The goal isn't to live like a hermit or an antisocial shut-in, but there are common-sense ways you can prevent being victimized in your home before we even get to the physical aspects of security.
Don't live in a violent area, and don't associate with scumbags. The vast majority of violent break-ins that I've investigated in my career as a police officer had to do with either geography or association. I remember taking a report from a woman who was violently robbed at the doorstep of her downtown loft. The poor woman was very shaken, and as I was interviewing her, she stated, "I see these homeless people all the time. I can't believe that one of them would do this." Now, I'm not one to blame the victim, but when you move into an area that's known for high crime and drug use, don't be surprised when you get robbed.
Another thing to consider is your associates or the associates of your family. Your kids' friends do not need to know that you own firearms or nice jewelry or anything else valuable. Know who you and your family members are associating with, and don't leave things of value in plain sight when you or your children have visitors. Know the difference between a friend and an acquaintance.
Despite all of your best efforts to prevent being a victim, there are times that physical steps must be taken to either secure your home or make it a less desirable target. Let's be honest here, getting into a use-of-force situation in your own home is the last thing you want to happen. The best possible circumstance is that an attempted robbery or other crime never occurs in the first place.
1. Let there be light!
This is not only an easy step to take, it's also one of the most important. Criminals detest light, and study after study has shown that criminals choose to bypass well-lit houses in favor of poorly lit ones. In the past, many chose to go the motion sensor route with their exterior lighting. But with the advent of reliable LED bulbs, these are not necessary. LED bulbs are far more efficient than older technology and cost a fraction to run compared to traditional bulbs. A decorative outdoor LED fixture on each side of the house in conjunction with well-placed low-voltage or solar LED decorative garden lighting is more than adequate to keep most intruders wary about selecting your home as a target.
2. Use Terrain to Your Advantage
Another simple step is to utilize the terrain and landscaping of your home to dissuade dirtbags. If you have a large tree in your yard, make sure that it can't be used as a ladder to unsecured second-story windows. Keep all trees trimmed and away from the house. Another trick is to keep flowerbeds with rose bushes or some other type of thorn-bearing flora in front of all windows. Not even the most determined thief wants to deal with getting cut up by thorns. I use a combination of thorny bushes and decorative lighting to keep idiots away from my windows. Make sure the shrubbery is maintained and does not grow to the point where it can obscure your view from the window. Perimeter fencing is a double-edged sword. Although it can serve as a deterrent, it can also mask movement. It's preferable to use a combination of defining features such as large rocks and flowerbeds in conjunction with lighting and low fencing to define property borders.
Door-kick burglaries are a plague in many areas, often occurring in broad daylight. In fact, several recent reports indicate that door kicks are the preferred method of robbery in more than 60 percent of residential burglaries. There are several ways to prevent these. The first is to invest in technology. There are new doorbells that include
cameras and Wi-Fi connectivity. This enables the homeowner to see their porch in real time and converse with the person using a cellular device, as if through an intercom system, even when hundreds of miles away. Solidly mounted cameras on the porch and perimeter are also a great deterrent. Savvy burglars and intruders are already on the lookout for these devices, and most of the time they will move to another target rather than disable them. These devices can also connect to cellular devices using Wi-Fi and are available at big-box stores for less than the price of a new Glock. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
The next investment should be a solid-core wood door. A steel door is best, but those can be very expensive. A solid wooden door with a frame and door reinforcement kit installed can make it nearly impossible for the average intruder to kick the door open. Don't skimp on the dead bolt, either. Make sure to stick with name-brand options that extend deep into the frame of the door.
Windows should all have the capability to be secured from the inside. If they are of the sliding type, a simple dowel in the track can be effective. Make sure that the dowel blocks the entire track, so that the criminal can't get the window open a bit and then muscle it off the track. Modern vinyl double-paned windows are equipped with locks. Don't be lazy — use them.
Lastly, let's talk about a safe room. I'm not talking about a Jodie-Foster-type vault, but rather a single room that can be fortified in the event that an intruder enters the home. For a room like this, I recommend a solid wood door and a one-sided dead bolt with inside-only access. Doorjamb reinforcements using extra-long screws are also recommended. If your safe room is on the second floor, a portable fire escape ladder is a necessity.
We all want to be self-sufficient. However, if I'm not home and a window is broken, I want an alarm to sound to scare an intruder away, and I want someone to notify the authorities and me. Hell, even if I am home I want an alarm to sound and notifications! I also have a family, and if I'm not there, I want them as safe as possible. There are numerous companies that provide these services. Do your research, as quality can vary. Ensure that monitoring, response, installation and equipment are all included in the price and that there are no hidden fees. Many of these companies also include "smart home" options that allow you to control lights and appliances remotely. These benefits can be worthwhile. Like everything else in life, you get what you pay for. Make sure you know exactly what you're getting.
5. Invest in Yourself
Sometimes prevention fails. Police and security may not get there in time. Sometimes, you just gotta handle your business. Have a plan, and practice it with your family. Get professional-level training with your spouse. It's expensive, but not as expensive as a funeral.
Thanks to some of the forward-thinking companies such as Tactical Walls, I have access to firearms throughout my home and no one is the wiser. I don't advertise their location; in fact, my family isn't even aware of some of them. I also keep body armor and multiple spare lights in the home.
Personal defense is not only about the intruder; it's also about the long game. Spare food and water should be part of your long-term plan, as well as emergency clothing and medical supplies. The world is tough, unfair and doesn't suffer the unprepared lightly. Be prepared.