After the attempted early morning break-in that nearly scared us to death a few weeks ago, my husband and I tried to figure out what happened. Many of you have asked if we had a clue who did it. The police were so unconcerned that we were consoled at first, thinking that the perpetrators were probably some stupid kids, or at least people who didn’t know what they were doing. The cops certainly weren’t interested in determining what happened. I wanted to ask if they would please take fingerprints from the rock that lay amidst shattered glass in the middle of our bedroom floor, which we’d carefully avoided touching to preserve the evidence. But, no one likes a CSI-watching expert. I should point out here, in an effort to reassure those of you whom I’ve upset with my gory details, that we have had work going on in our backyard since the first week of February. We are remodeling a guesthouse and, along with a rather sizable construction crew, have had crews of roofers, plumbers, painters, tile layers, and landscape diggers for, lo, these 5-6 months. Everyday there are any number of strangers strolling through the backyard having a look-see into our windows, and into the garden shed, which was never locked, by the way. These guys have been working here so long they could probably navigate the area blindfolded. Now when these workers stroll across the backyard, my husband and I stare intently at them, wondering if they are the rock-throwing kind? We’ll never know, I guess.
Full disclosure: I failed to mention that our side yard fence and gate have been completely removed, affording easy access to the backyard. Since the incident, our building contractor has helpfully installed a web of bright orange plastic across the open area where a gate used to be, and beyond that, a blue tarp has been strung to block the view into the backyard as it gently billows in the hot summer breeze. I guess our builder feels a bit guilty since our contract provides that he will “secure the property.” I may not have mentioned that there is a bright blue port-a-potty named “Big John” which was placed in our front yard on the curb when construction began, and which affords a convenient stop for joggers, bikers and deliverymen in the area. I believe in law school we called this an “attractive nuisance.”
We’ve moved on from the crime scene investigation and have made preparations to keep anything of the sort from happening again. Our house is now as secure as can be, short of placing barbed wire or broken glass along the top of our fences. My husband smiles and serenely says that we are so secure now we would feel safe if our house was in the middle of Beirut or Johannesburg. I’d love to share our tips with you, if you care to read further.
- If you have a working alarm system…TURN IT ON! We’ve had one for over 20 years and armed it only when we were out of town. Now, I activate it every time I leave my house, even if just for a grocery store run, and always at night.
- Invest in the “pulse” wireless system to enhance your security system. You can activate this from your phone and turn the alarm on and off remotely. You can even control lamps and appliances from your phone. Very handy. Get a key fob with a panic button on it. Cop #2 said his wife keeps one by the bed and if she hears a noise, she hits the button and the alarm starts shrieking. He also suggested keeping your car’s remote bedside so that you can punch the car alarm button, achieving the same noisy effect and, hopefully, scaring the lily-livered burglars. Forget this advice if you have a dog – the police said Fido is the most effective alarm system. Thieves hate dogs.
- Light up your yard like it’s Christmas Eve at the Griswolds. The police pointed out that our’s was quite a bit darker than our neighbors. The only light we kept on all night was a dim fixture in a lamp post near the curb, quite a distance from our front door. Post-break-in we have installed 2 sets of LED lights, one on each side of our house which shine brightly from dusk to dawn. We’ve also installed timers on light fixtures on our front porch and driveway which turn the lights on at precisely 8:23 p.m. and extinguishes them at 6:15 a.m. Genius!
- Cameras – real or fake – will help. The police said that if a potential burglar sees a camera, he usually won’t stick around long enough to find out if it’s recording. So, we installed 3 (count ’em, 3) real, picture-taking, videoing cameras. One at our front door, one over the garage and one on our back porch. So far, we’ve seen only a bird getting into the cat food, the postman, and our neighbors enjoying our pool (at our invitation, of course!)
- If you have a gate, (not a tarp or temporary plastic fencing, as we live with currently), consider locking it with a combination lock. Share the combination with trusted workmen, if you dare.
- If you have a gun and know how to use it, at least know where it is and keep ammunition in it. Never mind, this is for another blog post. Too many caveats. Better yet, just yell at the top of your lungs, as I did, “WE HAVE A GUN!”
- Be a good neighbor – look out for the people on your street, and ask them to do the same. Tell them when you’re going to be out of town. They can pick up your mail and newspapers and any flyers left on the door. They may also bring you a gigantic box of Godiva chocolates after your space has been invaded, as our sweet neighbors did, knowing that chocolate makes everything better.
I don’t know if any of this will keep us from being targeted by hoodlums again, but at least we are able to sleep better at night knowing we’ve done everything we can to protect ourselves. But, now I’ve got to order new blackout shades to keep all that light out of our bedroom. Maybe we’ve just made it easier for the thieves to find the best rocks for chunking through windows. Hmmm. BRING IT ON, SUCKAS! Not really. Please, no.