemail saying you’re away from the house.

Ditto to notes  left on the door, Tweets, and Facebook posts.

If you have a garage, clean it out and park your vehicles inside.

My neighbors across the street were burgled because they park their cars on the drive all the time. When no car is there, obviously no one is home. She works out of a home office. When she went out to a client’s office, the perps noticed she was gone and made themselves to home.

Leaving your cars on the driveway or yard is just another advertisement for burglars.

Don’t expect a dog, a deadbolt, or a security gate to keep burglars out. Dogs are easily poisoned, shot, clubbed, or simply tricked. A crowbar will snap a security gate open in a second. Deadbolts are simple to defeat.

To my mind, about the best you can hope for is to keep intruders out while you’re home. If they get in while you’re gone, who cares? But you sure don’t want to confront some meth-head inside your home, not at any time of day or night. I do have security gates and deadbolts, partly to keep the insurance company happy and partly so that a prowler will have to make enough noise to alert me before he can get in. For the same reason, I have squealers (small battery-operated stick-on alarms) on all the windows and doors. All I want is to be able to get into my safe room or out another door when some creep is coming in the back door or window.

 Image credit:

Agave Americana. Raul654. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

2 thoughts on “Springtime, the Very Pretty Burglar Time…”

  1. This was another reason I liked having the roommates for a couple years. Since they were students and also worked, we were all on different schedules. The times that the house was left completely unoccupied were very rare. While I never imagined I’d take in two male students as roommates when I put up my “renting rooms” ad, the results were very good for me in many ways.

    As for the goose, that’s a good point. My dad has a goose on his property and he calls it his personal alarm. A rooster will crow any time of the day or night when it is startled, too. (Ask me how I know…oy vey!)

    It’s so sad that we have to worry about such things. I love the fact that my neighbors are noisy and we look out for each other. I always let them know when I’m going to be away or something unusual is happening at my house.

  2. Amazing. If brazen burglaries still occur in a gun-loving culture, where the very real possibility of confronting an armed homeowner still proves to be a non-issue, then it’s pretty clear -guns are not deterrents. Toys for boys (and girls). Not a viable strategy.

    Here in the burbs of the Frozen North, I continue to be amazed -almost every house has a double garage. Yet almost every household parks two, three or more cars outside on the street or driveway, because said garage is full of consumer cast-offs. What do you do with the old 42″ TV, when the new 80″ glass-slab just showed up? Or last year’s IKEA landfill fodder? But I rant.

    My parents have lived in the same house for 55 years, in a central part of the city, with no break-ins – zero – due to constant vigilance, good locks, and good relationships with neighbors. Me, I’m partial to Rottweilers and good sight-lines to the front and back doors.

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