Home Protection Ideas?
November 24, 2010 10:20 AM   Subscribe

Our house got robbed last week for the second time in less than a year. Short of moving, what can we do to get our peace of mind and sense of security back?

Both times they used the alley behind our house to access our backyard and then bashed down our back door. We've always had an alarm system which has thankfully deterred them from rummaging further, but they've still been able to dash in and grab the TV and game machines.

We've added sensors to the alarm system so now there's a motion sensor directly pointed at the back door. Our handyman installed a heavier door and is working on some kind of security bar to help reinforce the frame. We'll also be getting a lockable storm door to put on the back.

We're going to try to close down the alley, but we'll need to get everybody on our block's consent on that so it's not a sure thing. We're also looking at making the back fence 8 feet tall instead of its current 6.

We want to get some kind of security camera system. Does anybody have recommendations on models? It would need to be accessible online as well as have good motion triggered DVR, and have cameras both inside and outside.

We're also thinking about getting another dog. We have a Welsh Corgi that we love fiercely, but he's not exactly a menacing guard dog. The new dog would still be a treasured pet, but would hopefully be big and barky enough to scare any would-be thieves and would stay outside if we're not home (and the outside isn't too hot or too cold). Any recommendations on breed, size, etc?

We've got some other ideas too (spiky bushes by the back fence) but what have y'all found to be effective? We love our neighborhood but this is driving us crazy. Stuff can always be replaced, but I'm not sure our psyches can take another burglary.
posted by kmz to Home & Garden (35 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
If/when you replace the stolen goods, do not put the empty boxes out where anyone can see them. A cop once told me that burglars love to come back and get the new stuff, too.
posted by Carol Anne at 10:24 AM on November 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

Do you really need that back door? Why not just wall it off?
posted by griphus at 10:24 AM on November 24, 2010

posted by davejay at 10:25 AM on November 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

1) Make friends with the neighbors. Having people that can keep a very casual eye on your house when you're gone never hurts.

2) As for bigger dogs, if you're up for it, it would help. There will always be some risk, but people don't tend to jump into yards with even the friendliest of dozing rottweilers. ;)

3) I'm honestly not sure what the point of a camera system is, since all that would really do is identify burglars after the fact. The alarm system has that covered.

4) Lots of lights. Leave a TV on for example, if you can stomach the power bill. Make it look like you're home even when you're not.

5) If you're gone for a long time (a whole weekend or something) have someone drop by now and then to check up on things. Ostensibly to water the plants, or whatever.

6) If you're afraid for your own well being, I seriously think that everyone can benefit from some defense classes. They keep you in shape too.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:25 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also: motion-detecting floodlight pointed at your backyard.
posted by davejay at 10:26 AM on November 24, 2010 [6 favorites]

Did they climb over the fence? Some anti-climb paint and informative signs about the paint and alarms might deter future burglers from even making it into your yard.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 10:27 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Oh yeah, we've never left out the big boxes. Though actually the box for the TV has been sitting there rotting in our dilapidated detached garage for over a year. I wanted to take it to the dump because I didn't want to leave it on the curb for pickup.

I honestly wouldn't be surprised though if it's been the same burglars both times for us. The first time they took the Wii and XBox 360 and left the TV, this time they took the replacement XBox and the TV.
posted by kmz at 10:28 AM on November 24, 2010

In addition to a motion-detecting light in your backyard, can you (and the neighbors?) set up lights in the alley?
posted by grapesaresour at 10:33 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

If they're bashing down your door, the door can't be worth all that much. Get a bar for it. And why not just get a proper security door? Preferably something heavy and metal.

This is what people in dangerous neighborhoods do, and why you see so many houses with bars in the windows in such neighborhoods. The second link there makes things more on the "classy" than "fortress" side, but I think you really just need to get a big honking chunk of iron.
posted by valkyryn at 10:35 AM on November 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

Along the line of conspicuous boxes, maybe obtaining some from scary products will give you a little edge, if not a little twinge of glee? I'm thinking along the lines of 'AK-47'...not that they necessarily come in boxes, but you never know.
posted by lhall at 10:37 AM on November 24, 2010

Could it be the same burglars? If it would help to catch them (and therefore prevent a recurrence), then you may want to check out this interesting blog post on tracing a stolen PS3 once it connected again to the internet by its "new" owners. Google says that the same thing can be done with a Xbox 360. Of course it may have been sold to someone else, etc. in the meantime but at least it might provide a lead.
posted by chinston at 10:40 AM on November 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

kmz: "We've added sensors to the alarm system so now there's a motion sensor directly pointed at the back door. Our handyman installed a heavier door and is working on some kind of security bar to help reinforce the frame."

An alarm comes into play when someone has already breached your property. Light is a deterrent so that's a good move. A vertical security bar is also a good idea - this is a terrible product (you want a single unit steel one) but the right idea.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:41 AM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the ideas everybody! Keep em coming! I had no idea there was such a thing as anti-climb paint. I'll definitely be looking into that one.

Lights are a good idea too, but I forgot to mention that both times it's happened in the morning shortly after we both left for work. One of our current strategies is to always carpool so there's always at least one car in the driveway.
posted by kmz at 10:43 AM on November 24, 2010

In terms of defensive plants, let me tell you about barberry. It's a beautiful plant, just gorgeous, and has quite the thorns. We used to sell it to people concerned about security in the plant nursery I worked at. My favorite is the William Penn. The lovely altai rose is good too, the thorns on that sucker are absolutely devastating, particularly if you were to grab a cane or-- God forbid-- land in a bush. Really, any full-size "old world" rose should be both decorative and have awful, awful thorns. Or how about a nice hedge of holly, or even better, if the climate permits, cacti? They grow well in urban environments.

Always thought security landscaping should be more well recognized.
posted by WidgetAlley at 10:45 AM on November 24, 2010 [4 favorites]

Walling off the back door is a bad idea, IMHO; in case of fire or other emergency it's good to have another means of egress. What type of back door do you have? After my parents' home was broken into (traditional wooden back door with a large window; perps broke the window and reached in to unlock the door) their insurance company paid to have a steel door installed. Bushes by the back fence (spiky or otherwise) will just provide further cover for thieves. A six foot fence is fairly tall; I'm guessing the perps are tossing your valuables over it to an accomplice on the other side. Would two extra feet of fence prevent them from doing that? One possible deterrent might be to add privacy slats to the fence to make it more difficult for the first perp to climb the fence (that is, presuming the current fence is chain link and not wooden) and also difficult for his friends on the other side to keep an eye on the caper (they would all have to be vocal to remain in contact, which might at least catch the attention of your neighbors).
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:45 AM on November 24, 2010

Response by poster: Our first back door was a cheap piece of shit that basically broke in half with no effort at all. The replacement was heavy enough that this time they severely damaged the frame as well. The new door is an apparently even stronger solid core wood door. Part of the problem is that the house is really old so the opening isn't a standard size so we can't put in a metal door. Though I suppose if we got really desperate we could redo the whole thing frame and all.

The back fence is already a wooden fence. I'm honestly not sure how they managed to get a 40" TV over that fence. I'm guessing they pulled up a truck and used the height of the truck bed and multiple accomplices.
posted by kmz at 10:54 AM on November 24, 2010

Along the line of conspicuous boxes, maybe obtaining some from scary products will give you a little edge, if not a little twinge of glee? I'm thinking along the lines of 'AK-47'...not that they necessarily come in boxes, but you never know.

Don't do this (or the common "security by Smith and Wesson" stickers). Guns are super attractive to thieves -- they are worth a lot of money, are easy to carry, and are easier to sell than a big old TV. I'm not saying don't own guns (guns are great) -- just don't advertise that you own them.
posted by Forktine at 10:56 AM on November 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

When we had this problem, many years ago, we decided ... not to do very much. What we did do, however, was to make it a bigger pain in the ass for anyone robbing our home.

We lock our fence gates (hey, it's not always easy to lift a 75-pound TV over the fence instead of walking thru a gate). We put those laptop locks, the ones with a cable, on our TV and stereo, and chain them down. We "hide" stuff way upstairs, where it's inconvenient to run up and throw stuff around with the alarm going off (yeah I know it's not really hidden, that's where they'll look if they have time).

Oh, and we have a German Shepherd.
posted by dwbrant at 10:57 AM on November 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

You're dead-bolting the door, right? It's pretty damn difficult to take down a solid wood door that's been properly deadbolted (I suppose it also helps if the door is hinged to swing outward, so that you have the door frame also supporting it against any impacts).

I live in a part of DC that used to be one of those places where you really shouldn't go at night. Accordingly, my windows all have bars on them, and my "screen door" is actually a ~200lb iron gate.

If you got some chains and hooked it to a truck, you could probably rip it off, but honestly, it'd probably be easier to penetrate the brick wall around the door than it would be to penetrate the door itself. Also, a few of my obviously-wealthier neighbors don't have bars or a gate, so I think it's kind of unlikely that my house would be a target in the first place. I've kept mine up, because most of the other neighbors do still have them, and because they're really not all that ugly. Also, the bars on my windows prevent teenagers from throwing rocks/bricks through them, which is a far more likely crime than an overt home-invasion.

I don't worry about break-ins. At all.

Another idea: A "Premises under video surveillance" sign on your door?
posted by schmod at 11:03 AM on November 24, 2010

Part of the problem is that the house is really old so the opening isn't a standard size so we can't put in a metal door.

Yes you can. You just can't use a standard door.

What's more expensive, dropping $1000 on a custom job or paying another deductible or two and watching your homeowner's premium increase?

Also, consider that making repeated claims on homeowners' policies is a really bad idea. Homeowners' carriers, like all personal lines carriers, tend to run on a pretty tight loss ratio and are not averse at all to ditching accounts which are unprofitable. That stands to cost you a lot more than a custom door.
posted by valkyryn at 11:15 AM on November 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

We have had similar problems in the neighborhood we live in, and soon we are moving (yay!). Moving is not completely because of the bad neighborhood, our house is awesome as far as I am concerned, but we found another house we love. I have been in this house for 20 years, and my husband for 14.

We got a bluetick coonhound. That changed everything. These dogs have a bark that will rattle the windows, and raise the hair on your neck, but have sweet temperaments.

I also love the idea of pyracantha bushes because they are beautiful all year around. Plant them where it will be a pain for someone who has to run through them. Planting them close to the door only gives people cover.
posted by chocolatetiara at 11:20 AM on November 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you want a deterrent dog it is hard to top a Doberman. Sleek, elegant, built-in family protection mode but big babies with their own people (our dogs were tireless protectors of our kids even as newborns -- never a second of concern).

These are dogs that instantly get bad guys to move on down the road to easier pickings.

They are smart, stubborn and energetic, so you will have to spend time providing training, play, and exercise. If you aren't able/willing to be the boss these dogs will gladly assume that role, to your daily dismay.

But nobody goes into a house/yard with a Doberman unless they are highly motivated to do so -- and your TV isn't enough.
posted by trinity8-director at 11:21 AM on November 24, 2010

Do fake security cameras make a difference, or is is obvious that they're fake?

In countries that are collapsing, fences are often topped with something sharp.

From a google search: "Spiral razor wire is installed without clips, it can be installed in its natural loops on walls, which looks beautiful and practical."

What if you put in razor wire and grew ivy around it?

Also, it's too bad there wasn't some way to track the stolen goods via RFID chips or something, because catching the people who stole from you would definitely help you feel safer. It's too bad that a perfectly good alley has to be closed down because of some thugs.
posted by mecran01 at 11:45 AM on November 24, 2010

What about bars on the windows? I know it's probably not ideal, aesthetically speaking, but there are some designs out there that are not too terrible.

I also like the dog idea, although if you get a puppy it could be a little while before the dog was ready.
posted by smalls at 11:59 AM on November 24, 2010

We had a rash of burglaries in my neighborhood and I wasn't even worried. I'm usually a freak-out kind of person, but my alarm system and my German Shepherd Dog kept me calm.

If you're going for a guard type dog I can't recommend a German Shepherd enough. Mine almost attacked a door-to-door salesman and all I did was put my hand up in the "Stop" position. She is sweet and gentle with everybody in my family, and cautious with people we introduce her too. We adopted her from the Humane Society when she was at least a year old and a month later I had a dizzy spell and blacked out. She was already so protective of me that she wouldn't let my neighbor (who I called to help) near me until I locked her in a bedroom.

If you do go with the dog I recommend a doggy door. Then if it is too hot or too cold the dogs can stay inside but be able to run out if they hear something.
posted by TooFewShoes at 12:14 PM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

You need to reinforce your door frame and preferably install shatter "proof" windows. Most door frames are pieces of junk (as are most doors) and need reinforcement. Without that, the door or the frame one will yield under the pressure of a crowbar and a few solid kicks. With reinforcement, the only way to get the door out without rolling a truck through it is to split the door itself in half.

Once you've made it hard enough that their best option is to cut a hole in the wall or roof, they'll just move on.
posted by wierdo at 12:36 PM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Don't forget if you're adding security lighting it needs to be motion-sensitive. Lights that stay on all night are a) annoying as hell to neighbors who you want to be on your side b) something burglars can factor into their plans and c) much more of an asset than a deterrent, since they can use the always-on lighting to case your entry/exit.

Planting-wise, we use pyracantha (mentioned upthread), prickly pear cactus and spanish bayonet, a truly terrifying plant to blunder into in the dark.

Also, if you have a cement/brick wall in your back yard or alley, here's something I've seen (in St. Pete, FL): random chunks of broken glass - particularly the bottoms of wine and beer bottles - set points-up in concrete mortar all along the top surface of the wall. One handful of that and nobody will want to climb that particular wall again.

IDK if this is legal or desirable where you live - best to check first.
posted by toodleydoodley at 12:54 PM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Security doors + signage (alarm company sticker, "Beware of dog!", whatever).
posted by coolguymichael at 1:25 PM on November 24, 2010

Part of the problem is that the house is really old so the opening isn't a standard size so we can't put in a metal door.

A quick google search indicates that Lowes has sizes of 32, 34, and 36 inches--and smaller outfits basically say "send us your measurements". I don't think a security door is out of your reach. What's the size of your existing front door?
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 2:17 PM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I respectfully disagree about a doggy door, since that will be how the burglars break into your house next time. You want to deter them with the dog's menacing bark from inside the house as they're fiddling with getting the door open.
posted by kpht at 3:39 PM on November 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would get a good handyman to come in and reinforce your doors or google how to do it. Some 3-4" wood screws can work wonders, and if you can't get a good steel clad door, I made a security door using carriage bolts and 3/4 plywood bolted to both sides of hollow core door. I cut the plywood to fit flush with the door opening and then used carriage bolts to sandwich the hollow core door between the plywood sheets. Bars are also a good idea and not all that expensive. Making the fence taller is a good idea, and make sure you have it designed right, most places require permits for a fence above 6' tall (has to do with uniform building code). Double key deadbolts are also a good idea-but kind of a fire hazard. also look into secure doors internal to the house that are hard to break through. Makeing their lives hard and take a long time is the best way to deter thieves. That or a shotgun and the will to use it (but not an automatic recommendation-deadly force even in self defense is a serious thing and not something to do on a whim). Definately make sure anything like razor wire or broken glass is legal for your area before using it. Usually a call to the community service officer is the way to go to find this out.
posted by bartonlong at 4:32 PM on November 24, 2010

A dog is a serious purchase to be sure of that.

I would definitely go with the security bar on the inside of the door, as long as you make it take a good effort to enter your home they will move on.

3) I'm honestly not sure what the point of a camera system is, since all that would really do is identify burglars after the fact. The alarm system has that covered.
--A security camera is a GREAT idea, I cannot implore that enough. catching them after the fact with the materials will put them away for a while. It may not deter a different group of doing the same thing, but you will get your things back and your insurance company will go after them monetarily as well.

Another tactic is to actually engrave identifying information (name and phone number) into your devices so that if it is found in a pawn shop or someone's house there is no question of ownership.
posted by zombieApoc at 4:43 PM on November 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Nthing the pyracantha along the fence. This is what my parents put up to keep the neighborhood juvenile delinquents from smoking in my playhouse in the backyard when I was a kid. We never had any trouble with them again after my parents had it put in.
posted by immlass at 4:50 PM on November 24, 2010

Although they don't look menacing, we have two yellow labs. Great with kids, they love to play, and they have a loud bark. I'm nearly certain they have thwarted potential thieves. The dogs have full run of the house and (fenced in) backyard. Plus, (or not--depends on how you feel about it) they don't leave your side. Ever.
posted by 6:1 at 5:43 PM on November 24, 2010

They're going to test the doorknob first. Then they (might) kick it in...Liberally cover the doorknob with axle grease, they will absolutely HATE it, the smell is wretched, and damages their clothing. It will also prevent them from picking up your valuables in a timely fashion.

Also-motion detectors are good, and a dummy red flashing light that's motion detected over the door (may) detract them enough to just stop their shenanigans.

Oh yeah, a snarling mean ass dog a great idea. My beagle hides under the sofa when the alarm goes off.

A .45 with hollow point bullets are close to my side, two cans of pepper spray and a loud, obnoxious profane-ridden mouth is also a deterrent.

Good luck, buddy.

posted by ~Sushma~ at 8:39 PM on November 24, 2010

« Older Looking for ideas for photo and document scanning...   |   "Oh man, that is a stinky one. Have fun!" Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.