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Evaluating Your Situation

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The majority of residences in the U.S. lie somewhere between needing the secret service level of protection to requiring a Chihuahua alarm. Evaluating your particular situation and circumstances is the first step to deciding if and how much enhanced security you and your family may need.

There is a lot that you need to know in order to determine just how secure your home really is. This includes evaluating your current safety features, your neighborhood your home and understanding how break-in artists pick their targets.

If you live on a farm surrounded by acres of land, you may believe that you are less vulnerable for being robbed or burglarized than those who live in cities surrounded by potentially suspicious people. Actually, skunks live in both zones and setting up deterrents keeps most of the stinky ones from wandering into your living room causing havoc.

One very important factor to consider is whether or not your home has already experienced a break-in.

If you have been a victim of a home burglary, you have a 60% chance of a second break-in within 6 to 8 weeks.

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Before You Spend Money on Any System

• Call your local police department and ask to be connected to a Crime Prevention Specialist and find out what your local conditions are for home invasion crimes.

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You may discover that due to lack of funding, the emergency responder departments have received deep cut-backs and that manpower is inadequate to handle non-violent crime investigations or responses.

You may find that there hasn’t been a break-in reported in over two or three years or that the police get calls every two or three days. They may also have brochures and checklists for you at no cost!

If you live in a rural area or a very small town, you may need to contact your County Officers and it may take more than one or two days for him or her to get back to you. If you have not heard back within 3 days, use the squeaky wheel model until your noise works.

• 42% of burglaries and break-ins occur in the Southern U.S. while only 12% occur in the Northeast where major metropolitan cities are located.

• Ohio has more burglaries and break-ins than any other single state with Michigan and Tennessee ranking 2d and 3d

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Much to the consternation of many alarm companies (and crime writers), fewer burglaries occur in New York and Los Angeles than in Nashville and Dayton.

That’s not to suggest that fewer violent crimes happen in the northeast or west or that having a security system would not be in your best interest if you live in Boston or San Francisco.

Just because there is only one burglary every three years in your neighborhood is no guarantee that tomorrow isn’t your turn!

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Taking stock of your neighborhood

Once you know the police department’s ability to respond to non-violent crimes and what the crime rate of your neighborhood really is, take stock of your neighborhood’s visual enticements.

No one is completely safe from becoming a victim.

General Indications of Neighborhood Wealth and Privacy

  • Mostly resident owned properties
  • Mostly rental properties with some home owners
  • Homes are primarily occupied seasonally
  • Homes are vacant at least 6-months each year
  • Homes are mixed occupation of owners and renters – either seasonally or throughout the year

Properties that are owned by the residents usually have higher priced toys in the driveway or yard. However, those who rent individual homes (vs. apartments) also have high-priced toys on display. These are things that burglars look for.

It is reasonable to assume that if you have a boat or motor home in the yard that you have expensive electronics, maybe guns and usually expensive clothes or jewelry inside the house. It is also an indication that you leave the home for at least a day or more at least once a month – fishing, camping and traveling during the holidays.

If you live in a neighborhood where many of the residents are seasonal – such as at the beach or near the mountains – those vacant homes are like neon lights to those who are looking for an easy score!

With all the repossessions that have taken place in the U.S. over the last few years, homes that have been repossessed and vacated also lure burglars into your neighborhood.

  • Nearest commercial property centers at least one-mile from home
  • Nearest commercial property center less than one-mile from home
  • Balance of mixed commercial and residential properties within 2 blocks of home

The closer your home is to active businesses – such as grocery stores, cafés and coffee houses – the less chance you’ll have of being targeted!

  • Most residents own one vehicle
  • Most residents own more than one vehicle
  • Residents primarily use other forms of transportation (walking, bikes, buses, subways)
  • Public transportation access within a block of property
  • Primary Public transportation limited to taxis, limousines or private drivers

Neighborhoods where people walk to the bus or subway stop or bike to work often means that someone has the potential to be around to observe what is going on in the neighborhood.

If most of your neighbors drive their own car daily, they are not as likely to notice someone doing something out of the ordinary, because they are paying attention to the road – not the yards.

  • Most properties are tended by landscape or garden companies year round
  • Many homes have outside maid service at least twice a month
  • Property is set back more than 200 feet from roadway and unusual activity may go unnoticed to immediate neighbors
  • Property is easily visible to immediate neighbors and they pay attention to unusual activity and feel omfortable notifying you if something seems out of place
  • Property with privacy wall
  • Property with private security gate

How easy is it for your home and yard to be seen by your neighbors? Or how often is there likely to be someone in your yard to deter unwanted visitors? If you have a privacy wall, you are blocking visibility from the street and activity that can rob you of your property, as well. These types of situations are definite candidates for some kind of camera surveillance system.

Homes that are within three blocks of busy public transportation stops where most residents with all vehicles over three years old that are visible on all sides to neighbors’ homes are safer than homes in rural areas or those offering privacy from the street.

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But, the most likely target for home burglaries are low income areas where the majority of residents and/or couples work at least one full-time job. These people are less likely to have secure locks on the doors and more likely to have electronics that can be sold quickly. They probably do not know their next door neighbors well and spend most of their money on personal items such as jewelry.

They are also the most likely people to own guns – a high-ticket item for burglars.

Social Atmosphere of the Neighborhood

  • Know most of your immediate neighbors beyond “hello” (such as where they work, the name of their children and their parents, have socialized with them at least twice in the last 12 months)
  • Recently moved into the neighborhood and do not know your immediate neighbors yet
  • Have lived in your home at least 6 months but still do not know your neighbors’ names or where they work
  • Have attempted to meet neighbors within 3 houses of your home in all directions but neighbors are reluctant to make friends
  • Neighbors are friendly and names and contact information is known to you and your family
  • You socialize with neighbors at least twice a year
  • Neighbors are known and socialize with each other
  • Neighbors are unknown but seem friendly and offer to help in times of need (such as bringing meals by when someone is ill, help with fixing
  • equipment or willing to loan you their equipment if yours breaks down)
  • Common to share rides to school and/or take care of children after school on occasion
  • Church or school within two blocks of property
  • Police and fire departments within 4 blocks of home
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Knowing your immediate neighbors by name and recognizing immediate family members on sight can be helpful to officers when they need help in identifying victims versus perpetrators.

By socializing with neighbors who live on your block at least twice a year, a loose-knit bond is formed where sharing contact information for extended family in case of emergencies is acceptable.

One of the least safe places to live is within four blocks of the police department, churches or schools

Non-Residents frequenting neighborhood

  • Several tourist attractions less than one-mile from your home
  • Parks that hold events during the year to attract tourists within 4 blocks of your home
  • Public recreational facilities or shared pools in community
  • Parks and recreation facilities nearby (such as public pools, Y’s, rivers or event facilities)

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Knowing your immediate neighbors by name and recognizing immediate family members on sight can be helpful to officers when they need help in identifying victims versus perpetrators.

By socializing with neighbors who live on your block at least twice a year, a loose-knit bond is formed where sharing contact information for extended family in case of emergencies is acceptable.

One of the least safe places to live is within four blocks of the police department, churches or schools.

Living near parks and recreation centers are often touted by realtors as a reason to buy into a neighborhood.

Yet, it could just as easily create some issues that make your home more vulnerable to would-be burglars.

Homes in neighborhoods frequently occupied by tourists do not make them less safe and in some instances, may make them safer than other neighborhoods. All strangers are not villains.

Neighborhood’s Typical Housing

  • Attached housing neighborhood (Row houses, for example)
  • Condominium, Town House or High Rise Residences
  • Apartment Complex
  • Mobile Home in Park
  • Mobile Home on separate acreage
  • Detached housing (not including mobile home or premade home) in neighborhood of primarily single family homes with less than 4 bedrooms
  • Detached housing with more than one and less than five acres of land in your neighborhood
  • Detached Housing on less than ¼ acre lot
  • Detached Housing on lot between ¼ and ½ acre
  • Detached Housing on lot between ½ and 1 acre
  • Detached Housing on lot size larger than 1 acre

Statistics show that the safest neighborhoods are those with condominiums, town houses, row houses and homes with less than four bedrooms.

  • Gated community with 24-hour security guard
  • Gated community with daytime guard at gate and night vehicle patrol guard
  • Gated community with combination of guards at all gates and vehicle patrols
  • Gated community with no guards
  • Gated communities with sporadic vehicle patrols
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Most people are under the impression that living in gated communities or having a private security gate will ensure that your home and family are safe from most intrusions.

  • More than one home on property within 100-feet of each other
  • Hired hands live on property
  • Farm is occupied by tenant famer
  • Farms are mixed with non-farming residences

The types of homes in your neighborhood are rarely judged by a villain when targeting areas.

Data shows that they seem to assess targets according to general wealth of the neighborhood first and ease of access to your property second.

Regardless of whether you live on a farm, in an apartment, in a mobile home, own your own home or rent, any neighborhood can be subject to break-ins.

Evaluate the Structure of Your Home

The main purpose of this part of the evaluation is to determine if you have areas that need more protection and if so, what type of protection would work best.

Physical Material of Structure (more than 50%)

  • Wood
  • Brick
  • Steel
  • Man-made materials such as pressed wood for exterior walls covered with siding
  • Aluminum structure such as mobile home

There is nothing wrong with living in a prefab home or a mobile home except for the fact that securing the doors and windows against break-ins is more difficult. You need to compare the cost of installing special locking mechanisms vs. the cost of purchasing a wireless security system that you can install and operate without extra charges for monitoring.

Purchasing a wireless system that you can monitor from your phone may be the best buy of your life!

Windows

  • Wood framed
  • Metal framed
  • Aluminum framed
  • Safety-glass
  • Leaded glass
  • Triple paned
  • Insulated panes

Windows that have more than one pane are much more difficult to break than single pane styles. Windows that open wide enough for a man to crawl through are invitations to unwanted entrants.

Doors

  • Wood framed
  • Metal framed
  • Aluminum framed
  • Solid wood
  • Hollow-core wood
  • Window-wood combination
  • Double Entry
  • Sliding Doors

Obviously, sliding doors are less secure than solid wood doors which are less sturdy than steel doors. Sidelight windows and windows within three feet of a door allow for criminals to break the window and open the door by reaching inside.

Number of Entryways

The more entries that your home has, the more opportunity there is for a break-in artist to take advantage of it.

Just as it is convenient for your family members to access the house from the basement level when outside or from the garage when it’s snowing or raining, these entries offer the same protection of being unseen to burglars.

Other considerations

  • Number of windows within 3-feet of entryway
  • Number of windows at basement level above grade
  • Number of windows to basement below grade

Windows that are easy to access from the yard of your home, such as those to basements, are especially attractive for those who want to sneak into your home.

Windows that are within 3 feet of a door can be broken, allowing an arm to reach in and open the door.

  • Raised decks, patios or porches above main level
  • Stilt Home such as seen at beach or low-lying water areas
  • With Covered Entry such as a porch or portico

While it would seem that raised decks, patios or porches would deter someone from breaking into your house, the facts show that the opposite tends to be true.

It may be that burglars think just like most residents and find more doors or windows open near these decks.

  • With full basement
  • With foundation only – no basement
  • With Carport plus entry to home
  • No designated space for vehicles
  • Bushes, trees and shrubs conceal some windows or entry doors
  • Minimal or low-level exterior lighting at front, back and sides of home

As you look at your property, try to imagine how difficult or easy it would be to break into your home without anyone outside noticing your presence.

Once completed, try to make whatever changes that you can to reduce the potential risk.