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According to FBI crime statistics, there are over a million burglaries a year. Over 60 percent of those take place at residences and more than 50 percent of those involve forcible entry. It’s a scary scenario to think that someone could break into your home using force, but for many survivors of domestic violence, this is a very real threat from an abuser they’ve escaped from—especially an abuser who’s been stalking their victim. Sixty percent of female victims and 44 percent of male victims of stalking are being tracked by a current or former intimate partner.
For safety and peace of mind, it’s a good idea to evaluate how safe (or not) your home is. Below, a checklist of 9 things that could help make sure your home is more intruder-proof.
1. Don’t Be Complacent About Locking Up
This is a safe neighborhood, nothing happens here. How many of us think that when we get comfortable in our neighborhood? This could be true … until the day it’s not. Leaving doors and windows unlocked means an easy-in for an intruder. According to the security company ADT, most burglars actually walk right through an unlocked door to commit their crime. Make sure to lock your doors and windows even when you’re home and double-check them before leaving the house. A reminder post-it note on your car dashboard might be a good idea if this is something that’s not routine for you.
2. Upgrade Your Locks
So, you’ve locked the doors, but anyone with a screwdriver can easily break them. If you know your locks can be easily picked and it’s financially doable, upgrade door locks to ones with a deadbolt. Research which locks are most highly reviewed for security (here are some recommendations for doors and some for windows).
3. Don’t Forget About Garage Openers and Doors
Many people forget to securely lock the outside-facing door to their garage and then leave a garage door opener in an unlocked car. That’s an easy way to get items in a car stolen or the car itself taken. Also, don’t forget to always keep locked the door from the garage to the house. If someone can get into your garage, they can get into your house. When we say lock all doors, we mean all doors.
4. Motion Detector Lights Are Your Friends
With the exception of the two bad guys from Home Alone, burglars and intruders typically choose a house that doesn’t give them a lot of trouble to enter. So imagine trying to sneak up to a house and being blinded by a motion-sensor light—it can be enough to scare away someone nefarious. These lights are typically pretty affordable (here’s one for under $40). We don’t recommend the solar-powered ones since you’ll likely want to put them in a front door alcove or somewhere else that the sun may not reach at all times.
5. Get a Dog … or a Fake Dog
Speaking of deterrents, most dogs come with a built-in barking alarm system, something burglars and intruders don’t like.
"I have heard multiple accounts from burglars who say that all things being equal they will always opt for a house without a dog," Louis Wood, the owner of a private security firm in San Antonio, tells cnet.com.
A big dog with an intimidating bark is great, but even a small dog with a not-so-intimidating bark can get your attention when there’s someone lurking around your windows. However, not everyone is in a position to adopt a dog, in which case, you might want to consider something like this motion-triggered fake-dog-bark alarm that can sense movement through a wall up to 10 feet away and make someone think there’s a dog waiting for them.
6. Invest in a Security System … or a Fake Security System
In talking to 422 inmates in prison for burglary, researchers out of the University of North Carolina found that 60 percent of them said they would seek a different target if they could detect an alarm system on the property. Some 36 million American homes are equipped with a home security system, which sounds like a lot, but it’s actually less than a third of homes. Granted, it’s not a cheap option—they’re usually hundreds of dollars to set up and then a monthly fee ranging from $50-100. Would a $21 sign simply declaring your home is equipped with security deter an intruder? It’s definitely not going to hurt.
7. Don’t Give Intruders Places to Hide
Overgrown shrubs near your windows offer great hiding spots for would-be intruders. So do fences that block the view of your home from the street. In The Safety Trap, author and security expert Spencer Coursen warns that too high of fences can keep intruders from being spotted by anyone driving or walking by, putting you at additional risk.
8. Take Your Name Off the Mailbox
Farmhouse décor on Pinterest would lead us to believe that our last name should emblazon all sorts of items around the outside of our house, but this just confirms for an intruder that they have the right house. Keep your name off of mailboxes or decorative signage. “When it comes to where you live, those who need to know should know,” writes Coursen.
9. Think Like a Burglar
Go outside your home. If you were an intruder or burglar, where would you try to break in? Once inside, is there anything stopping you from walking around freely? By walking through worst-case scenarios, you’ll better see where you need to beef up your security measures or add additional protections for each area of your home.
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A Note for Survivors of Abuse
There are burglars and then there are vengeful and abusive ex-partners. These two types of people will have different motives for breaking in and the latter might not be as easily deterred by some of the above. It’s important for survivors to consider getting an order of protection after abuse if there’s a threat that the abuser won’t be leaving them alone. Even coming near the house can mean a violation of the order and potential jail time, which can send a clear message to the abuser to stay away.
Safety planning after abuse is also important. Call your local domestic violence hotline where an advocate can help walk you through a post-separation safety plan.
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