Burglar Proof
May 31, 2009 9:53 AM   Subscribe

I want to burglar proof my home! Now that I have a family, the last thing I ever want to have happen is to become the victim of a home invasion, robbery, burglary, etc. I am interested in things that I can do to deter bad guys and prevent this from happening. Secondly, if a robber / gang did get into my house, how could I get them to leave peacefully. I am open to any idea from physical security, reinforced doors / locks, cameras, psychology, geography / topology, lasers, stun guns, trap doors, safe rooms, fake jewelry / money, persuasion, etc. Keep my family and all MeFites safe from the bad guys.
posted by jasondigitized to Home & Garden (40 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Get a dog.
posted by box at 10:01 AM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Big, loud, dog. Seriously; that trumps absolutely everything else you suggested.

Also, maybe talk to someone about your anxiety.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:01 AM on May 31, 2009

Good locks on all doors, make sure all windows are double glazed and can be securely closed and locked shut, and look into burglar bars (we've got them on all our ground floor windows and doors). We've also got indistinguishable baffles built into the walls where valuables can be secreted. If you don't know where and how to knock you'll never find let alone open these compartments. I built them myself, but a tradesman could easily install a couple in half a day.

"... lasers, stun guns, ... "

This is a non starter; its best to keep them out of your home to begin with. if they have already compromised your perimiter then violence on your part will only worsen a bad situation. Weapons are useful only if you've trained to use them and continue training to use them. I worked for a number of years in Africa, was in more than one firefight and even folks that have trained with guns incessantly may and do freeze in hostile situations.

If you're not willing to put the time in to master the weapon - and combat tactics, just going to the shooting range a couple times a month won't cut it - initiating violence from your side will almost certainly get yourself or someone you love killed.
posted by Mutant at 10:03 AM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Personally I think you're nuts, but then so's my dad and he has a bunch of these.
posted by hermitosis at 10:13 AM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

The best thing you can do is prevention.

In addition to having a big dark-colored dog, you should have a relationship with your neighbors that makes them want to look out for you so that they call the police if something remotely suspicious is going on at your house.

Likewise, if you live in a neighborhood with a lot of foot traffic, make eye contact and speak to every stranger you see. You will get to know who belongs there and who's out of place.

Give at least one neighbor the keys to your house to keep all the time. Give them blanket "what if" instructions such as "I never have workmen here when I'm not home. See someone on a ladder outside my house and I'm not home? Call the police."

Use an alarm system that notifies the police if it doesn't get cut off in x minutes.

Use light timers.

If you have so much of a routine that it's obvious when you're not home, try to make it less obvious. e.g., Leave a car in the driveway when you're not home.

This might sound obvious, but it's surprisingly common for burglars to just walk right in: Close and LOCK your first-floor windows if you're not in the room.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 10:23 AM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Your residence needs to be obviously harder to break into than neighboring residences. Nobody's going to break into the one house with an iron fence around it, if the other houses have no fences at all.

Also, invest in good locks that can't be crowbarred through. I've read that burglars will give up if they can't gain entry within about thirty seconds.
posted by jayder at 10:27 AM on May 31, 2009

The dog is an excellent idea. If your city police department has a citizen outreach public relations program you could take advantage of it. In my city they have a Citizen's Police Academy which is thirty hours of instruction spread over ten weeks and it was useful and for us citizens it was free. We had the option to ride around with an officer for an entire eight hour work shift (which took the total time chunk up to 38 hours + the travel to and from the sites). I learned just about everything there was to learn about my exposure to crime that can be learned in 38 hours.

If the burglar is determined to get into your home you will not stop him with a dog or any locks or any weapons. They told us cases where the burglars could not get in the door and they sawed through cinder blocks to get access. One of the most attractive burglar magnets on earth is a firearms collection. Cash, jewelry, drugs. Those are the big four. Expert burglars (op. to desparate drug addicts) know what is inside before they break in. The loud dog is for the desparate drug addicts.
posted by bukvich at 10:28 AM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

the last thing I ever want to have happen is to become the victim of a home invasion, robbery, burglary, etc

You're getting excellent suggestions so far, especially in terms of getting a dog, but I'd caution against getting too hung on home safety. Robbery and burglary happens, can happen to anyone and it's far from the worst thing that could happen to your family. Living in fear of it leaves you extremely vulnerable if it does happen and risks alienating your family if you go overboard with the precautions.

Seriously, you bringing up "stun guns, trap doors, safe rooms, fake jewelry / money" is veering into crazy-surbanite-with-unreal-expectations territory. Your family needs a steady hand, not half crazed plans.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:34 AM on May 31, 2009 [7 favorites]

Secondly, if a robber / gang did get into my house, how could I get them to leave peacefully.

You can't. You can only get them to leave by using violence. That means a loaded gun, legally in your possession, that you're trained to use, which you use to shoot the bad guys.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:35 AM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

if they have already compromised your perimiter then violence on your part will only worsen a bad situation.

Assuming you're not in possession of a firearm on which you are trained in the operation of and ready to use.

Let's face it, you can do almost all of the aforementioned and yet if someone really, really wants to get in - they're going to get in, eventually. Bars can be cut, dogs can be poisoned, there are simply ways around this stuff. There's no way around a well-aimed firearm.

Mutant does make a very important point, however, you do need to put in the time, money, and effort to maintaining your training level with the firearm. I grew up being trained on guns, and although I don't have one where I now am, if I were to obtain one, I wouldn't dream of doing it without a) regular (at least 1x week) shooting range time and b) less frequent but ongoing combat tactics training.

All that in mind, a dog is certainly an excellent idea by the way of an added deterrent. If you get a dog for home protection, it will need to be properly trained, and you will either first need to be properly trained on how to train a dog (no small endeavor) or be willing to pay for someone to train the dog. Most trainers have options where they will you and the dog simultaneously, and this is usually best for most people.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:53 AM on May 31, 2009

The Rules of Gunfighting would apply if you were to go the gun route.
posted by alby at 10:55 AM on May 31, 2009

I acknowledge that Mutant has far more experience with these matters than I do, but "initiating violence from your side will almost certainly get yourself or someone you love killed." is a demonstrably false statement. Home invasions are routinely repelled by firearms owners of varying skill, though it's obviously far from a safe, reliable method. (See the Civilian Gun Defense Blog for a highly unscientific sampling.)

The point is that, while fighting a home intruder is indeed highly risky, it does in fact beat surrender in terms of safety. (FBI statistics bear this out. Individuals who resist criminals with firearms are injured and killed at a substantially lower rate than those who cooperate.) The golden rule with street criminals is to not allow them to take you to a secluded spot where they have privacy with you. Your home is automatically such a place. Once you allow them total power over you, you are in extreme danger until they leave.

But Mutant is correct that the importance of training with a firearm cannot be overstated. If you decide to take on that responsibility, you must be legally, mechanically, and technically expert with it. You must train for stress situations, train in the dark, and be 100% certain that you are willing to kill an attacker. If you doubt that part of yourself, then using a gun really will be a bigger danger to yourself.

That being said, guns are the absolute last line of defense. A dog AND a loud alarm system will do far more to protect you in terms of absolute safety. At the very least, home intruders will do whatever they want to do quickly if your alarm is screaming the entire time. But, for me personally, an alarm and good locks are used to give me enough time to wake up, corral the family, and take arms before they get inside, assuming the noise doesn't deter them in the first place, which is of course ideal.
posted by Doctor Suarez at 11:03 AM on May 31, 2009 [3 favorites]

That means a loaded gun, legally in your possession, that you're trained to use
. . . that is locked securely away, yet at hand if & when needed.

6 years ago I was at home upstairs when somebody gained entry into my house during the day. My presence alone was enough to scare them out of the building, thank God, but my housemate let me borrow one of his handguns & a quick-access gunsafe to keep it in.

A handgun in a gunsafe in your bedroom isn't a horrible insurance policy but chances are pretty miniscule that it will prove useful to you, and probably even in a safe chances are greater that it will cause harm than help over the time of its ownership.

Certainly the money can be spent elsewhere, like learning aikido, to greater effect.

Maybe I've seen too many Steven Segall movies, but for personal safety I'd take a 3rd dan in Aikido over any concealable handgun any day.
posted by @troy at 11:05 AM on May 31, 2009

allkindsoftime: Let's face it, you can do almost all of the aforementioned and yet if someone really, really wants to get in - they're going to get in, eventually. Bars can be cut, dogs can be poisoned, there are simply ways around this stuff. There's no way around a well-aimed firearm.

Shooting you works pretty great. Or threatening to shoot your child.

The reality is that if some person or group of people wants to get inside of your house badly enough, they will be able to do so. If they want to take control of your house, as opposed to just grabbing stuff and leaving, they will be able to do that, also, if they have enough desire. Bars on the windows, guns, and booby-traps (which are almost always illegal and can and will get your pants sued right off your ass) aren't going to do anything except teach your children to be perpetually afraid and suspicious.

If you don't want your house broken into: know your neighbors. Know your area. Don't leave your hose empty-looking on any kind of regular basis outside of day light hours. Don't leave a huge, empty flat-screen TV box on the curb, or blast your expensive home-entertainment system so it can be heard outside. Don't have your TV/entertainment system/other expensive shit in a place where it is visible to casual passers-by, like those people who put a huge TV right across from the sliding glass door, that is idiotic. Teach your kids not to invite every random young person they meet to the house, teach them the difference between a trusted friend and a casual acquaintance, so they know how to evaluate someone's trustworthiness. Know who their friends are, know the parents of the other children, know what kind of family life they have. Try to spend a little time with all of them together, too, so you are a person with a face, not just "Bobby's dad." Plant some nice rose bushes under your first floor windows. Keep those windows closed, and locked. Buy a dead-bolt for your exteriors doors, and use it. Buy a steel door, and paint it so it looks nice, instead of those sill doors with huge windows in them.

Armed robbers entering a private residence for the purpose of stealing things is a very rare event, if you aren't a drug dealer/gun runner/money printer. It is a stupid thing to expect to happen. IF, for some unimaginable reason, someone ever breaks into your house, the smartest thing you can do BY FAR is keep your wife and children the hell out of the way, and let the people take whatever they want. It's just stuff. You have insurance, you'll get more stuff. You wouldn't corner a frightened animal, so don't put an obviously desperate person into an even worse position. Let them boost the TV and the DVDs, give them whatever cash you have. Let them lock you in the basement. Then call 911 and your insurance adjuster, and get back to living. Don't pull a gun like some action-movie-wanna-be jackoff and get your family killed. Don't set booby-traps that wind up crippling your children because you are afraid of the bogyman.

Dog isn't a bad idea, though. But don't try to get an "attack dog," or train your dog to be mean, or anything stupid like that, because that dog would be an infinately larger risk to the safety of children than all the imaginary robbers in the world. Get a good sized dog, with a nice loud bark, and treat it like a pet.
posted by paisley henosis at 11:10 AM on May 31, 2009 [9 favorites]

I think that it would also help you feel more confident from the get-go if you learned personal self-defense (also encourage your partner to do this). You won't spend as much time on physical defense strategies as you will on learning to recognize very early signs of danger and how to prevent yourself from being targeted (hey, maybe there is even a course that discusses home safety too). This sounds like it would be right up your alley, just for the increase in your personal handle on the situation. Things that are out of our control are always scary, and it's natural to want to protect yourself. I would not buy a gun as step 1.
posted by so_gracefully at 11:15 AM on May 31, 2009

Your residence needs to be obviously harder to break into than neighboring residences.

This is worth repeating. It's the old joke about how, if you want to survive a bear attack, you don't have to outrun the bear, you just have to outrun the other guy.

That is, this is useful against the only remotely likely scenario: a home invasion with a robbery purpose. Home invasion with a crazy-maniac-kill-kill-kill scenario: I dunno, life insurance? Burial plots? Nothing you can do about that. Good thing you're likelier to be hit by lightning while wearing a lampshade and doing the polka.
posted by palliser at 11:26 AM on May 31, 2009

Best answer: Given that the OP offered a long list to suggest the range of options he'd consider, including lasers, and didn't mention purchasing or using a personal firearm, can we not make this a thread about that?
posted by escabeche at 11:28 AM on May 31, 2009

Given that the OP offered a long list to suggest the range of options he'd consider, including lasers, and didn't mention purchasing or using a personal firearm, can we not make this a thread about that?

I'd never dream of having a gun in my house, but the question clearly states "I am open to any idea," so I think they have to be considered as a viable answer, despite your (and my) personal preferences.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:34 AM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you get a security system monitored by whatever company, make sure you get the little sign that says "Home protected by *corporatelogo*". Most security system/monitoring companies will have these signs when you sign up, because they have been shown to be a deterrent.

I know it's nice to have landscaping around the foundation of your home, but the only things you should consider as far as that goes is something a foot or less high, preferably thorny or spiky. This makes it more difficult and more uncomfortable for would-be criminals to hide near your home. If you have a basement window or something accessible at earth level, DO NOT put any foliage there as it will provide good cover.

Motion-activated floodlights are designed for this purpose. Many home invasions happen at night, but if you have a motion activated light near access points like driveways, garages, and your backyard, it will make you less likely to have to deal with criminals.

Nthing dog, and nthing a good strong deadbolt and chain on ALL external doors. So you have knob lock, chain (go outside and open the door and try to disengage the chain to make sure it's secure) and a deadbolt that extends into the wall past the door frame.
posted by Night_owl at 12:12 PM on May 31, 2009

escabeche- Not sure what that has to do with anything. Guns are a valid tool in defense of ones life and is a relevant topic in this discussion.

My comments:

I would separate the "problem" into two distinct sub-problems. First, is someone breaking into your house to steal stuff when you aren't there. Second is protecting yourself from home invasions while you are at home. Both are unlikely, the latter is really unlikely. This is good news and bad news. The more unlikely something is, the less likely you are to be prepared to react appropriately when it happens.

(Don't discount the FUD you are laying on yourself by worrying about this too much. A life lived in constant fear is less fun than getting your VCR stolen every now and then. The idea of living with a security system and bars on the windows is much more terrifying to me than getting my shit stolen.)

Theft: don't make it easy for people to take your stuff. But make it easy for you if they do. Backup/encrypt computer information. Get homeowners insurance. Don't leave your cool stuff visible from the street. Lock your doors. Light the exterior of your home. Don't trust the automatic garage door opener to be secure. If you must have an alarm system, make it unusual so that easy methods of defeating them will fail.

(Do not fall victim to some bad advice that's out there: door locks that need to have a key on the inside to get out are far more likely to kill you in a fire than prevent theft. As are bars on the windows that aren't able to be instantly removed in an emergency. In this case, think of the children. Will your least-able family member be able to escape a fire?)

Home invasion crazy time: have a plan. Decide in advance how you are going to react. If you've got a homocidal nut on your hands, be prepared to defend your life. If this means having a gun, fine. But be prepared to use it- no point in having one if the bad guy gets to it before you do. Or if you aren't ready to pull the trigger when you are in fear of your life. If "go time" ever comes, be prepared to determine if you are in a "them or me" situation, and be prepared to win. Train yourself to assess a situation rationally. Despite the warnings upthread, sometimes the best option IS to acquiesce. Or to run outside.

(Or maybe even have a panic room. Not the crazy foot thick lead walls with a wall of TV screens like in the movies, but a room or two that you can retreat to that will have what you need to maintain safety. Just a room that happens to have a phone or security system panic button or a gun or whatever. A room that will let you and your loved ones survive until the police show up. Possibly even one that has a window or door that you can escape through.)

But these kinds of situations are more likely to be due to something in your life, rather than being some random event. Like the whacked-out friend of your blabbermouth cousin-in-law who told him that you have a suitcase full of money in the back closet and tons of cool computer stuff. Or a disgruntled domestic situation. Or a disgruntled client of your drug dealing operation. If you are just a normal person living a normal life, the odds of a home invasion are very close to zero. Criminals are stupid, but they have one thing in common: they are looking for the easiest score. Don't be that.

Other stuff: if you don't trust your kid to make the right decisions about letting people in the house, then they really aren't old enough to be that unsupervised.
posted by gjc at 12:21 PM on May 31, 2009

Given that the OP offered a long list to suggest the range of options he'd consider, including lasers, and didn't mention purchasing or using a personal firearm, can we not make this a thread about that?

That depends on the goal. If we're trying to make the OP feel safe, then yeah, we can talk about Aikido and tasers and things like that.

If the goal is for the OP to genuinely be safer, there's no substitute for firearms. People I know who knowledgeable about this kind of thing say the best choice for home defense is a slide-action shotgun loaded with buckshot.

But only if it's in the hands of someone who has thought the issue through and is willing to use it.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:22 PM on May 31, 2009

If the goal is for the OP to genuinely be safer, there's no substitute for firearms.

Not at all true; there are lots of things he could do to genuinely be safer, like sell his house and move to a low-crime neighborhood. The fact that he didn't mention this, or anything like it, in his list of options suggests this is an effective safety option he's not considering.

If he were comfortable with having a gun in the house, and trained in its use, I'd think he would have mentioned it; and it sounds like all hands agree that having a gun will be useful for him only under those circumstances.

Of course, the OP is perfectly capable of ignoring those answers if they don't apply to him, so they're not really doing any harm! And it seems I've now already written more non-answerage into the thread than I was originally complaining about, so I'll stop.
posted by escabeche at 12:43 PM on May 31, 2009

Okay, so about the tone of this question: your house in not a tree fort, okay?

If you're genuinely concerned about neighborhood safety then move. The comfort of a safe neighborhood is a value greater that whatever arsenal of gadgets you'll stow underneath your bed.
posted by trotter at 12:46 PM on May 31, 2009

I am by no means an expert in home security, but I have been reading everything I could get my hands on about burglars, murderers, home invasions, the mindset of prisoners, etc, ever since I saw this film at school in the third grade and immediately thought that Bad Guys were just waiting to break into my house. (I somehow didn't get the message as to what a "child molester" was for some reason, and just spent months of sleepless nights fearing that there were evil people waiting to break into my house at night and murder me.) One of my findings was the major concensus among garden-variety burglars (those who break into homes with the intent of stealing valuables) is that a dog is a major deterrant. It doesn't even have to be a bona fide trained guard dog; just one who notes the presence of an intruder and makes a lot of noise. Most of them said they'd move on to another house if there was a dog present. Also, it was said that an attached garage is the burglar's best friend - if he is able to open the garage door, he can pull a vehicle inside, close the garage door and then take his time jimmying the lock that leads into the house. He can then take his time loading goods into his truck without any neighbors noticing anything amiss. So, if you do have an attached garage, it is worthwhile to take extra precautions in regards to not only the garage door, but also the door leading from the garage to the house.

It used to be the "rule" that home burglars did not expect to nor want to confront anyone inside the house; they chose to break inside when they presumed no one was at home. Those that actually "invade" a home when they know folks are in residence are a different breed of criminal. They are either "hopped up" on drugs, or they have rape/assault and maybe more on their minds. They are less concerned about the legal consequences of their acts. If you're not well-versed in the use of firearms, and are caught unaware out of a dead sleep late at night, a handgun is not going to be of much use. However, the element of surprise can still be a useful tool. (This is a situation that you should discuss with your partner/spouse and semi-plan for.) If it is a lone gunman, and there are more than one of you in the house, you still have an advantage. This is where you have to steady your nerves and try to concentrate and not let fear overtake your thought process. Pretend to acquiesce with the attacker, but then launch a surprise attack by lunging towards his face with the intent of poking out his eyes. The perp's natural reaction will be to raise his hands to protect his face, which gives you the opportunity to either knock hiim down, poke his eyes, bite his cheek, whatever it takes to throw him off his guard and disarm him. It sounds distasteful to think of actually poking your fingers into his eyes, or grabbing a mouthful of his face and biting hard and tearing as if you were a dog, but in a life-or-death situation you want the upper hand, no matter how disgusting or unnatural the tactics involved.
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:03 PM on May 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

A friend's apartment was robbed, and while they were there cleaning up, one of the cops gave dog advice: you don't need a big dog, you just need a loud dog that'll freak out for any intruder. His advice? A lap dog. Chihuahua, yorkie, etc.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:44 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: For anyone who is pointing out paranoia or statistics, you have never lived in Trinidad. In Trinidad your dogs get poisoned, and when they come, they don't come alone.
posted by jasondigitized at 1:47 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: A few more things. I said my greatest fear is having someone burglarize my house. I didn't say I am preoccupied by that fear. I am just in the business of risk management for my family. And regarding trotters comment that I don't live in a tree fort......I actually would if I could, fully equipped with laser trip wires, granite counter-tops, and a rope ladder.
posted by jasondigitized at 2:04 PM on May 31, 2009

Years ago in Minneapolis I saw a sign which read "fear of crime and a belief that a neighborhood is unsafe, is worse than crime itself." I've lived by that ever since. What the OP might do is to find out about local community watch programs and join one or start one themselves.

Ooops, Trinidad. I was going to say they probably didn't have community watch in TT, but thanx to the internets I found this, this, and this.
posted by Xurando at 2:11 PM on May 31, 2009

When I lived in Kingston, Jamaica, we (and everyone we knew) had "rape gates" in our house. These were metal gates inside the house, between the living room and the hallways to the bedrooms. We locked them at night with padlocks.

We also had security alarms with panic buttons, a fence with barbed wire, a dog, and a gate at the end of the driveway we locked at night. During one rough period we had a night watchman.

Don't wanna go back there again.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:16 PM on May 31, 2009

Trinidad? OK, your fears are justified. Still, lots of stuff has already been discussed. A dog is your best alarm, but install a top notch alarm which calls the authorities. Lighting around your home and removal of places to hide while breaking in help. Bars on the window, secure doors, perhaps even a safe room could be in order for extra protection. Also, keep a cell phone at hand in case your phone lines are cut. I would imagine that private security is available as well. If you are going with a gun, I think a shotgun is the weapon of choice, a pump one. The sound of that thing racking should instill fear in anyone.
posted by caddis at 2:37 PM on May 31, 2009

A few suggestions:
- deadbolts into a strong doorframe
- cage bars over windows that's aren't very strong (or pretty ones if you can find them) set into a strong frame; same for windows in doors
- locks on screen/storm doors, ones that work, not the usual ones that can be pulled open
- a second set of locks high up on the door frame as it's easier to ram a door when it's only the centre that's bolted shut; medieval bar across door, only steel
- plants with thorns under the windows; think rugosa roses or tropical equivalents, perhaps something that results in a stinging rash
- large dog(s) that are trained to obey household members, although how you'd get a dog not to eat something offered by a stranger, I don't know
- motion sensitive lights and/or alarm
- monitored alarm system if available
- wrought iron or other sturdy fence/gate, with spikes on top where allowed
- we don't have a gun, but keep a baseball bat by the door (which the Mr can use as I'd probably lose it to an invader)
- an equipped, fire proof safe room is probably safer than confronting people
- windows that open from the top and only so far
- shatterproof glass in windows and doors (think it's actually some kind of plastic, but I've seen someone take a baseball bat to it without damage)
- inner grated door inside the regular outside door
- body guard who is related to you and would suffer if anything happened to you (like be ostracized by the family)
- flameproof house? wall around house/yard with glass imbedded in top layer (my ex-mil had this in Lagos)
- and, btw, the Guardian had a story last week about the % of British homes that were boobytrapped; think it was 35%, so you're not alone in wanting to set traps
posted by x46 at 3:11 PM on May 31, 2009

I know most of the posts have mentioned big dogs, but little yappy dogs could work too. Because they tend to bark at most everything they draw attention to the house. Little noisy dogs combined with motion activated flood lights would make me not want to try to sneak into your house. If I were a burglar I would go for the dark house with no yappy dogs.

You might also look into hiring a professional to try and break into your home.
That will show you where your weak spots are.
posted by meeshell at 3:12 PM on May 31, 2009

Oh, I forgot: we also had bars on all the windows. The bars on the doors set off the alarm if the door was opened; the ones on the windows set off the alarm if they were shaken.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:52 PM on May 31, 2009

Perhaps a different slant on this would be to consider the mentality of the putative burglar.

I don't have the stats in front of me, but the vaaaaaaast majority of domestic burglaries (at least here in Oz) are committed when no-one is home, and are committed with the intention of stealing readily re-sellable property to further a drug addiction. From this, I think you can safely infer that the majority of burglars:
(a) don't want confrontation;
(b) are looking for a quick return on their criminal investment; and
(c) are operating on a fairly tight timeframe ie, the need for some fairly urgent drug gratification.

If Ocean's Eleven want to get into your house to steal your priceless artworks, they'll get in no matter what. Houses just aren't that secure. But your average Junkie Burglar will take one look at the house, decide if it's worth the risk and move on.

As a number of people have pointed out, your house doesn't have to be Fort Knox, it just has to be secure enough not to be the 'go-to' option for Mr JB. The common factor I see in criminal cases I'm involved in is ready access to secluded areas close to the house. The unlocked garden gate that allows someone to get off the street and breach a window without being detected - that sort of thing. And the absence of a dog.

My wife and I lived in a pretty dodgy suburb in inner Melbourne for about 5 years. Every house around us got burgled at least once. We had, and still have, two wonderful, affectionate dogs. Irish Wolfhound/Mastiff cross hunting dogs. Big, shaggy, animals that look like they've escaped from Lord of the Rings. There is no addiction in the world powerful enough to have made a junkie jump our back fence. The reality is that the dogs probably *wouldn't* have harmed them, but they both look quite capable of feasting on your innards.

So, in short, I'm n'thing the advice to make your place more secure than your neighbours, prevent easy access to secluded places adjacent to the house and get a dog. Anything more than that and you're into the land of diminishing returns: what you gain in theoretical security will be more than offset by the anxiety of living in a paranoid prison.
posted by tim_in_oz at 4:11 PM on May 31, 2009

No expert, but when the police came to our neighborhood to talk about crime, they said dogs don't make that big a difference; what does help is exterior lighting.

Our neighborhood's issues may not be yours. We have guys who just want to come in and grab the fence-able items, not hurt people. You might ask your local police what variety of criminals are in your area.
posted by lakeroon at 4:50 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Bear Repellent is safer than a gun. If you accidentally spray a family member they'll get over it a lot quicker than a bullet wound.
posted by fellion at 7:41 PM on May 31, 2009

Someone above mentioned basement windows - The houses in my old neighborhood used to get broken into all the time. They're easy to muffle and kick in, inconspicuous while broken, and give somebody a lot of time to figure out whether or not you're home before they move on to ransacking the rest of the place.

I replaced mine with glass block, which not only removed the B&E problem, it also fixed problems with my basement flooding during heavy rains!
posted by Orb2069 at 9:21 PM on May 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

You know how rich people do this? They make burglary somebody else's problem.

You know who? Their insurance company.

Do what the rich people do.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:38 AM on June 1, 2009

If you like DIY projects, don't forget about constructing secret hiding spaces!


I agree with the dogs as protection, too. My dogs are happy and kind of silly, but they bark when people come to the front door.

Get a safe and keep valuable things in it. A cheap safe won't keep the serious person out, but if it's bolted down and out of sight, it will protect some items from the person who breaks in and wants to leave ASAP with as much as they can.
posted by tomble at 3:42 AM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Given your locale, I would probably adjust my advice to include a perimeter fence. I'd probably put in some kind of optical break kind of solution, like the sensor that you have in your garage door to keep it from coming down on the cat. When someone tries climbing the fence, it triggers whatever kind of alert you are looking for. I would go with something low tech but scary, like a sprinkler system and strobe lights. Maybe with a weird alert tone, like a really discordant high pitched squeal. Maybe even a stinky-gas emitter (mercaptans) that makes the thief believe there is about to be an imminent gas explosion or corpse discovery. At the very least, it would make a great you tube video.

Yeah, and a hidden safe and a shotgun.
posted by gjc at 7:22 AM on June 1, 2009

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