12 Mistakes That Welcome a Home Invasion

George Ure and Gaye Levy, Contributors

This site is all about Strategic Living. But “strategic” can mean different things to different people, or even to the same people within the context of different circumstances. Still, in its most basic definition, strategic is defined as: carefully designed or planned to serve a particular important purpose or plan of action.

Here at Strategic Living, we want to take you beyond the basics by helping you plan for the unexpected. This not only includes prepping for the occasional disaster, but also coming up with the strategies (strategic, get it?) for coping with day-to-day challenges.
And so today we talk about the challenge of dealing with and preventing petty crime, or burglary.


Whatever you want to call it, burglars are bad guys. If someone breaks in to your home — be it a ranch in Eastern Texas, a cottage in Washington State, an apartment in the city, or a garden home in a planned community — a break-in is a break-in and is therefore a violation of your most sacred space: your home.

With the shorter days of winter, as well as the holidays that are coming up, burglars and thieves are going to be on the lookout for homes that are easy targets. 

The two G’s want to share 12 things people do to roll out the welcome mat and invite the bad guys to pay them a visit. 

We also want to offer some suggestions of things you can do now to make your home less attractive to these uninvited visitors.

Let’s get started.
1. Leaving the doors and windows unlocked while you are home inside.
Okay, we know you are not stupid, but you would be surprised at how many folks dutifully lock up when they are away but leave their doors and windows wide open and unattended when they are home. Gaye will tell you how often people have tried to simply walk right into her house. So now she leaves both the front and back doors locked so all that these unwelcome visitors get is a rattling door knob and the barking wrath of Tucker the dog.

2. Hiding a key under the mat, over the door frame, in a barbecue, or some other place that every crook knows about.
This is something else that smart people do, They hide a key in the most obvious place they can think of (probably so they will not forget themselves). The problem with this is that everyone else knows about these hidey holes as well. Fake rock with a well built in for a key? Jeesh – everyone knows about those. Instead, invest in a secure key safe such as this one that is mounted outside Gaye’s house. 
3. Using Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites to advertise your whereabouts.
In the early days of Facebook, it was fun to be able to re-connect with old friends from years past. That was neat. The no-so-good part was that after six months or so, Facebook became a big time warp.  Going to FB meant that one, two, or even three hours would vanish without my realizing it. Anyway, we digress.  Many Facebook and Twitter aficionados post their every movement on these and other social networks. Going to the mall? It is on Facebook. Going to a movie? It is on Twitter. The thieves are watching — believe it. It is not too difficult to become a friend, or a friend of a friend, and before you know it your security is compromised because the world knows you are not at home. Stop it!
4. Showing off all the good stuff in your house by leaving packaging and empty boxes from your new electronic toys outside at the curb.
Say a burglar is scoping the neighborhood looking for target. He sees that big empty box at the curb. You know – the one your new 50” flat screen came in. You can bet that this guy is going to case your place, waiting until you are away to come on in and help himself. Now that 50” flat screen may be too big for him to cart away, but if you have that flat screen TV, his assumption is that you are going to have a lot more goodies. Moral of the story? Don’t advertise that you have expensive new stuff.
5. Keeping the place in the dark.
For a few cents a day, you can invest in some economical lighting for your outside area. The newer light bulbs last forever and can brighten up a porch or yard, deterring not only the prowlers but the four legged critters as well. You can put the lights on dawn-to-dusk timers, making the lighting a set-it-and-forget-it operation. Personally, and this is coming from Gaye, a well-lit home is more important than a new outfit or some other trinket. And that – in a nutshell – says a lot. 

6. Putting up signs indicating your home has a silent alarm, whether true or not.
Let’s get real. The silent alarm goes off and how long does it take for the cops to arrive? Ten minutes, twenty? Both of us are former city dwellers, and back in the day we each had one of those high-end monitored alarm systems. That was okay and offered a bit of comfort, but looking back — just how useful was that silent alarm? In both cases, the silent alarm was accompanied by a very loud alarm that would go off and wake the neighbors when it went off. So now we just have the loud alarm to alert us that someone is breaking in to our home. That and a shotgun.

7. Going on vacation without stopping the mail or the daily delivery of the newspaper. Plus, telling you barber, the waitress at your favorite coffee shop, and the clerk at the drugstore you are going away for two weeks.
Sure you are excited. It’s a fabulous tropical vacation, after all. But do you really need to tell the world? The more people you tell, the more risk you have that they will tell someone else . . . who will tell someone else and so on. Why not wait until you get back when you can share the actual memories? In the meantime, while you are gone, stop the mail, stop the papers, and have a trusted family member or neighbor know you are gone. If you live in a planned community, let the security people know you will be gone. And everyone else? Well just zip it. One other thing: hold off on posting those vacation pictures online until you are back at home. Why advertise that your house is empty, tempting the burglar to drop on by? 

8. Leaving the garage door open or unlocked.
This is so easy to do, especially if you have a detached garage. You are running in and out many times a day and it is a pain in the neck to keep unlocking the door then locking it up again. The problem is twofold: first, with the door wide open, passersby (and this includes thieves looking for their next target) can see your stuff. All your tools, your sporting goods, your stored canned goods and your garden equipment can look awfully attractive to someone who covets those things. It may take a few extra minutes to close the door and lock things up, but that is exactly what you should do. And while you are at it, how about some curtains for those garage windows? 

9. Crappy locks are as good as no locks at all.
The bad guys will simply bypass your home if it requires too much effort or requires more skill and tools to get in than they possess. Invest in quality deadbolt locks with at least a one-inch throw. Also double check the throw plate since most are pretty flimsy. Upgrade to a four-screw, heavy-duty, high security strike plate which should be available in any hardware store. If you have a sliding glass door, get an inexpensive wooden dowel to fit insider the railing or track. This will deter the door from moving, even if the latch has been compromised.  And, once again, let me remind you that for your own safety, lock those doors!

10. Leaving cash, jewelry, and other precious items out in the open for everyone to see.
Consider a home safe. Home safes are coming down in price and are a wise choice for keeping cash, jewelry, precious metals, or guns from inquisitive children, snooping babysitters, and of course, the smash-and-grab burglar. 

11. The yard is a mess, the bushes are overgrown, and the hedge keeps things nice and private.
Your yard may be shouting out an invitation: come hide here where no one will see you. The burglars and thieves don’t want to be seen, so what better choice than to find a yard full of clutter where they will blend right in with the chaos. Or, even better, how about a yard full of overgrown bushes that make sneaky hiding places? Or trees that have thick, sturdy branches that reach out to second story windows and the roof? Now is the time to get out those clippers and trash bags so that you can clean out the excess brush – and the junk – making it more difficult for the thieves to hide in plain sight, right outside your front door.
12. Your neighbors are grouchy, too old, too young, too persnickety or ???
Whatever feelings you have about your neighbors, find at least one that you can trust and be a good neighbor. Good neighbors will look out for each other. If you can, get to know your neighbors on each side of your home, and at least one neighbor directly across the street. Invite them into your home, communicate often, and establish trust. Good neighbors will watch out for your home or apartment when you are away and they can report suspicious activity to the police or directly to you while you are away. The important thing here is to get to know your neighbors and learn whether you can trust them now, before you head out for an extended vacation.
So there you have it. Twelve ways you can target your home for thieves, and twelve things you can do instead.
Hang on and enjoy the ride,
The Two G’s – George & Gaye

Introducing Strategic-Living: a practical and useful online magazine providing inspiration and guidance as we make our way through the maze of changes that are coming our way. In collaboration with my friend and colleague, George Ure, Strategic-Living will offer a synthesis of Urban Survival and Backdoor Survival with much more detailed tips, tools and strategies for creating a vibrant and sustainable lifestyle wherever your path may take you. Think of Urban Survival and Backdoor Survival as your roadmap and Strategic-Living as your detailed guidebook. Here you will find articles and photos, diagrams and how-to’s, and a healthy dose get-out-there and do it with kick-in-the-ass inspiration.

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