keepinghome safety recommendations

Have Peace of Mind.

We live in a safe community in a town the Wall Street Journal rated as the safest city in America several weeks ago. We were away when intruders broke into our home last weekend. I am evolved enough to know that we were fortunate not to have been home when the burglars came, and we were lucky that they just took ‘stuff’. I was the steward of pieces of jewelry from my mother, grandmother and great grandmother. I have four daughters and they should have had these personal treasures. They took pieces which my husband gave me with great love. I understand if you don’t want to think about this. I didn’t either.

We thought our home was secure. We have a good alarm system which is generally set. There are people in our house most of the time. Mea culpa – we failed to arm the alarm because we were in a hurry. When the thieves broke in they went directly to the master bedroom dressing room and hacked our safe out of the wall. I have become a reluctant expert on how to keep your home secure. Here is what I learned.

Don’t be an easy target:

Don’t let people know when you are going to be away.  Thieves look for a time when they can break in when you are away. The first question the police asked was, “Did you go on social media and talk about your weekend travel plans?”. Did you get a ride to the airport? If so, from whom?

Don’t let mail, packages and newspapers pile up.

Be careful if you attend an event which is publicized.  A cruel criminal trick is to watch the obituaries and graduation notices – and break into the home when the family is at the event.

If you are out of the house every day, make it look lived in.  If you are away all day most days, find a way to make the house look lived in – like leaving a car in front. Get an alarm and set it.

Don’t tempt thieves. Don’t advertise.

The second question the police asked is whether crooks could have been attracted by a photo of me wearing expensive jewelry(or costume jewelry which could lead thieves to the wrong conclusion).

They said another mistake is to leave valuables or jewelry in visible places when ‘outsiders’ are in your home or outside in the yard.

Be careful what you put into the trash. Someone might notice that bag or box from the special jewelry store. Thieves also take prescription drugs so take the labels off before you discard so they don’t assume that you have a fresh bottle of some drug with a street value.

Be careful who you let into your home and keep track of the people outside.

I like to think that most people are good and honest, and everyone who worked inside our home had a reference – but there is no point in being naïve. It is likely that someone I trusted was staking out our home. I am told that carpet cleaners and exterminators have been known to give leads to thieves.

There were also people we don’t know outside – road pavers and construction workers at two new homes being built.

Get a small notebook and keep track of the people who come into your home. Tell them that you are doing it. Ask for their full names. Keep the names of the companies working in your neighborhood.

Hide safes and valuables in an unpredictable place.

I have learned that most people keep jewelry, cash and valuables in the master closet. This makes sense. It is convenient when you want to use them and it feels private. It is the first place a burglar looks. If you have another space near your bedroom which is almost as convenient, but much less obvious, this is a better choice for valuables. I have heard lots of cautionary stories since our burglary. In several cities, people hide safes and thieves find them with metal detectors.

Don’t worry too much about electronics. Professional thieves target high value items – jewelry, cash, silver, watches. They leave electronics, laptops, iPads behind because most of these can be traced.

Make it hard for the bad guys with deterrents:

          Make it difficult to get into your home.

Walk around your house and think like a thief.   Looks for easy points of entry and fix them. Keep doors and windows closed and locked on the first floor. Don’t leave ladders out – they are an invitation to your second floor. Don’t overlook your garage, make sure that it is secure. Lock cars, even in the garage.

Noise is good.

A barking dog is a deterrent. Some people recommend leaving a radio or TV on when you are away.

Make your house look lived in.

Use light timers programmed to come on at random times. Light rooms which a thief could not check from the outside.

Put conspicuous cameras at your most obvious doors.

Most thieves will ‘test’ a home to see if anybody is home before they enter it. They usually ring a doorbell. If you have a doorbell camera and they know that you have taken their photograph – they are likely to move on to another target. A doorbell camera will not deter professional thieves – but it might stop an opportunistic snatch and grab.

Visibility is good.

Burglars are less likely to get caught if they can approach a house in the dark or from the back. Ideally, you should not have easy hiding places in bushes near your house.   Keep shrubs trimmed. We have added low voltage, outdoor lights which give a ‘moonlight’ effect. There are solar powered lights. Some people recommend outdoor flood lights with motion sensors. The problem for us is that we would have lights going on all night with every deer, owl or fox walking by.

Get an alarm system and arm it when you are out.

Get advice from friends, your insurance company and the police. Choose a reliable company. I know, I didn’t want to use our alarm all the time – but I’ve learned that we need to.

Choose a reliable key holder in case your alarm goes off when you are away.

One barrier to using our alarm was that it sometimes went off unnecessarily, for instance when a branch hit a window in the wind. I felt badly for neighbors. If we were away, our key holder came from some distance – and the alarm was loud.

If you live in Greenwich, I have found a solution. A senior policeman who we have known for years, has partnered with colleagues and they are our key holders when they are off duty. If our alarm goes when we are away, they will be here in minutes. Elsewhere, maybe there is a similar service with trustworthy people.

A friend does not always use her alarm, but she has an alarm on her safe which is armed all the time and can only be disarmed with a code.

If you get burgled, this is what to do.

Call the police.

When I saw evidence of the break-in, I went outside immediately, locked myself in my car and called the police. It was the right thing to do. Go to a neighbor if you can. The thieves may still be inside and you don’t want to disturb fingerprints or evidence.

Our police responded quickly. They searched the house, inside and out. They took finger prints – all this in the middle of the night. The first, second and third questions were whether we had had guns.

      • The police asked me for pictures of everything that was stolen. Did you know that vintage jewelry stores and pawn shops must post pictures of items on a data base for law enforcement for at least two weeks before they can be sold? The detectives used our photographs to look out for items stolen from us. This is true for CT-NY-NJ. You will have to check with local police in other areas.
      • The detective in charge asked me for the names and contact details of every person, workman, vendor, delivery service, car service… who we’d used in the past few months. They go over these lists for every burglary and look for a person who had access to every house. We have begun keeping a list of people who work in our house.

Call your insurance broker if you have one.

Your broker has a copy of your policy and can advise you. My broker at Marsh, Adrianna Cardinal, helped me through the process with PURE and was in touch with the claims adjuster.  She was truly an advocate for me and made the process go smoothly.  In case you need a good broker, her email is: Adrianna.Cardinal@marsh.com

Call your insurance company.

Let’s hope that you have a great insurance company – you are about to find out. We are insured by PURE, a relatively new company, and they were fantastic. Our adjuster was reasonable, clear, available and easy to work with. He was also kind and understanding – I appreciated this.

The insurer wants to recover your things as much as you do, and they have resources to look for on-line resale of your valuables. They can also help with resources for repair if you have damage. They will want two lists from you.

      • A picture of every item that was stolen and an estimate of the replacement value with an appraisal if you have one. If you are like most people, this will take some work.
      • A survey of any damage that was done to your home during the burglary. As you get quotes to repair the damage, you update this list. I had the quotes approved before the work was done.

Be prepared, just in case.

  • My advice is to take pictures of your valuables right now and keep a digital file in a safe place. You can take a video which includes art and furniture. For important papers, passports etc., photos or scans will be helpful.
  • Get your most valuable items appraised. Our local jeweler appraised my pieces.
  • Scan sales slips for valuable and know where you keep the file.
  • I have a friend who hired a videographer/appraiser who provides both of these services. You need to trust this person – you are showing them your treasures.
  • The following are some home security devices you may want to consider.

ASE Article on lights which can be controlled when you are away from home.

ASE article on ProTech DNA which gives you the tools to put tiny tags on your valuables to help the police recover them in case of robbery.

The Ring Video Doorbell2 will show you who is outside your door, even if you are not in the house. It has a motion sensor and records everyone. You can see when packages are delivered. It can be powered by the wiring for your doorbell or it has a stand-alone battery pack. Ring Video Doorbell2. $199.

The Nest Hello doorbell camera records video continuously and captures a wide field of vision. You can subscribe to Nest Cloud Storage for $5/month to archive five days of video. It has facial recognition and can alert you when people it recognizes arrive. It has a digital zoom. It needs to be wired into your doorbell. The Nest Hello doorbell camera. $219.

The Nest Cam IQ outdoor security camera is expensive, but it gets great reviews. It can detect a person who is 50’ away and it zooms in automatically to identify a face. It claims to distinguish between people and other movement like animals or tree branches, so you get fewer false alarms. It has night vision, so you get a clear image even in the dark. Like the Nest doorbell camera, you can subscribe to Nest Aware at various levels to archive the video feed for 5+ days. Nest Cam IQ Outdoor. $349.99

The Ring Spotlight Security Camera can be placed high up on an outside wall of your house. It can be powered by a battery pack or wired into the home. It has a motion sensor for easy mounting. It has a wide-angle lens and infrared night vision for a good view even in the dark. It has a microphone and speakers so that you can communicate with people outside from your iPhone. There are a variety of data storage plans and add-on possibilities for other cameras. It comes in black and white. The Ring Spotlight Security Camera. $199.

The Nest Indoor Security Camera IQ has a built-in speaker and a microphone. You can hear what is being said and you can speak to people. You will need to use Alexa if you want voice control. It stands alone and it comes with a wall plate. Infrared LED’s give you clear vision, even in the dark. It zooms in on people in the room. You will want to purchase Nest Aware to keep an archive of recent videos. Nest Cam IQ Indoor. $299.