I’m not going to tell you how to prevent home burglaries because every neighborhood and, in fact, every home is different and what works for one place may not work for another. I can offer some suggestions, however, based on my own experiences and observations. I’m going to tell you about some incidents that I’ve dealt with before and after moving to the Philippines and the steps we took to rectify the situation, if we took any steps at all. I’ve learned that you can’t rely on anyone but yourself when it comes to preventing home burglaries.
In Phoenix, Arizona
You may have heard that most burglaries are perpetrated by people you know or someone who’s been inside your home. Sometime between 1992 and 2000 (I don’t remember the month or year), my home in Phoenix was burglarized and the sad part about it was that nothing was done about it by the police, the bank involved, or the insurance agency. The person who broke in came in through the gate to the back yard, broke a rear window and climbed through. This was in the middle of the day and everyone was at work, including my neighbors. He stole the contents of an old 5-gallon water bottle (coins), which wasn’t very much, but then went into my mother-in-laws bedroom and rifled through her purse, which she didn’t take to work with her. Fortunately for her, not much cash was stolen. He found both her bank card and the pin number in the purse (her mistake), but when he tried to use the card at an ATM machine, he couldn’t get any money because the account was almost empty. The ATM took a picture of the culprit and it was, indeed, someone who had been inside our home as a guest of another visitor. The bank sent us the picture but didn’t pursue it. The police didn’t pursue it and the insurance agency paid for the broken window. No follow-up was done and I can only assume the perpetrator wasn’t punished for his crimes.
After that incident, there was always someone at home during the day, so a repeat incident was unlikely. I sold the home in 2006, so it’s all water under the bridge now, but I learned something important: The only person who really cares about your property is you.
How often police patrol your neighborhood, how well the lighting is in your neighborhood (and around your home) and how well neighbors interact with each other will usually determine the safety and security of the homes in your neighborhood. There are things you can do to make a burglary less likely but you can never eliminate the possibility completely.
In Olongapo City, Philippines
I live on the outskirts of Olongapo City, Philippines, in the barangay known as Santa Rita. The only time any kind of police come to the end of the street I live on is when someone calls them. There are no patrols of any kind. Despite that fact, my neighborhood is a low crime area and it may just be because everyone in the neighborhood knows each other and when an outsider is in the area.
A few short months (May 2007) after my house was built, a burglar scaled the retaining wall that borders our house and the creek and attempted to enter though a downstairs window. I couldn’t sleep that night and I spotted him around the corner of the house from the balcony of my bedroom, which faces the street, around 3 am. He didn’t get in because I yelled and scared him away. I eventually found out who he was and that he was permanently crippled due to jumping from the retaining wall into the creek (full of rocks) in an effort to get away as fast as possible. I suppose the adrenaline rushing through his body kept him from feeling pain of his injury until he made it home.
This happened despite the fact that my house had lights hanging from all four corners of the roof eaves. It just goes to show you how bold burglars can be when they think they won’t get caught in the act.
By October of 2008, I had bars placed on all the downstairs windows and a sliding gate placed in front of the sliding door to the living room. I plan to do the same thing for all of the upstairs windows as soon as I can afford it.
I have three doors that lead into the house: The front door, a door from the dirty kitchen and a door from the laundry room, both being additions to the rear of the house. All three doors have deadbolt locks on them and the additions have their own doors to the outside, but they’re just screen doors with latches.
Make no mistake, these are just deterrents to burglary. Still, my house is not an easy target and hopefully, any potential burglar will seek out an easier target and leave my house alone. The fact that I’m never away from home at night is a huge deterrent in itself, especially when all of my neighbors tend to make it known to their friends and visitors.
Given enough time to get in, a burglar could still get into my house, or any house for that matter. Hopefully, any attempt to do so would arouse the suspicions of my neighbors and the other people living in my compound. Most of the houses in our neighborhood, where the owners are not known to be poor, have bars on their windows. The poor people, of course, don’t bother because they don’t have anything that anyone would want to steal.
It’s difficult to describe my neighborhood because it doesn’t have boundaries like you see in cities. I suppose that being between two streets is one boundary and the space between the upper part of the street and the lower part of the street is another. Within these boundaries, everyone knows everyone else until someone new moves into a house for rent or something. In fact, a lot of people are congregating on the street near the front of my house almost every evening (after all their kids get home from school) and annoying the hell out of me when I’m not out there with them (inside my house doing things like I’m doing right now).
Security monitoring services like ADT will work in some places but not in others. In fact, any service like this is only as good as their response time.
Keeping lights on at night, making sure any garage door has a real lock on it, locking gates and doors and things of that nature will keep the casual wannabe burglar from making any attempts to gain entry, especially in an area that is regularly patrolled by police or a neighborhood watch group. In rural areas and places which aren’t patrolled regularly, not so much. Security bars are a must in rural areas because the days of neighbors being neighborly are just about over.
If you have a garage, make sure the garage is closed when unoccupied by people. In my previous home, I had both a lawn mower and a bicycle stolen by drive-by thieves when an in-law left the garage door open when going back inside the house. Burglary isn’t necessary when you unknowingly open your home to the outside.