jennifer chiera

How my home burglary might help you

Before I can get to the good stuff, and start moving forward with this blog and my life, there is something of a more personal nature that I would like to share.

This blog entry isn’t how I wanted to start the new year. When I tucked that POS 2017 into bed, I would have never believed that my first entry of 2018 would involve me doing a PSA on home burglary for my readers. Home Burglary Sucks! I am 42 years old and until January 12, 2018, I had never been touched by burglary. I lived in a beautiful, cozy world where I basked in the glory of a false sense of security.

Anyone that knows me knows I am a nervous person by nature. Here at my house, we felt we were already taking precautions to prevent a break in. Doors and windows are always locked when we are not home. A stick is always in the sliding glass door when we are not using it. There is a security door in the front and security lights on both sides of the house. Both stockade gates are locked with padlocks so people can’t wander into the yard. I have taken naps with the sliding glass door wide open in the summer thinking the locked gates would keep me safe. I cringe when I think about that.

What we have come to rely on to keep us safe is not enough anymore.  They will enter with the alarm going off. They have plenty of time to get the best of your best… that is unless you make it hard for them. If you have not been a target yet… don’t consider yourself lucky. It will happen. You may not be able to prevent it, but you can make it damn hard for them. So hard, in fact, maybe they will give up. Situations always vary, but first – if you have a private yard that is fenced in – keep it locked. Make them go over. Then, here are some things to know and how you can be ready.

  • Consider ALL entry points (Gates are not the only way in – find all of yours) Whoever broke in, came over the back fence from my neighbor’s yard. Apparently, the house is vacant at this time making it easy for someone to hop in and then out of my yard undetected. We were not aware that the house was empty because there are lights on over there occasionally.  Just make sure you know what is going on in your neighborhood. Ask questions. Find out if properties are vacant or overgrown.  Vacant and overgrown properties make it easy for people to access surrounding properties and even hide right under your nose.  Keep it neat, keep it low, make it hard to get in.  Also, consider putting shrubs or some type of prickly bush on the inside of fences where someone could climb over. It is not 100% but another way to slow them down and make it harder.
  • Ground level windows and doors need reinforcements. Especially in the yard or secluded side yard areas. If a window is low enough to the ground – it will be smashed, unlocked, raised/slid, then entered. You need to keep them from getting in even if they smash the glass. We have installed a crossbar on the inside of the studio bathroom window. This will prevent anyone from accessing that part of the house in the future. That was the first place they broke in, but couldn’t gain access to the main part of the house due to a steel door that separates the studio. I smile when I think about all the time they wasted going down there first.
  • Don’t leave tools/ladders/bricks etc out in the yard. These burglars were mad because they wasted so much time so they picked up a pickax they found out in yard area and showed the sliding glass door a lesson. I can’t even imagine how many times they had to hit it. The only thing stranger is that no one heard this… leading me to…
  • Get to know your neighbors. You don’t have to be friends, but it is good to know who you reside near. Remember, listen to your gut – if something doesn’t feel right – it probably isn’t.
  • Don’t keep all things in a jewelry box. The first place the burglar went was the master bedroom. That is the first place they always go because that is generally where we keep our most precious things. I had a jewelry box. I had a big one. A really big one… and it was full. Not just valuables, but tokens, coins, mementos.  Don’t make it easy for them to walk away with everything. My box was large, but they emptied it out.  I am not going to make a list of genius places to hide your valuables for obvious reasons.  Think about it for a while. Look around and put your things in places no one would think to look, places you would not normally keep valuable items. Just don’t forget where you put things. Make an inventory list if need be. I wish I had made one in advance.
  • Don’t keep large bags, purses, or luggage in the master bedroom. I would never have thought about this if they hadn’t taken Christopher’s Super Bowl duffle bag and old computer bag out of his closet, dump the contents, then fill it with our finest goods. Yep, our burglar(s) didn’t bring bags. Nice touch. Again. Don’t make it easy for them. The more time they waste looking for crap to use and trying to get in… the more likely they will run out of time or be caught before they get away with your stuff.
  • Don’t keep birth certificates, social security cards, checkbooks, or anything like that anywhere in your bedroom. If you have a safe that can’t be carried away, use it. If you don’t have a safe, use a bookshelf. Pick a book and put stuff in it. Just don’t forget which one. There is no place in your bedroom they won’t look so don’t keep important papers or documents in there. Social security cards cannot be replaced if stolen. A replacement card can be issued, but the number cannot be replaced unless unauthorized use becomes so bad that it can’t be corrected. Only then can social security numbers be replaced. For obvious reasons. It just sucks that you have to have your life destroyed before anything can be done. Every day I hope today is not the day someone decides to take out a loan or max out a credit card in my name – or worse, in my 4-year-old daughter’s name.
  • Stow laptops, tablets, and other devices when you are not home. I’m not saying to lock them in a safe (if you have one big enough, do it), but keeping them out of sight may be enough. Under a towel in the linen closet or in the pots and pans cabinet for example. Be creative – think of ways to hide things in plain sight if you can. Why should we be put out any more than we already have to be?

  • Hide whatever you don’t want to lose. These people are in your house. They are there for high ticket items first –  jewelry, cash, coin collections, and other valuable collections – if they have time, your computers, laptops, televisions, and anything with an “i”. That doesn’t mean they won’t take your 4-year-old daughters piggy bank or one of her toys for their own kid if they see something they like. They don’t care about you. They don’t care about your feelings. They don’t care if you are rich or if you are poor. They don’t care if you are grieving or celebrating. They don’t care about your kids or their space. 

The end of my story is bittersweet. I guess we got lucky because I interrupted my burglar. I wasn’t gone as long as they were expecting me to be and I actually came home while they were still inside – the only good thing about that is they only had time to toss the bedroom.

I know I will never again see the things that were taken. I am learning to let go and I will get over it. I will never, however, recover my sense of security.  Home isn’t what it used to be. It doesn’t have the same feeling anymore. There isn’t a bar, or alarm, or light, or weapon that will bring that feeling back.

Just take a minute and look around you. Find your vulnerable points and lock them down. Protect yourself. protect your home. make it impossible. it is not always going to be pretty. it is always going to be worth it.

Starting from here – onward and upward. Stay safe.