With sophisticated video surveillance, bulletproof glass and security guards protecting store clerks, armed robberies have become risky business for criminals.
That means they have turned increasingly to robbing soft targets for easy cash, jewelry and other valuables – places such as your family’s home.
Boston-based home security author and professional speaker Robert Siciliano says the home invasion trend began in Washington, DC, about a decade ago.
“The media started publicizing it and it gained momentum. It became an opportunity for thrill seekers,” says Siciliano.
Home invasions are increasing in communities of all sizes across North America, yet many people are doing little to protect themselves.
“People have the ‘it-can’t-happen-to-me disease,’” he says. “People who do not have alarms in their homes are naïve and people who do not have them turned on while they are sleeping are even more naïve.”
However, since intruder alarms are becoming commonplace, criminals have become good at using trickery to get inside homes.
“Home invaders pose as delivery people, public workers or people in distress,” says Siciliano. “Under no circumstances should you open the door unless you get phone numbers and call their superiors (to check out their claims). If someone is in distress tell him or her you will call the police for them.”
Siciliano says hurting people is often part of the thrill for home invaders working individually or in teams.
“They get off on the control, the suffering and the death that their victims go through, and on the screaming and the violence involved,” he says.
Some home invasions are carried out late at night, to surprise sleeping victims. That’s why alarm systems are critical.
“The first thing a home invader does is take the phone off the hook,” he says, adding people should keep a cellular phone beside their beds and also have some form of non-lethal protection, such as pepper spray, within easy reach. (Note: Check the laws in your area regarding possession and use of pepper spray).
Siciliano says he has no problem with victims using lethal force, but the person who bursts into your bedroom could be your daughter who has had a fight with her husband. Many innocent people have been shot dead by panicked loved ones jolted awake by a noise.
Offering resistance to an intruder could increase your chances of survival. While it’s foolish to physically confront someone who has a gun trained on you at close quarters, if you have an opportunity to use pepper spray to disable the intruder and run to your nearest neighbor’s house, grab it.
Siciliano says victims should act submissive, all the while planning how they might escape. “Once you have determined an opportune time to strike them, to go after their weapon or to escape, make your move. If it’s coming to a point where you are 100 percent compromised, fight with all your life.”
Consider these additional safety tips from Siciliano:
Take a self-defense course.
Install a peephole so you can talk to any strangers without opening your door.
Have a qualified locksmith evaluate your home’s security.
Keep jewelry and other valuables hidden and ensure your children do not brag about them at school or to babysitters.