Your home is a nest. Your home is a refuge. Is your home a fortress, though? Should it be?
To date, Kansas City proper has seen over 2,000 burglaries in 2017, a rise of 2 percent since last year.
Apartments, multiple family homes, single family homes and rentals all have their vulnerable points, but with a little know-how, infiltration is often avoidable.
The most obvious answer for protecting your home is a security system, although it is not a fool-proof solution.
John Bowman, a retired Sprint security expert, performs volunteer home security assessments for the Shawnee Police Department. “The downside of a security system is that when it goes off the bad guy is already in,” he says.
And a security system is not a guarantee that the house will not be broken into. “The whole purpose is to make it difficult for somebody to break into your house,” he says.
But homeowners who can afford a security system will find a variety of options.
Independent researcher Next Advisor recently released its 2017 report about home security systems, with FrontPoint coming out on top for its customer service, customizable options and ease of installation.
The top-reviewed systems range from $19.99 per month to one with an upfront payment of $539.85 and no monthly fee.
Most systems reviewed run on a SimonXT control panel, through which the customer can customize the sensors. A favorite feature of the reviewers is the new 100 percent cellular capability of some systems; landlines or wireless connections are more easily tampered with and might lose connectivity during a power outage.
The primary considerations in choosing a system are: who will install it, you or the company; is it subscription-based; how is it monitored; what is monitored; can it be installed in a rental property; and can it be customized to meet a homeowner’s needs.
Sgt. Kari Thompson, Kansas City Police Department’s public information officer, recommends spending extra to add on an outside horn.
“When your alarm goes off, the only people who can hear it are the people inside robbing you,” she says. “When you have that outside horn going off, your neighborhood is alerted that someone is in your home.”
For those who cannot afford an alarm system, plenty can be done for little or no cost.
Thompson sees neighbors as a first line of defense. She urges people to get to know one another. Exchange names and contact information and use apps like Next Door to keep informed about worrisome activity in your immediate area.
Also, you can enter a city name or address in the search bar on Community Crime Maps to see exactly where trouble spots are and if they’re near you.
Bowman has more advice for homeowners. He recently assessed the home of an elderly woman who lives alone. She said she couldn’t afford a security system, and his comeback surprised her: you already have one.
He asked for her car keys and pressed the red panic button — the horn echoed through the house from her garage. He advised her to keep an extra key fob next to her bed. If necessary, she could press the button, which would scare away an invader, then lock herself in the bathroom and call the police.
Dogs of any size also act as deterrents to would-be thieves, and not because they might attack. Simply the sound of a barking dog can cause a prowler to change his mind.
A lot of burglars knock on doors before they look for a way in just to see if anyone, human or canine, is home, Thompson says.
For those who have dogs and purchase a security system as well, Bowman says not to be fooled by those that claim to be pet-proof, meaning that the sensor will not pick up a pet and set off the alarm.
There is no such thing as an effective sensor that misses a cat or dog, he says. “If you’re trying to avoid that, what you’re doing is defeating the whole purpose of a detector.”
And if someone would like to sidestep a full-blown alarm system but still wants a little gadgetry? Bowman says Nest cameras are great tools. They’re available at home supply stores, can be installed easily, are fairly inexpensive and can be monitored remotely.
Thompson really likes #9pmroutine on Twitter. Police departments across the nation, including the KCPD and Shawnee Police Department, tweet out a reminder to lock up at night with fun GIFs and the hashtag #9pmroutine.
And whether you go it alone or use a system, the bottom line from experts is to take the simple step of locking doors and windows. Thompson and Bowman both warn that many break-ins could have been prevented simply by locking up.
HOW TO DETER BURGLARS
Security expert John Bowman and Sgt. Kari Thompson of the Kansas City Police Department agree that these strategies can make your house more difficult to break into.
- Ensure that doors and windows are locked when the home is unoccupied and at night. Add a storm door and keep it locked as an extra inconvenience to thieves.
- Cover all windows with blinds, shades or curtains, and don’t forget the basement.
- Use exterior lights near doors all night.
- Keep shrubs trimmed low so that no one can hide in them.
- Ensure that valuables are not visible from the outside.
- Report strangers in the area who seem to be driving past repeatedly or driving unusually slowly.
- Lock garage doors and the door that leads from the garage into the house.
- Do not keep garage door openers visible in the car. Thieves can break into your car, read the address on your registration and easily enter your home using the stolen opener.