Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles

Singletude is a positive, supportive singles blog about life choices for the new single majority. It's about dating and relationships, yes, but it's also about the other 90% of your life--family, friends, career, hobbies--and flying solo and sane in this crazy, coupled world. Singletude isn't about denying loneliness. It's about realizing that whether you're single by choice or by circumstance, this single life is your life to live.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Crime Safety Tips for Singles, Part II

If you've been following along, you know that singles are more likely than marrieds to be victims of violent crime. Last time, Singletude listed the dos and don'ts of protecting yourself while out on the town. But your home is your castle. Here are some steps you can take to defend it:

When You're At Home

1. Always keep the doors and windows locked when you leave the house and at night. If you live in an urban area, keep them locked all the time, whether you're home or not. You may think you're safe if you're hanging out on the couch in the middle of the day, but lots of break-ins happen in the afternoon while most people are out at work. For doors, a traditional lock on the knob isn't enough. Install deadbolts and cane bolts, the more the better, and a peephole. Also be conscientious about the windows. Burglars often enter homes through open or unlocked windows. If you live in the city, make sure the bars on your windows are secure.

2. Install deadbolts on your doors (the more the better), motion-sensor lights outside, lights on timer inside, and, if you can afford it, a security system, which you must keep on at all times. Too many people with security systems are vandalized because they didn't turn them on. A large dog with a vociferous bark at the ready is a more affordable option for many. Even in the absence of these safeguards, a sign warning of a dog or alarm system can be an effective deterrent.

3. If you have a garage, install bolts and/or padlocks on both ends of the door and cane bolts on the inside. If you have an automatic door, bring the remote into the house when you leave the car. Cover the garage windows so criminals can't scope out the interior. If you have an attached garage with a door to the house, that door should be locked at all times, preferably with bolts. All tools in the garage should be in a locked box, where a criminal can't use them to break or pry open doors or windows.

4. Your house number should be clearly visible from the street so that emergency personnel can find you. Display only your number on your mailbox. Don't give ammunition to a criminal by making your gender or marital status apparent. If you're going out of town for more than a day or so, ask someone you trust to collect your mail or have the post office hold it.

5. Keep your yard free of trees and shrubbery close to the windows. There should be nothing nearby that anyone could use as a hideout or platform for entry. If you live in the city, make sure the bars on your windows are secure.

6. Don't inform people of your daily routine. No one needs to know exactly when you leave for the office or get home every day. This includes your friends, not because they might pull a Pink Panther on you but because they might casually mention something about your comings and goings to the wrong person. Never tape a note to the door to inform someone that you're out. If someone calls to survey you, sell you something, ask for donations, or inform you of a problem with one of your accounts, don't give out personal information. If you're interested, take the number of their main office, verify it with Information or the Yellow Pages, and call them back. Never tell them when you will or will not be home or that you live alone.

7. Don't leave your spare key under the doormat or anywhere near the front door. That's a cliche, not a hiding place. Resist the urge to brag to anyone about what a clever spot you found for it.

8. Store your valuables in a safe place. If you can afford it, install a vault or locked (bolted) closet with a solid door. If you can't, get a strong box. Another option is to "hide it in plain sight" and hope a burglar won't be thorough enough to check all your books to determine which one is hollow at the center. No matter what, your most precious commodities should be in a safety deposit box in the bank. It should go without saying that you shouldn't advertise your goods or their location.

9. If it's cold, don't sit in the house while your car warms up in the driveway. More audacious auto thieves have been known to waltz up to an unattended car and climb right in.

10. When you go out, leave the doors inside your house, including closet doors, open. Leave shower curtains pulled back. When you come home, you want to see at a glance that everything is where it should be and no one is in the house who shouldn't be. If you come home to an empty house at night, try to be on the phone with someone when you arrive. Again, this won't prevent someone from attacking you, but at least your friend on the other end of the line will know if something's wrong. Ask your friend to stay on the phone while you do a quick walk-through of your residence.

11. If you return home to find a door or window open, now is not the time to play detective, even if you think a roommate or family member might be inside. Call the police and let the pros handle it.

12. If a stranger comes to the door asking for help, don't open the door, even if it's on a chain. Chains can be cut or broken. If it's an emergency, offer to call 911, but never open the door. If an acquaintance who doesn't normally visit you at home shows up and you have any misgivings at all, don't open the door. If you're afraid to be rude, use an excuse that you're sick or just got out of the shower. Or simply don't answer the door.

13. Always have an emergency getaway plan. If an intruder broke into your home through the back door, how would you get out? Through the front door, a side door, a window? Once outside, where would you go? Is there a trusted neighbor you could run to? Do you keep your car out in front of the house? If you're trapped in the house, what's the best safe room? (Hint: Pick a room with an inside lock and, better yet, a bolt.)

14. If you hear suspicious noises or think you see someone outside, call the police or 911. Yes, you will feel silly if it turns out it was just the cat on her nightly prowls, but it’s much better to be silly than dead. Throw the outdoor lights on, and if you're alone, yell loudly to your imaginary roommate that there's someone outside. Intruders will be discouraged if they think you have backup.

15. Keep your bedroom door locked when you sleep and have your cell and your car keys ready next to the bed. Think about what in your room could be used as a makeshift weapon (preferably something long and heavy or sharp) and keep it just under your bed.

16. There is disagreement among authorities over what to do if a criminal breaks into your home when you're inside. Some suggest that you pretend to be asleep. But while it’s true that most thieves are deterred by the presence of a homeowner and want nothing more than to take what they came for and go, not all intruders are there to steal. If the intruder intends to harm you, you'll lose valuable getaway time while you try to convince him you're out like a light. Therefore, other experts warn that you should get out of the house as quickly and quietly as possible. Still others believe you should head for a designated safe room that locks from the inside. Singletude's advice, which is admittedly not based on experience but on common sense, is to put your emergency getaway plan into action and EXIT the house if you can do so without crossing the intruder's path. If a would-be intruder is trying to pry open a window or door, silently leave the opposite way, dialing 911 on your way out. If the intruder is already in the house but still far from your nearest exit point, leave immediately and call 911 as you dash to the neighbor's. If you aren't sure where the intruder is or don't know if you can get out safely, that's when you should lock yourself in your safe room. You can never have too many safe rooms, but if you can have only one, make it your bedroom or a room attached to your bedroom since you're more likely to be surprised by an intruder at night. Once you've locked yourself in, get away from the door and behind or under an object if possible and call the police. If the intruder tries to break down the door, shout out that you've notified 911 and the police are on the way. You can also state that you're armed, whether or not you are. The only time you should ever pretend to be asleep is if you wake up to find an intruder already in your room, rummaging through your things. Monitor the intruder's actions, and if he approaches the bed, be prepared to run.

17. If you call 911 or the police, tell them that the intruder is armed, whether or not you know it for sure. Your call will be taken more seriously, which means you will get more help and faster.

18. DO NOT confront the intruder unless you're attacked. DO NOT try to prevent him or her from leaving. If the intruder confronts you, cooperate with whatever they ask unless they advance to attack you. If they do so, run if you can, fight back if you can't.

19. If you have something at hand that you can use as a weapon, keep it close to you but do not use it except in self-defense. Unless you’re skilled with weapons, a criminal can easily use your own weapon against you, and as ludicrous as they may seem, there are lots of laws that protect intruders in these situations. If you have a firearm, learn how to use it properly and be thoroughly familiar with your state’s regulations for gun owners.

20. If you injure someone in self-defense, tell the police only that the intruder forcibly entered your home and that you were afraid for your life and wounded him or her in self-defense. Let them know that you want to cooperate with them but can't say anything more until you consult a lawyer.

Have you or another single you know ever been a victim of a crime in the home? What other crime safety tips would you recommend to help singles stay safe at home?

Other Sources

Protect Yourself Against Home Burglary
Bay Mills Community Watch
Avoiding Home Burglary
Home Safety
Home Invasion
Home Security--Defend Your Home and Possessions Against Intruders
Burglary Tips--Protect Your Home
Ways You Can Protect Your Home From Burglars
Crime Prevention Tips
Communicating Effectively with Police

Fun Link of the Day


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. Even though I live on the second floor, since I read this I've started keeping my sliding glass door locked. After all if someone really wanted to break in my apartment they could use a ladder.


Clever Elsie said...

Anonymous: You're very welcome! I'm glad these tips were useful. I hope you'll stop by again soon. :)

And now just a little reminder to everyone since there have been several anonymous comments lately: I need you guys who don't have Blogger IDs to sign your comments with a handle, initials, or another name of your choosing. (See the Guidelines section on the home page.) Not trying to be a bother here, but what's fair for one is fair for all. Thanks!