A Burglar’s Helper: Yes, It’s You!

Sure, your brand new TV was expensive. So was your kid’s Xbox and your husband’s collection of solid gold and diamond-studded Three Stooges bobble-heads. I know, you locked all your doors and every window latch was tightly secured before you and your family drove down to Sally’s Slippery Seal Sanctuary to see the animals perform their rendition of Flipper, The Musical.

Yes, it does seem as if the crooks knew exactly what they wanted and where the items were located.

You feel violated, vulnerable, and extremely and undeniably vincible.

So what could you have done to help could prevent the  burglary?

Well …

First of all, and this is an FYI in case one of your writer friends asks, when someone breaks into your home and then steals something that’s a burglary, not a robbery.

Robbery occurs when a crook uses physical force, threat, or intimidation to steal someone’s property. If the robber uses a weapon the crime becomes armed robbery, or aggravated robbery, depending on local law. There is always a victim present during a robbery.

For example, you are walking down the street and a guy brandishes a handgun and demands that you hand over the copy of After Midnight: Tales From the Graveyard Shift you are clutching in both hands. That’s robbery. Why? Because the bad guy used threat and intimidation to force you to give up your beloved possession.

Burglary is an unlawful entry into any building with the intent to commit a crime. Typically, there is no one inside the building when a burglary occurs. No physical breaking and entering is required to commit a burglary. A simple trespass through an open door or window, and the theft of an item or items, is all that’s necessary to meet the requirements to be charged with burglary.

For example, you’re out for the night and Paul Piglet and his girlfriend Porcinia Devine climbed a ladder and entered your home through an unlocked upstairs window. While inside they stole the copy of After Midnight: Tales From the Graveyard Shift from your nightstand.

The crime committed was burglary because the couple didn’t take the book from an actual person. Instead, they removed it from your residence while no one was at home. There was no immediate threat to you.

Okay, let’s run down my checklist to be sure you’re doing all you can to prevent future burglaries.

1. Burglars used YOUR ladder to get inside. Be sure to move it out of the yard and store it inside the garage, or maybe in the basement or storage building. Out of sight, out of mind.

2. When you’re finished moving the ladder take a few extra minutes to trim the bushes, shrubs, etc. around the house. You don’t want the overgrown nandina providing a hiding place for the bad guys.

3. Motion-detector lights are a great addition, but are not perfect, not by any means. Savvy burglars often test this tactic by getting close enough to activate the lighting and then hide, watching and waiting to see if the homeowner checks to see what made the lights switch on. No response to the sudden illumination can be a green light for the criminal to proceed.

4. I know you’re as proud as a peacock about that gorgeous mirror hanging in the foyer, and you should be. It’s really nice. However, the reflection seen from the window at the front door is that of your security system panel, into your living room, and down the hallway. A quick peek through the glass and a burglar can see if your alarm system is activated, or not, how many people are in the living room, if any, and where the TV and other valuables are positioned in the room. Not to mention that it’s creepy to expose so much of your personal space.

5. Social media. Do I need to say anything about how foolish it is to post your whereabouts every second of the day? Announcing to the world that you and your family are on vacation for two weeks is not a good idea. Nor is it a good idea to post photos of every single room in your house. Doing so is like posting blueprints and an inventory list of your things.

Bad guys troll these sites to pick and choose where they want to go based on what YOU’VE told and shown them.

“Here’s my new 200 inch flat screen and, by the way, we’re going to be away for a week. I hope Killer, our guard dog enjoys his time at the kennel while we’re gone. The house will be totally vacant for a week but cousin Mary Lou will stop by to feed the fish every day at 10 a.m., so we’ve left a key hidden beneath the large rock that’s one foot to the left side of the front stoop. What fun we’re going to have! See you when we get back next Sunday around 4 p.m. Thanks, Mary Lou!”

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You are aware that geotagging features on cellphones, when activated, contain the latitude and longitude of exactly where a phone was when photos were taken, right? That means, for example, your kid takes a selfie inside her bedroom and then posts it to Facebook. The location of that bedroom/house and your precious DAUGHTER is now online and available to every pervert in the world.

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6. Advertising sale items on online sites is popular, but you should not invite “buyers” to your home. Doing so is practically an open invitation for burglars to check out you and your things, or even worse. For example, the man who advertised a motorcycle on the popular site, Craigslist. When a potential buyer called and expressed interest in the bike, the owner invited the caller to come over and have a look. In short, the buyer showed up, shot and killed the owner, and then stole the motorcycle. How safe do you think the family and neighbors felt in the days, weeks, and months afterward?

Have buyers meet you in public places, such as the parking lot of your local police department.

7. Remember the day you bought that big TV, and when you removed it from the carton you placed the box at the curb for recycle pick-up? Well, you just told everyone who passes by, including burglars who’re cruising neighborhoods, that you are the proud owner of a brand new, giant TV that cost more than the cars driven by many people. Shred the cardboard. Smash the carton. Do whatever it takes to break it down in a way that makes it impossible to know what was once inside.

8. Security cameras are fantastic. They allow you to monitor movement anywhere in the area where you’ve installed the devices. When cameras detect movement they immediately send an alert to you, and you can view the activity in real time. If desired, the homeowner may also activate the built-in lights and voice feature. The voice control option allows the resident to shout at unwanted trespassers. “Get off my grass, you aggravating kids!”

We have cameras installed a strategic locations and we love having them. Well, the exception being at 4 a.m. when a raccoon ambles onto the rear covered porch. The animal makes it way, like clockwork, down the sidewalk, onto the porch, and then back to the sidewalk where it disappears into the night.  It’s almost as if it does it to activate the bright spotlights on the camera so it won’t have to walk in total darkness.

9. Yes, you do live in the safest neighborhood in the city. But that’s no reason to not lock your doors and windows. Someday it could happen to you …

10. If you haven’t already done so, I highly recommend adding a copy of After Midnight: Tales From the Graveyard Shift to the TBR pile your nightstand. The book is a fantastic collection of mysterious bedtime stories written by a superb group of authors including Joe Bonsall of the Oak Ridge Boys, bestselling authors Robin Burcell, Allison Brennan, Phoef Sutton (Phoef also wrote the hit TV series Cheers and Boston Legal), Lisa Klink (Star Wars: Deep Space Nine), Dr. Katherine Ramsland, and Dr. Denene Lofland to name only a few. Well, one of the twisted stories is mine, The Sheriff of Macabre County, but the other authors are indeed superb … 🙂

The Sheriff of Macabre County