Because there have been quite a few break-ins in my neighborhood lately, I was pleased to find, as I was flipping through all 950 of my TV channels the other night, a talk show that featured an expert on home protection.
“Being a former burglar myself,” he said, “I know a lot about how the criminal mind works. And now I am putting my experience to good use to help homeowners like you protect their property.”
“If you can’t afford an expensive security system,” he began, “I have a few tips that might work just as well.”
First of all, he explained that mind games often work to confuse a burglar.
“Hang signs on your property,” he advised. “And the more absurd, the better, such as, ‘Caution, Pet Rattlesnake Still on the Loose’ or ‘Home of Former Military Sniper.’ Most burglars are so nervous when they are about to break into a house, they don’t have time to stand there and figure out what’s true and what isn’t anyway.”
His words made me remember when my family’s summer camp kept getting broken into during the off-season. My dad finally put up a sign that said, “This Property Patrolled by Local Police.” Some jokester wrote on the bottom of it, “That’s OK, my sister is dating all of them”…and then robbed the place.
The expert on TV then said he never would rob a house with a gravel driveway because gravel makes too much noise underfoot. Therefore, he suggested it might be a good idea for homeowners to put down a layer of gravel on their driveways.
The thought of burying my recently paved driveway with gravel and then trying to snow-blow it in the winter, sending it propelling through my windows made me think it might not be such a hot idea. Besides that, how many burglars walk directly up the driveway when they are about to rob a house anyway?
The expert also suggested hiding valuables in unlikely places.
“The bedroom usually is the first place where burglars look,” he said. “So you’re better off hiding things in uncommon places like the kitchen. If you have a frozen turkey in your freezer, for example, put your jewelry in a plastic bag and stuff it into the bird’s hollow cavity.”
I couldn’t help but giggle as I imagined forgetting the jewelry was in there, roasting the turkey for Thanksgiving, and then having one of the guests end up with a diamond ring in his giblets.
“And, from my experience, even though a house was dark and there appeared to be no one at home,” the expert continued, “I always checked the garage to see if there was a car inside. If I saw a car, I’d go somewhere else.”
So he recommended that homeowners either buy a spare car to keep in the garage at all times, or to cover the garage windows with shades so burglars can’t see inside.
I figured the shades would be a lot cheaper than buying a spare car. Or even better, to just hang one of the aforementioned mind-game signs on the garage door: “This Space Reserved for Rambo’s Car, Which is Out Being Repaired After Getting Wrecked in a Police Chase.”
“The messages you leave on your voice-mail message or on social media also can attract burglars,” the expert said. “Posting a notice that says something like, ‘Fred and I are so excited! Tomorrow, we’re leaving on a 10-day cruise to Tahiti!’ is as good as sending out a written invitation for burglars to come rob your place!”
"If you still have an answering machine," he said, "it's better to leave a message on it like, 'I can't come to the phone right now because I'm busy cleaning my gun.'"
He explained that the one thing that really scares off burglars, even more than a security system, is a dog…and the bigger the better.
“But if you don’t want to go through all the trouble of keeping a dog,” he said, “just make your place look as if you have a big dog. It works just as well.”
He suggested buying a huge dog-dish and setting it out on the front porch.
“And hang up a Beware of Dog sign,” he added. “Or go to your local butcher’s and get a couple large dog bones to put on your front lawn. Believe me, if I saw any of that at a house I was thinking about robbing, I’d change my mind fast!”
The thought of tossing gigantic butcher’s bones on my lawn made me worry I might attract a lot worse than burglars…like something really big, with fangs…and a huge appetite.
After watching the show, I realized I’d already been doing something that probably had deterred burglars and I hadn’t even realized it. For one thing, I have a Rottweiler. I also have a plaque on my door that says, “A House is Not a Home Without a Rottie.”
And, at the request of my insurance agent (who was wary about insuring a home that has a Rottweiler), I posted a sign at the edge of my driveway that says, “Warning! Security Dog!” which actually caused the town’s tax assessor to send me a note telling me to call him because he hadn’t dared to approach my property.
I think I just might adopt a couple more Rottweilers.
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