A friend in another Chicago neighborhood got this set of excellent tips at her neighborhood CAPS meeting. I thought they were worth sharing, especially in light of the periodic patterns of daytime burglaries we've had that suggest the work of professional burglary crews.
The 13th District Police Station featured a presentation on burglary by convicted criminals. On the panel were three men convicted of burglary and one man convicted of credit card fraud and identity theft.
1. Know your neighbors next to you, across from you, and to the back. Work with your block club and neighborhood watch group. The best deterrent is a nosy neighbor. Sometimes that's a retired person or someone who works at home during the day.
This is consistent with my experiences in other neighborhoods. Knowing your neighbors and recognizing their frequent visitors can make a difference. Exchanging information at CAPS meetings and through EveryBlock can give you helpful insights on what's happening on your block and nearby.
2. Mornings and afternoons are the favorite times for burglars. Each of the burglars cased your home, sometimes well in advance of deciding to rob you. They know your routine and know when someone is not likely to be home. Vary your routine and don’t make it obvious that when you leave no one is home.
We've certainly seen patterns here in our neighborhood in the past year suggesting that burglars are casing the area before breaking in.
a. Leave a radio or TV on and use the light timers or leave a light on. You want the appearance to someone outside that there is a person in the house. These particular burglars did not want any confrontation whatsoever from people in the house.
b. Dogs are not necessarily a deterrent, unless they are trained specifically to protect your property. One man said he would just give the dog a pork chop and it was preoccupied.
3. Alarms can work but not always. Do your homework on which alarms work best for you.
a. Alarms that use wires or magnets for connection can be easily bypassed by a skilled burglar. GSM, wireless, or satellite type alarms are hard to bypass.
b. Motion detectors are good but place them in non-obvious places. One of the men was caught because he tripped a motion sensor that was placed near the foot of stairs in the basement and he did not see it or know to bypass it.
c. Make sure that you have a password or safe word that you can remember. The alarm company representative should not be giving you hints on the phone to help you remember your password in the event the alarm is tripped accidentally.
Alarm signs in the window or on the lawn have a marginal effect on the burglar who is going to break in out of desperation or opportunity. For the one who is casing your home, it is not a deterrent since they can see right away if you actually have an alarm.
4. Valuables – are they in the master bedroom and/or closet? These burglars went straight to the master bedroom where they said a majority of people kept their valuables and jewelry. Hiding in the closet is not a good idea, as this is also a place where most people hide things. One guy said that he thought maybe people liked to sleep surrounded by their nice things. Also, these guys often used the pillowcases on your bed for stashing their haul. Others only took what they could carry in their pockets. Also, many people keep prescription drugs in the kitchen, which is another target the burglars liked.
Burglars spend very little time in your home. These guys wanted to get in and get out. One guy stated he was in and out with thousands of dollars of valuables in less than a couple minutes.
5. Know who is in your home. Know who your kids bring home. Often times the burglar is someone you know or who knows you. One of the guys said he made friends and got to know the people he robbed before he burglarized their home. Another guy was hired by people to steal specific things. He related that he was even hired by the “guy who sold you the item.”
6. Your home. Make sure all your windows and doors are properly locked and secured - EVERY window no matter where it is located. Also, if you have a steel door, make sure the frame is also steel. Use your deadbolts and invest in good long and sturdy ones. The burglars’ tools of trade included their foot (for kicking in doors), a crowbar, and a screwdriver.
I can tell you from personal experience that, if your entry area is secluded or not well lit, burglars will not be shy about kicking in the door if they feel they are unlikely to be noticed. This happened to my neighbors in two different locations. A steel door is worthless without a long, high quality deadbolt AND a steel door frame secured with long screws.
7. Your car. Do not leave your garage opener in a visible location in your vehicle with any information on your home address. Burglars have broken into vehicles to take the remote and then taken documents in the glove compartment with the home address on it. Don’t write your home address on your garage opener.
8. Your garage. Make sure the garage door closes completely. Burglars have been leaving sticks on the door which fall down and block the sensors when the garage door goes up. When you drive away thinking the door has closed, it actually goes up because of the sensors. Also, change your door opener frequencies from time to time.
9. Your stuff. Invest in a cheap engraver (about $20 a craft stores) and engrave something in a hidden area on your valuable for future identification purposes (like a star or a secret name on the inside cover of your TV) or log down all serial numbers etc. of your valuables, so in the event the Police are able to retrieve your stolen property, you can identify it in a way that the Police can confirm it is yours. Otherwise, you will NOT get it back. It's worth asking whether the 22nd District also has a couple of engravers that residents can use.
10. Outdoor motion lights and cameras. Outside motion lights are helpful, but make sure they are in an unreachable area where they cannot be tampered with. These guys stated that they often times used garbage cans to climb over fences and to take out motion lights. This is the same with cameras. Make sure they actually work (this is from the moderator) because police like to use the footage to catch the burglar.
These are some of the things I learned at the forum. The 13th District also has the following tips with the recent rise in home invasions:
• Keep the perimeter of your property well lit.
• Report suspicious activity immediately – Call 911.
• Keep doors and windows secured.
• Immediately repair any broken windows, doors, locks.
• Never pursue a fleeing assailant. Provide the information to the police.
• If approached by a witness to the incident, request contact information.
• If you are a victim, do not touch anything. Call police immediately.