One of the most frightening crimes that can occur is a home invasion. A home invasion is defined as “the act of illegally entering a private and occupied dwelling with violent intent for the purpose of committing a crime against the occupants.” The main difference between a simple burglary and a home invasion is intent. Residential burglars typically target homes that appear unoccupied and seek to perpetrate their crime in the absence of the homeowner. Conversely, the home invasion robber targets homes when they are most likely to be occupied (nights and weekends for example).
How do home invasion robbers pick their victims, and how do they get into your home? According to security consultant Chris McGoey, “Some home invaders might have been in your home before as a delivery person, installer or repair vendor. Home robbers rarely work alone and rely on an overwhelming physical confrontation to gain initial control and instill fear in you. The greatest violence usually occurs during the initial sixty seconds of the confrontation…”
While it is true that some home invaders violently enter the residence by kicking in the door, many home invasions begin by the homeowner simply answering their front door when someone knocks. Some common phrases used to get you to open your door are:
"I have a delivery I need you to sign for."
“I’m sorry. I think I just backed into your car outside.”
“I think I just hit a dog and I’m looking for the owner.”
Home invaders have also been known to pose as maintenance or public utility workers, delivery men, or even police officers.
Once an intruder gains access to the home, various demands are typically made to gain possession of jewelry, cash, and other valuables. Some invaders will tie their victims up while they ransack the home. Others will force one or more of the victims to leave with them, driving them to an ATM machine to withdraw cash.
Although few statistics are available on the crime of home invasion, because it is not defined as a crime in its own right in most jurisdictions, recent statistics have indicated you are eight times more likely to be involved in a home invasion attack than you are to be involved in a house fire. Below are ten tips to help you and your loved ones avoid the horror of a home invasion.
Top 10 Home Invasion Prevention Tips
1.) Secure your home with strong doors and locks. Research indicates the most common point of entry is the front door. Properly securing your front entrance will make it more difficult for an intruder to simply kick the door in. At the very least, a secure front door will slow down an intruder and buy you some time to contact the authorities or escape. Proper security includes solid core doors, heavy duty locks, and window security devices. Chain latches are considered ineffective as a barrier.
2.) Never open your door to strangers or solicitors. A majority of home invasions start with a simple knock on the door. Demand identification from anyone who you do not know. This includes utility workers, delivery persons, repairmen and even police officers who are in plain clothes. Verify the identification by calling that place of business (or the person’s employer). If someone claims to be in distress or needs assistance or directions, tell them you are calling the police to respond.
3.) Develop an escape plan for your family and rehearse it. Train family members on where to go and what to say. If someone can escape, the invaders will have lost their advantage of privacy and time. Children are often overlooked as potential rescuers and sometimes are not as well guarded. If the opportunity presents itself, a trained child can dial 911, activate an alarm panic button, or escape to the neighbor’s house to summon the police. Remember, the best defense against home invasion is education and planning.
4.) Maintain good relations with your neighbors, and keep an eye on each other. Get involved with your community. If you see something suspicious at a neighbor’s house, contact them or the police immediately.
5.) Lock all doors, windows, and garages at all times. Fortification of rear doors, sliding glass doors, and garage doors are also important.
6.) If you have a home security system, set the home perimeter alarm at night. If someone attempts to gain entry, the alarm will sound, giving you time to respond.
7.) Keep porches and all entrances well lit, i.e., driveways, garages and alleys. Check bulbs regularly.
8.) Senior citizens or women living alone might consider leaving items such as a pair of men’s boots or other garments laying about, giving the impression that other persons reside there.
9.) Consider owning a dog for protection. If this isn’t possible, an empty dog bowl left on the porch gives the impression that there is a dog on the premises.
10.) Don’t fight over property with an invader. Let them have the property; it is not worth your life and can be replaced. Never follow the intruder from scene, call 911 immediately and give the best description you can.
As Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Educating yourself, preparing your dwelling and forming a well thought-out plan with your family is the first (and perhaps most effective) line of defense against a home invasion.
*Statistics and tips compiled from various sources including: J. Frankel (Global Security Experts, Inc.), Torrington Police Department, Pennsylvania State Police, C. McGoey (Crime Doctor Website).