Wednesday, August 4, 2010

An unwelcome life lesson.

In my last post, I said I was going to return soon to continue blogging. But I debated for awhile whether or not I wanted to write about the reason for my absence this past month. I decided I'm going to though. One, because it's certainly been one of our "adventures" as first-time homeowners (although not a good one). Two, because I'd like to think that just maybe, I can give some advice that might prevent it from happening to someone else. Three, it could be somewhat therapeutic for me, because writing usually is.

Our house was broken into a few weeks ago. Literally broken into... two doors were kicked in. I'm not going to go into a lot of detail, but here's the jist of it. It happened in broad daylight, while we were both at work. From what little we have to go on, they (?) knocked on our front door to see if anyone was home. Then they broke in through the side garage door/kitchen door and took what they could grab quickly and without being too obvious. This included two digital cameras, a laptop, power tools, and jewelry. (In case you're wondering, our cat was fine, thankfully.)

Having gone through this awful experience and the headache that follows it, I thought it would be a good chance to share some advice that might make others more aware and less susceptible. Because feeling vulnerable and victimized sucks.

Install a security system -- and use it. There are people who think that a security system isn't worth it. But maybe those are the people that have never been burglarized before. True, it's a shame that you have to pay to protect your home, where you're supposed to feel safe. But after this incident, we had a system installed and I think it's worth it for the peace of mind (whether we are or aren't at home). Most of our neighbors have security signs in their yard, so maybe that's why our house was targeted. And if our signs and window decals aren't enough to deter burglars, then surely the alarm would do the trick if they did decide to break in. Also, having a security system can potentially lower your homeowner's insurance, even if it's just a little bit.

Know your neighbors. We know all our immediate neighbors and have traded phone numbers with several of them. Our neighbor was able to call and tell Luke about our door being open, and he then immediately called the cops. So at least we didn't have to come home from work to find our house that way and be completely freaked out. And now that most of our neighbors know about what happened to us, everyone will be more aware of what's going on around them.

Don't plant bushes or trees next to your garage or other entry doors that can obstruct the view from the street. Unfortunately, our neighbor has several large trees with low branches that do a good job of hiding our side door (or someone trying to break in). I had never really thought of the potential danger of that until this happened.

Be aware of your surroundings. If you notice a strange vehicle driving around the neighborhood, make note of it or try to get a tag number. You never know if you might need it. While I'm going to try not to become a completely paranoid freak, I am going to pay more attention from now on.

Keep your valuable items hidden. Don't just leave your watch laying out on a dresser, or your checkbook on the kitchen counter. Burglars are looking for items that are quick to grab. I could kick myself for leaving both our cameras out in plain sight on an end table, although the perp(s) did end up looking in the console where the cameras would have been stored anyway. With that said, thieves will still probably rummage through a few drawers and doors to see if they can find anything of value (at least in our experience).

Document your valuable items. Keep receipts and write down serial numbers or any other identifying information. You can even have your name or other identifier engraved on certain items in case they get stolen. You'll want to have as much information as possible to submit to insurance for your claim (and to the police for tracking purposes). You can even take pictures of items -- just make sure you print out the photos or back them up some other way.

Back up your digital photos. Speaking of photos, don't just keep them stored on your digital camera without saving them somewhere else -- whether it be a flash drive, CD, Google album, or whatever. I lost a lot of photos that were on my camera, as well as those on my computer that I hadn't transferred anywhere else. Even if they find your camera/laptop at a pawn shop, don't expect your photos -- or the memory card -- to be there.

Don't leave big boxes out on your driveway waiting for trash day. This didn't pertain to us, but still, do you want everyone and their dog knowing that you just got a nice new flat-screen TV?

Keep personal information in a safe or other secure place. Although we're pretty sure none of our personal info was touched, we still took precautions to change our bank account numbers and move a lot of important documents from a regular filing drawer to one of those heavy-duty, fireproof safes with a lock. Having tangible items stolen was bad enough, but having our bank account or identities compromised would be worse.

Install a deadbolt or other security feature on your doors. The two doors that were kicked in only had basic doorknob locks. If they had deadbolts, it would have made it harder--although maybe not impossible--to kick in. (We've already installed new doors/deadbolts.)

Don't leave your garage door opener in your car, if you're parked outside your house. If someone decides to break into your car, this is giving them an invitation into your house. Not good. (Again, this isn't what happened to us, it's just another tip that seems like common sense but not everyone thinks about.)

Review your homeowners policy. Know whether or not your insurance will cover lost items for their replacement value (at current prices) or the actual cash value (at the depreciated value).

Don't think it can't happen to you. We live in a pretty nice neighborhood with low crime. We're also on a corner with a decent amount of traffic that drives by us, not hidden back out of sight. But the sad fact is, in addition to the regular ol' criminals, a lot of people are out of jobs and getting desperate in this cruddy economy. And if they're desperate and dangerous, that's a bad combination.

Don't pretend you're not home. I thought I'd throw this one in. It comes from our security system rep, who used to be a sheriff. If someone knocks at your door and you either don't know who it is, or you think it's a salesperson, do something to let them know someone is at home. Make noise somehow. If it's someone with bad intentions, you don't want them breaking in and being taken by surprise to see you there. And if you're really concerned about it, just call the cops. Better safe than sorry.

Okay, that turned out to be quite the list. And remember, these are just suggestions that I have based on our own situation. I could drive myself crazy thinking about this stuff on a daily basis. And even if we ourselves had followed all this advice, it still may have happened to us. Who knows.

If you can think of any other precautions that might be helpful, feel free to share. I may or may not be mentioning this incident again (unless they catch whoever did it, in which case I'll be sharing that good news). And I'm determined to make my next post related to some type of home improvement project, which is what this blog is supposed to be about.  :)

Thanks again for listening, and for all your supportive comments that made me want to keep blogging when I was so close to giving it up.


Mrs. Chic said...

Amanda - I'm so sorry your home was broken into!! I've had my car broken into which sucked, but a house is so different & personal :(

So many goods tips to follow, we have an alarm system and try to use it everyday before we leave the house and at night, I agree its worth the extra cost.

Another thing you suggested is getting to know the neighbors, we know them but really should trade numbers etc.

Another tip to give people is park in your garage and bring large items in our do it late at night, and I agree don't advertise hey we just bought a nice tv!!

Again so sorry this happened to you & so nice of your to lend suggestions to everyone.

Hillary @ The Sweet Maple Life said...

Amanda- I am so sorry to hear about this happening to you! Your advice/warnings are not in vain!!

PS- So happy that you aren't letting this get you out of the blogging scene- you would be hugely missed!

The Brick Cottage said...

Oh, I am so sorry this happened to you. I hope you start to feel safe in your home soon.

Danielle and Clint said...

YAH! I am so happy you aren't going to stop blogging, but very sad to hear what happened. At a restuarant across the street from my home, two people were mugged at night a couple weeks ago. It scared us so much. We leave our porch light on at all times now at night. We have been considering a security system. I am glad your baby is ok.

Kim @ NewlyWoodwards said...

This makes me sad. I've been a little emotional late, but it brought tears to my eyes. It just doesn't seem fair. We are right next to a high school and there have been some issues. My biggest fear is that someone will break into the house. I think there's so much action around here, no one would notice. Thanks for the tips. All are good ones. One thing my mom says is to close window shades. I'm really bad at this, but I've been told that this way, people cannot see in to see the things you have to steal.

Tammy said...

Sorry to something like this happened to you! And thanks so much for your post! I'm a pretty cautious person myself when it comes to my home but you've pointed out some things here that I need to implement into my home and family's safety!

Thank you!!

Kelly@TearingUpHouses said...

Oh no, sweetie. I'm so so SO sorry. That should have never, ever happened.

Sending a humungo hug your way.


marleah said...

So sorry this happened - this kind of thing should never happen to anyone, and it's just such a personal violation. That said - I'm glad you posted this list. There are a lot of things there that I wouldn't have ever thought about. Another one, since you mentioned blogging, people should avoid posting that they are going on vacation/out of town/dates of a trip/etc. on Facebook or a blog. On a blog seems pretty obvious, but on Facebook even though you might know your "friends," you don't know who they know and who can find out. That's a perfect invitation for crime.

I'm very sorry again. And SO glad Phoebe was ok!

Shauna said...

Im so sorry about what happened! My prayers are with you and hoping that they catch the criminal(s) quickly! Thank you so much for the tips! My husband gets onto me if I dont lock my car doors. I hope things are getting back to normal!

Decal Factory Blog said...

I am sorry that the sanctity of your home was violated. When my pick-up was broken into I felt violated, I cannot imagine what you must have felt like.

My company manufactures the security signs and decals that adorn many homes. The following is an excerpt from my blog on home security. My blog address is

The yard security sign is the best advertisement for the home owner, because the sign communicates to a potential burglar that this house is protected. Since most criminals are opportunistic and will gravitate to the path of least resistance. These home thieves’ will not attempt a B&E because of the security devices in situ in a home. Most burglars’ do not want to be caught they will move on to a home that does not have a security system.

The home security lawn signs do deter the criminal from breaking into your domicile. The security system with a sign and decals also keeps you safe while your home.

Doug Bryant

The Decal Factory - The best decals, signs, labels, posters, stickers and banners in the industry for business and hobby.
Toll Free - (800) 369-5331

dolores @ Welcome to My Humble Ablog said...

Your story makes my heart ache. I really hope the cops catch the jerk(s) very soon. I'm just glad to hear no one was home during the burglary.

Not to long ago, one of my friends home was almost burglarized during the middle of the day and while she was home! Thankfully her screams frighten the burglar away, but it could have been a lot worse.

But keep us posted when the thief's are caught.

micah @ the yellow front door said...

Good tips sis.

Amanda said...

So sorry Amanda! And thank you for the tips- they really are common sense, but I for sure have not thought of all of them! Stan already gave me a big lecture about not blogging about vacations until after I'm back home, so there's another tip. The only other one I have is to get a dog! I know this isn't practical for everyone, but a lot of thieves have admitted that if they hear a dog barking they will immediately move on to the next house. I'm glad your kitty is okay, but I am sorry about all of your other stuff, and most of all the feeling of being violated. Thank you so much for posting about it, and I'm looking forward to your return to blogland!

Kasey at Thrifty Little Blog said...

Aww, I'm so sorry that you had to go through this! My car was broken into earlier this year so I know how how frustrating it all can be. I hope that the security system does the trick and you don't have to worry about this again!!

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Sara @ Russet Street Reno said...

Amanda, how did I miss this? I'm so sorry to hear it! It makes me grateful that our neighbors on either side of us are retired, there is usually someone around to make sure everything is ok.

Cindy @The Flipping Couple said...

Oh gosh, that's awful. I really worry about our house getting broken into (we live IN the city) but now that we have two big dogs that do NOT like strangers coming into their house I definitely feel better about it. That's such a violating feeling. And it takes so much time to get everything taken care of afterward. So sorry to hear you guys had to deal with it!!

Oonafey said...

You poor dear. I am so sorry to hear about this situation. Our neighbors house was broken into before we moved in and then a purse was stolen out of their car after we moved in. We still haven't installed a security system. I know we should, but it doesn't seems like something I could talk the Mr. into.

I cannot imagine having this terrifying experience happen to me. I felt "violated" when I thought the painter that we hired to be around were looking in our windows, I can't imagine how I would feel knowing someone was IN MY HOUSE. Ick.

Thank you for this post.


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