Recently a good family friend came home from a week vacation to find the door to her house wide open. For anyone who has been the victim of a burglary, you know that sense of deep sinking dread and anxiety when you realize that you have been violated. What was waiting for her was a disaster – both on the emotional side with the loss of some sentimental items and the financial with the destruction to her home. Sadly, her home had been burglarized over the several days they were gone.
It reminded me of the importance of vigilance. We have sadly been the victim of robbery three times in my family’s life. As a result of those break-ins and those of others, I have been forced to recognize and accept that our world requires us to take extra precautions that in ideal circumstances I would definitely prefer to do without.
Precautions to Prevent a Disaster
Let the alarm ring out
Unfortunately, the day of alarm systems being a luxury are gone. I wish I could say it was but reality is they have become a must. Our economic downturn of 2008 left many people in desperate situations and, at least where we call home, more people are willing to break the law to survive.
The good news, there are tons of advancements in alarm monitoring and alarm systems now come at affordable prices. More and more there are deals to be had on installation, monitoring, and equipment. Systems are no longer tied to landlines and can be activated and deactivated away from the alarm panel by use of your cellphone. Plus with a variety of monitoring equipment, there is a customizable system for everyone. As companies compete, you can also get amazing deals such as free installation, reduced monitoring fees and even free equipment. I know we got a special deal because we had just bought a house when I set up our alarm system.
Alarm systems come with active monitoring with direct lines to police, fire and other emergency services. It has panic features in case of home invasions. Active monitoring also means if someone break-ins, you don’t have to worry. Someone will be there to take care of it. Fast response times mean less damage and less lost.
Plus, common sense – if your house has an actively advertised alarm systems (meaning put up your alarm stickers and monitoring signs) and your neighbor’s isn’t, your house just became the bigger obstacle. I’m the thief, “Should I break in to the home where I have to tangle with an alarm system that dispatches police or should I go for the one with no active surveillance?” Its about easy targets. Do what you can to make your home a not easy target – yeah I know that is not the best grammar.
Systems for Vacations
Alarms are one of the best proactive means to help prevent burglaries but setting up systems that make it look like you are still there go a long way to prevent them as well. Remember its all about the easy target.
Having timers on your lights that are set to random, not predictable and consistent, times makes it seem as if you are home.
Hire a Helper or Ask a Friend
Having someone come by and check your home – water plants, feed, walk and play with animals, etc. – helps make things look like you are still there. Plus, it helps keep an eye on your house too. You can have them move cars around too.
Vacation Mail Stop
Set up a hold on your mail. The post office has a vacation mail stop forms. They will hold your mail from delivery. One key sign that people are on vacation is mail piling up. If you forget, see if your friend or helper can grab it for you.
Police Vacation Form
I’m not sure if this is limited to our area or not but it is worth checking with your local sheriff. Here, when you go on vacation, you can submit a form to our sheriff’s office and they will come by daily, walk the perimeter of your home and check on your property. Nothing like a police presence to prevent a theft.
Tell Your Neighbor
Neighborhood watches are vital. And if you are lucky to be in one, awesome!! But they are not as prevalent as they once were. What’s great about them is that neighbors actively look out for each other. You know your neighborhood and who belongs there better than anyone. So before you leave, let your neighborhood watch know when you are leaving and for how long.
No neighborhood watch, no worry. Get to know your neighbors. Talk to your immediate neighbors and let them know your vacation schedule. Let them know you will have someone stopping by to check on your home – specifics of their name and look – as well asking them if they wouldn’t mind keeping an eye out too!
Take Steps In Advance Should a Burglary Happen
Have Proper Coverage
Making sure you have the proper coverage for your personal items is vital. Know what your policy covers and what it does not. One of the hardest parts for my friend was the loss of jewelry she had earned during her Mary Kay career. These were hard earned and filled with memories. She and her husband also lost his wedding ring as he had not worn it on their trip for some reason. Sadly, those are not replaceable for sentimental reasons. But what made it worse was that with her policy would only cover a small fraction of their last appraised value. We are talking dimes on the dollar.
Determine what items are irreplaceable to you. For these items, you may want to consider a rider as many times a rider on your policy costs more for each rider. For example, if I were to lose my wedding ring set, a few sentimental pieces, etc., they would be unruly to replace from an emotional and financial point. On these items, a rider would be wise as to ensure I at least get their full value back.
I had a conversation once with a friend who worked for decades in jewelry. What she shared was eye opening. I was surprised how much jewelry could change value daily and that for the most part jewelry prices were negotiable. I was not overly surprised when it was shared with me that your valuables should be appraised annually. From purchase date to loss can be several years and your items value could have more than doubled – especially if it is old quality gold jewelry. This is important in establishing a replacement value if anything is stolen.
Document Everything – CLICK!
Photographs or videos are the best. You can’t really argue with a photograph. However, keeping receipts of big ticket items and/or appraisals is equally as important. Plus you would be surprised what you forget you owned or was stolen when you are in the middle of dealing with the aftermath of a burglary.
Take and keep an inventory of what you own. I found it helpful to do an inventory room by room. It should have the name, purpose/use, price and date of purchase, and appraisal value if applicable. That attached to photographs of the room is awesome. You will be able to give an accurate representation of what was lost or destroyed.
Get a Safe…to Keep it Safe
Get a safe for those items that are truly important to you. But go the extra step and find a place that burglars will not think to look for it. These days, they will just take the safe and worry about opening it later. In fact, one deputy informed my friend, they will even rip them out of the wall.
Having a safe deposit box is a good preventative measure to take too. Balancing keeping an item safe versus having access to it is something each of us must do. When it comes to a safe deposit box, small truly irreplaceable items should find there way there – like grandmother’s wedding ring. You can always go get it for a special occasion but it is truly as safe as it can get. (No pun intended.)
My House Was Robbed…Now What?
First and foremost, make sure you are good. I think that there are very few violations more traumatizing than having your sanctuary broken into and violated. There is some trauma that you may need to deal with. Set up someone to talk it through with. You would be surprised what sticks with you after a personal violation of security. As an example, when I was young, about 5, our home was broken into and they used my bedroom window to do it. It took decades for me to feel safe sleeping in a room with my bed facing or being seen by a window. I confess, to this day, I still can’t sleep with a bed under a window. I don’t think you will experiencing this level of aftermath but it is good to have someone to talk it through.
Call your local law enforcement. Make out a report. Talk to them about what steps do you need to take from their perspective. Find out how to get a copy of the report and get their contact information for further follow up if needed.
Call your insurance agent. See what steps you need to take in order to meet their requirements.
My personal advice, even if you are told that your home is safe to stay the night, go to a hotel for the night. There is peace of mind in having a safe haven. You can always pick up the pieces the next day. Getting a good night sleep is important for that first night.
No one ever wants to deal with a break-in and hopefully you never will. But by taking steps to prevent or at least deter burglars, you can reduce your odds. By taking steps for if it happens, you can get back to normal faster. See you next post for a less weighty subject.