I've been getting quotes on some home security systems after I had a strange visitor at my door on Sunday afternoon. Let me first explain that I am a somewhat suspicious person. I work for a bank so I am trained to look for security threats, especially physical threats and identity theft. I've also had the unfortunate experience of going through a bank robbery, complete with a gun pointed at my head. It's not a fun thing and it took me a long time to get over. But if anything, that experience gave me the gift to start paying more attention to my surroundings.
I don't usually open the door if I don't recognize the person through the peephole. However, this time I did. Standing there was a teenager. He said he was there to pick up a bag. Having never seen this kid before (or any bag), I was thoroughly confused. I asked what type of bag. He said it was a paper bag, motioning a size slightly smaller than a grocery bag. I asked him when and where it was left. He said the bag was left on the front porch last week. I kept repeating that I didn't know what he was talking about. He shrugged his shoulders and left. I watched him jog off to his friend that was standing in the street. They walked away, not stopping at any other houses.
Was it drugs and they had me confused with another house? Were they casing the place? Were they checking to see if anyone was home before breaking in? There was a residential burglary one block down last week. I've been wanting to get a home security system but this just helped me get on the ball. I started making calls. I also started talking to the neighbors, seeing if they have noticed anything suspicious.
Well... I found out the deal with the kid. My neighbor said the bag was for a church food drive! lol She received her bag last week, filled it up with canned goods, set it on her porch, and saw a boy (fitting the same description) pick up the bag Sunday afternoon. Whoops! Couldn't he have just said that?! But I'm not changing my mind about the security system.
I have been getting some quotes/assessments from three different security companies. During the house assessments I discovered that I've been doing a lot of things right. Here are some tips to make your house less of a target:
1. Keep exterior areas well-lit and trim down any overgrown shrubs. I keep my porch light on dusk to dawn. I will be replacing the side and back lights with motion detector lights. Always have an interior light on at night. I keep a living room light on a timer.
2. Deadbolts. Seems obvious but I was really surprised when I knocked on my neighbors' doors. Some didn't have deadbolts and others had pretty flimsy locks. A police course taught me that the screws for the plate into the door frame should be at least 2 1/2 inches long. It makes it much more difficult for the door to be kicked in.
3. Use double cylinder deadbolts on doors with glass. Two of my doors are half glass. If I had a regular deadbolt, all you would have to do is break a small pane of glass, reach in, and unlock the door. Do yourself a favor and use the deadbolts that need a key on both sides to prevent this. (To avoid a fire hazard, keep the key nearby... just not within reach from the door.)
4. Keep your curtains closed when you are not home. Don't give potential burglars a chance to look in your windows, looking for items to steal. I am most adamant about this when I am at work and a little more lax when I step out for a quick errand.
5. Consider a monitored security system. My homeowners insurance offers a 15% discount if you have one. Not bad!
6. If you are on vacation, stop your newspaper and have the post office hold your mail. (Both are simple and common requests.) Keep lights and tv's on timers. Make sure your lawn is mowed or driveway is shoveled.
With the holidays coming and the economy in it's current state, banks know that identity theft, burglaries, and bank robberies become much more prevalent. Be aware of your surroundings and keep safe!