Updated: Nov 7, 2018
Let's talk about protecting your home.
I've been the victim of an attempted home invasion and have studied and researched how criminals think about targeting homes of opportunity. First let's separate the types of home security breaches, because there are two different kinds of predators. The resource predator sees you--and your home--as a resource to get what they want, usually jewelry, valuable electronics, anything that can be easily turned to cash. The process predator is in it for the crime itself. The crime is the objective; you are simply an actor, an object, in the crime. Home invasions involving sexual assault, murder, and the like are the acts of a process predator.
Now that we understand the types of predators that may target your home, let's look at some of the basics of home protection.
Think first in terms of layered security. Here are my recommendations.
1) Alarm systems. Put the alarm system signs on the front lawn and rear of the house. It won't deter all criminals, because many criminals know that most people don't set their alarms, or they know how to disable them or simply cut power to the house altogether. I recommend having an alarm system with a battery backup and a cellular capability. Make sure your alarm system has the loudest, most obnoxious siren you can get. Sign up for a monitoring service. And don't just alarm doors and windows on the first floor - the second floor windows should have sensors as well. And get motion sensors for common areas of the house. Glass break sensors are a good idea as well. Now, with all that in place, you need to do two more things--test your alarm system periodically, and use it. It's a waste of money if you're not using it. So use your alarm. Smart phone apps for modern alarm systems make this really easy.
2) Cameras. I recommend Ring's products, such as the Doorbell Pro models. These are excellent high-definition cameras with configurable motion sensors. They also make wired and wireless cameras that you can mount at other points around your home. All of the cameras can be triggered by motion sensors, and they record video and sound to the cloud. An app lets you manage and view everything from your phone or tablet or computer. Ring also allows neighborhoods to collaborate and share video, which has helped to catch package thieves all around the country. Mount your cameras properly - if they're mounted too high you won't catch faces and features of potential bad guys. Again, cameras are not a guaranteed deterrent, but they do form an important layer of your home security plan. One last note on these cameras: you can register your cameras with many local law enforcement agencies. This does not give them access to your cameras; it simply lets them know that you're willing to participate in helping with any investigations by sharing video footage if asked. For example, a home down the street from you is burglarized and the police see that there's a home with a camera nearby. They can then ask you to share video from the date and time in question to help identify and catch the bad guys. It's a worthwhile program to consider.
3) Think like a burglar. I researched about ten home burglars and just about all of them said that they scouted neighborhoods and homes to burglarize. Some said that they look for homes with well-manicured lawns, expensive landscaping, expensive cars parked in front. Why? Because they're more likely to have expensive jewelry and electronics. Some said they preferred homes with hedges or shrubs or other things blocking some or all of the view of the front of the house. All of them said that they try to look into windows and doors with windows to see what they can learn about the house--is there a dog (more on that later), are there valuables in sight, are people home, and more. So keeping blinds and shades closed when you're not home is one of the best things you can do. Next, once a burglar gains entry, most often they'll head to the master bedroom. Why? Because that's where everyone keeps their expensive jewelry. Your rings, bracelets, watches, earrings...all in the master bedroom. It's easy to find the jewelry box, grab a pillow case off your pillow from the bed, and fill it with jewelry.
4) Dogs. Dogs are a great deterrent to many criminals. But not all. Remember, a lot of criminals grew up with dogs, maybe have dogs of their own, and know how to handle a dog. If you're thinking about a dog to help with home security, it should be a confident dog that will bark at and challenge strangers at your door or on your property, but not be a vicious.
5) Weapons. Let's break this down into ready weapons and improvised. A ready weapon is a firearm, knife, stick, club, bat. Improvised weapons are anything that you can get to and deploy effectively within 3 seconds or less. Some aren't comfortable with firearms, and that's a choice. Some prefer not to have any weapons and rely on police, and that's a choice. Just remember--the police are not first responders. YOU are. Nothing good comes from spending time alone with a criminal. I prefer having a firearm, fighting knife as backup, and my wife ready to dial 911 while I clear the house. If you're going to use firearms, get the necessary training. Same with knives. Finally, a word on improvised weapons. You can use a knife from the kitchen cutlery block, a hammer, a screwdriver, a chair, pretty much anything you can get to and become effective with quickly.
6) Make a response plan. Then drill it. It's 2 AM and your alarm goes off. This is the exact, wrong time to be coming up with a plan. Get a good plan in place and practice it with your family. You should be able to go from the sound of the alarm to the first steps in your response plan in as little time as possible.
Remember, think in terms of layers. And try to think about your home the way a criminal would. Then plan your security and practice your response plan.
Finally, a word about security while you're away from your home. If you're going to be away from your home for a period time, such as a vacation or business trip, inform your neighbors and family or friends that live close by. Ask them to check on your house and keep an eye on things. You can also inform the police and ask for a home check while you're away. Have your mail stopped or collected by a neighbor, friend, or family member. Be sure to have packages collected from your front door. And if you're one of the 12 people in the country that still get a newspaper delivered, have delivery stopped for the duration of your trip. Put some lights on timers. And don't post on social media that you're away.