Home-Defense FAQs

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Home defense doesn’t have to be complicated. To make it easier, here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about home invasions.

How Do I Make My Home Burglar-Proof?

It’s basically impossible to make your home burglar-proof because, with enough determination and skill, a person can make entry into any home. We can, however, make homes more burglar-resistant through the use of deadbolt door locks, window locks, alarms and warning signs. These and other measures will turn away average burglars. But even all of your preparations aren’t capable of turning away all criminals. There is still that 1 percent out there who will breach or attempt to breach your home defenses because the value of what they want outweighs the risk of getting caught.

Do (Exterior) Cameras Deter Burglars?

If cameras effectively deterred criminal activity, convenience stores wouldn’t have to worry about being robbed, and nothing would ever be shoplifted. However, the presence of visible exterior cameras can cause less-determined burglars to bypass your home in favor of neighbors without cameras. Home-security cameras can be useful in two ways: They alert you to the presence of questionable people outside of your home, allowing you time to react. Cameras can also help identify the people involved after a crime has been attempted or committed.

Do Alarm Systems Deter Burglars?

This depends on the location, in my opinion. In 39 years of policing, I have never taken a burglary report at a home equipped with an alarm. I have taken plenty of burglary reports at businesses equipped with alarms though. Why? A typical business is open to the public, giving criminals plenty of opportunities to “case the joint.” This means they already know where the valuables are, and time on target is minimized. A criminal targeting a business will be driving down the road with his or her loot before the alarm company verifies the alarm and notifies police.

A residential burglar, on the other hand, has never seen the inside of a home prior to the burglary. He or she is unsure as to the exact layout of the home and the location and quality of valuables. Much more time on target is needed, increasing the risk of capture. Why break into a home with an alarm system when the home next to it has no alarm and looks like an equal value?

Do Burglars Break in at Night?

Burglaries are equally divided between day and night entries. They can vary widely based on neighborhood, situation and goals of the criminals. Traditional burglars seek unoccupied homes because they don’t like confronting potentially armed residents. Home invaders are different. They intend to have face-to-face confrontations to commit their crimes, which are often drug-related. Rapists often break in at night while their victims are asleep and most vulnerable. People on hallucinogenic drugs break in around the clock.

How Do Burglars Get Into Homes?

Traditional residential burglars tend to be small in stature — around 5 feet, 6 inches to 5 feet, 8 inches in height. They can fit through and hide in unbelievable spaces. The places I’ve caught some burglars amazed me. They pick entry points that pose the least risk of detection. Sometimes entry is as simple as smashing a sliding glass patio door or kicking in the front door. I’ve never seen a burglar with lockpicking tools. Most often, an entry tool is picked up on scene, such as a rock thrown through a window. Entry through side or rear windows is also common. More violent home invaders attempt to trick victims into answering the door for them, making a “dynamic entry.” The options are limited only by a criminal’s imagination and desperation.

About Scott W. Wagner

Scott W. Wagner has been a law enforcement officer since 1980, working undercover in liquor and narcotics investigations and as a member, sniper and assistant team leader of a SWAT team. He currently works as a patrol sergeant for the Ohio Police Department. He is a police firearms instructor, certified to train revolver, semi-automatic pistol, shotgun, semi- and fully automatic patrol rifle, and submachine gun. Scott also works as a criminal justice professor and police academy commander.

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