We all want 24-hour armed security and a car fitted with bulletproof glass, but the reality is, most of us aren’t wealthy enough to turn our places into Ft. Knox. Rest assured, though, that in addition to getting a firearm and training as a last resort against crime, there are some easy, inexpensive things you can do to protect your home. Here are our top 11.
1. Install video cameras: Cameras aren’t the end-all for home defense, but they can certainly help. Cameras can record a face and solve a crime after the fact, but what they are better for is preventing crime. That's because if thieves see cameras, they are likely to pick an easier home—one that doesn’t have them.
I have a camera system from FLIRthat allows me to see my home remotely, so I can check it while I’m away. If I’m at home and I hear a noise, I can see what’s going on outside before I come to the door. But security isn’t all about the system itself. In installing the system, professional security companies think of other things.
2. The cameras don't even have to be real: "Dummy" cameras are cheap, but their presence bolsters your home’s defensive posture. In fact, you can even use a dummy camera as a decoy. A criminal intent on breaking into your home may try to break or cover any obvious security cameras. So place a dummy in a likely spot for a real camera, then, if possible, hide a real camera somewhere that looks at the dummy. This way you’ll be able to see a villain if they target what they think is the real camera.
3. Shed some light on the matter: “Keep your house’s perimeter lit up,” says Frank Orman, whose company specializes in home security systems and tactics. "Even simple motion detectors work great. The light catches the neighbor’s eye, and they also catch the attention of the would-be burglar. It’s an excellent deterrent.”
4. Fortify your exterior doors with deadbolts or other devices: Simple door knob locks are too easy to pick and to kick. If your outside doors don’t have deadbolts, have them installed. If you’re a little bit handy, you can do it yourself; all you need is a special drill bit and a deadbolt. The deadbolt bit will run you about $20, while a decent deadbolt is less than $75. Or you can go another route:
“I prefer the Brinks Home Security Door Jammer Lock,” says Orman. “Fitted with one, it will take some work to kick in the door. I use it on all my exterior doors. And if I’m staying somewhere while traveling, I carry a doorstop.”
5. Use trail cams: Unlike security cameras, which tend to be hard-wired into your home's electricity, trail cameras work on batteries and are designed to be hidden. Put one in a place where it’s likely to pick up a bad guy when he’s coming onto or leaving your property. If you live in the country, hiding a trail cam is easy: Set it up in a tall tree where even if a criminal sees it, it will be a huge commitment to destroy. If you live in town, however, you’ll have to be more creative in hiding the cam; the challenge is, you don’t want it taking a photo of every single car that drives down the road or person who walks the sidewalk. But you could put one in a tree facing your back door, or vulnerable basement sliding door, for example. Best yet, companies like Bushnelland Moultriemake cams that send photos directly to your cell phone or email. They necessitate a monthly service, but most are only around $10 per month, plus the cost of the camera.
6. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries: “Fences lend security,” explains Orman. “While they may not deter a criminal from trespassing, a fence, if crossed, leaves you no question that the trespasser has a plan and is not there by accident. I also advise marking your fence with ‘No Trespassing,’ ‘Beware of Dog’ and ‘Smile, You're on Camera’ signs placed around the perimeter.”
7. Get a dog: While a dog isn’t cheap, exactly—it will cost you thousands over the long haul—a dog who naturally barks at strange smells and strange people is one of the best crime preventers known. If you’re sleeping, he'll wake you up. If you’re home alone, he will be your early warning system with his keen senses. And if your dog is home but you are not, it takes a brave villain indeed to enter despite the growling, yapping canine that’s just on the other side of the window. Likely, the bad guy will choose another house.
8. Install a hotel-style lock on your bedroom door: For some reason, placing a lock on your bedroom door sounds odd to some people. But why? Do you not lock your outside doors? A lock on your inner sanctum gives you a last line of defense. Besides, if you are asleep and someone breaks in and enters your bedroom, your gun or ninjitsu does you little good. (Here's one I like. The lock makes a loud clanging noise if the door is opened without throwing the lever off first.) Unless you sleep like a hibernating grizzly bear, surely if someone breaks your bedroom door down you’ll wake up. If you’re awake and armed, you have a chance. If you are awake and armed behind a locked door, you have the advantage.
9. Put your lights on a timer: Whether you are away on vacation or just not home at night, buy a timer system for a few of your interior lamps. Then set them to turn on and off at random times to give the illusion that someone is home. Most criminals won’t break into a home if they think someone is there. It’s bad for business.
10. Secure your vehicles: “If your vehicles stay outside, be sure to remove any garage-door openers, firearms, items that may have personal information or spare house keys,” says Orman. If you don’t, the criminal can obtain access to your house if they can they open your vehicle...and, sadly, most cars aren't terribly difficult to break into. Park vehicles under lights or in open areas that can be seen and, reminds Orman, "always set the alarm and lock the doors.”
11. Have a plan: This is perhaps the least expensive thing you can do to keep your household safe, but it’s likely the most important. Simply talk with your family about what will happen should the unthinkable happen. Devise a secret knock that alerts other family members it’s not an intruder at their door. Have a meeting place...and a backup meeting place. Tell family members whether you want them to go to a safe room, a secure hiding place, or if you want them to flee to a neighbor’s. For many families, a good plan involves the wife staying in the bedroom with a gun and cell phone while the man goes and fetches the kids. Make sure that when a family member calls 911, they know to inform dispatchers that the homeowner has a gun, and what that person (you) looks like. You just need a plan, and a backup plan, and you need to talk about it now, before something happens. Your goal here is not to worry your family members; if you have a relatively secure home, a gun and a plan, it is the home invader who should be worried.