Home Security Part III: Deter

It is better to avoid a problem than need to deal with it.  In context of home security, avoidance becomes deterrence, the ability to deter the criminal element from attempting to breach your home in the first place. 

Regarding the Three Ds paradigm (deter, detect, defend) deterrence is accomplished by making your home a hard target.  If your abode appears more risky in approach and breach than your neighbor’s house, you will accomplish this goal for most situations.  If in a rural environment that has no close neighbors you want to make the home risky enough to approach to turn off the criminal element.  These deterrence methods are not comprised of booby traps or other such lethal means, but through tools that make anonymity and entry itself difficult.  Lighting, signage, strong doors and windows, alarms, dogs, etc…, can all be used to turn away criminals.

Obviously, there is no guarantee that deterrence measures will actually work, as determined home invaders will make their way into the home if they wish.  However, good deterrence methods can greatly reduce the risk of burglary or home invasion.  Deterrence tools can also overlap into detection tools; for example, motion activated lighting can serve to deter, but also alert the home owner to the presence of someone slinking around the home.  Likewise, a solidly re-enforced door can deter a home invasion, but also provide detection due to the commotion being made trying to break it down.  Here, however, we will focus on these tools in strictly their deterrence capacity.

Don’t Flaunt Affluence

To begin, don’t draw attention to your home by advertising wealth.  Don’t leave the box of your new flat screen television out in the front yard for trash pickup.  Minimize advertising what you have.  If you have a car garage, then keeping the expensive vehicle or expensive motorcycle inside over night is a good idea.  Don’t leave expensive children’s toys laying in the yard over night.  While there is only so much that can be done to conceal the fact that you have things worth stealing without intentionally making your home a run down shack, you can still minimize the open display or valuables that burglars want.

Minimize Hiding Places

This consideration does not involve any particular tools at all, but rather, it entails some landscaping.  Minimize shrubbery and bushes being right next to the home, particularly near the portals (doors and windows).  Such vegetation provides hiding places to obscure the presence of miscreants.  Hedges, trees, and bushes can provide concealment for criminals who seek to sneak up on the house in the darkness and scope it out, or to break in.  Trim hedges that sit under windows so that they are low and do not provide concealment for humans.  Be wary or any bushes or hedges that sit next to a door, behind which criminals could hide themselves to ambush a household member as they leave or enter the home.  If that sounds paranoid, bear in mind that this exact strategy has been used many times in home invasions.

Leverage the Power of Lighting

Lights prove excellent deterrence, as criminals, like other skulking night creatures, prefer to move about in the concealment of darkness.  Obviously, leaving outside porch lights on all night is an option, but even better, motion-activated lighting proves more practical.  Upon approaching a home and activating motion-sensing lights, a criminal actor realizes that they become visible to the household, neighbors, or passersby.  They also realize that the activation of the lights can alert those in the home to the presence of someone outside. 

One lighting technology that is inexpensive and readily available is motion sensing lights that link together via a wireless signal.  These facilitate the activation of all lights on the property turning on when even only a single light senses motion.  This means that, upon approach to the home, the entire perimeter of the home will be illuminated, thus diminishing any hiding spot.  Such motion-activated lighting is exceedingly valuable in deterring criminal actors.

Signage

Signs of various kinds can also serve as deterrence.  The typical “Beware of Dog” can help in this regard, even if you have no dog putting the sign on the front door is an option.  Signs of value are those that indicate there is an alarm in the home.  Most alarm companies provide signs and stickers that can be put in the yard and on windows.  Even if there is no alarm system in the house, these signs can further help to dissuade would-be burglars.  One interesting tip I heard long ago: if you do have a particular alarm system, post signs for a different system, because some burglars specialize in knowing how to defeat a particular system.  If a criminal knows how to disengage one system, only to discover the system is different than what he anticipated based on the sign, his entry into the home might be cut short.

Cameras

Again, cameras can serve as both deterrence and detection.  Concerning deterrence, visible cameras can go a long way in turning away criminal home burglars or invaders as these kinds of people want to avoid being filmed while doing their work.  Placing cameras in prominent location, such as at doors and accessible windows, can serve well to dissuade invaders.  Even if the cameras are not working, the visibility of the camera can have a significant impact on the plans of the invader, as criminals do not want to filmed while committing felonies.

Alarms

While we consider alarms primarily part of the detect category, they can also serve to deter, obviously.  Alarms prove exceedingly important as they allow for the detection of intrusion.  In terms of deterrence, however, alarms can be significant factors.  Upon breaching a portal, a loud alarm may force a criminal to re-calculate their risk and flee the premises rather than force their way in.  An audible alarm tells the burglar that the homeowner is most likely aware of their presence, and that emergency services may also be notified, as many alarm systems automatically call law enforcement. 

Strong Doors and Windows

Finally, an essential part of home security that also serves as a deterrence is re-enforced doors and windows.  The average residential front door is, literally, a one-kick door, meaning a solid kick from a physically spry individual can breach the door.  You need to re-enforce portals so that it takes longer for a determined home invader to enter, or so that it may deter their entry to begin with. 

To strengthen exterior doors, be sure you have both a knob and a dead bold on the door, and use long three-inch screws to anchor the shock plate for both into the door frame.  The short screws that come with the door knob and dead bold typically only grab into the thin door frame wood.  Longer screws will sink into the studs underneath and give greater resistance to a forced breach.  Keep your doors locked at all times in the day.

At night, when retiring to bed, brace the doors with a door security bar of some kind.  These can be quite effective.  The style of bars that wedge under the knob can be very effective, as long as they are sitting on a no-slip surface.  The force of a kick will go into the bar rather than into the screws of the shock plate, and a barred door can take a lot more abuse, thus giving you more time to prepare.  Such reinforcement can also deter the further attempt to breach the door in the first place. 

Windows should have sturdy locks, but you can add additional security to most windows.  You want to force the intruder to have to break and go through the glass.  This is a deterrent as the risk of severe injury when going through the glass is present.   A good way to secure windows is to cut wooden dowels to exact length so that they wedge between the top of the closed portion of the window and the frame above.  You can then Velcro these dowels into place at the side of the window, thus making it easily removable from the inside so that you can open the window when needed, but making it impossible to open from the outside without shattering the glass.  Reinforce all accessible windows in such a way.

Consider these suggestions in formulating your own series of deterrence methods.  The first step of securing your home is to make it less inviting as a target to begin with.

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