The FBI's most recent report on home invasions shows that nearly 50,000 break-ins occurred in the United States in 2011. That amounted to be about 135 break-ins per day. With these facts in mind, advice on how to do everything possible to protect a home from a break-in might be welcomed, especially with the oncoming holiday season.

The FBI’s most recent report on home invasions shows that nearly 50,000 break-ins occurred in the United States in 2011. That amounted to be about 135 break-ins per day. With these facts in mind, advice on how to do everything possible to protect a home from a break-in might be welcomed, especially with the oncoming holiday season.

According to David Lucas, Jackson County Sheriff, the holiday season, just prior to Christmas, is the peak time for break-ins to occur.

                   “It’s because most of the time this is when people know you are buying gifts and all of those gifts are going to be in your house,” he said. “So that’s why we see a lot more of it during that time of year than any other.”

Lucas also said that the most prominent time of day for break-ins that he observed was during the typical working hours of 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“A lot of break-ins usually happen during the daytime, during business hours when people are at work or at school,” he said. “Besides, most crooks are cowards. They don’t want anyone to be there when they come in, so most of the time it’s during daylight hours when people are typically not home.”

Preparing for when you are away

Relying on neighbors is key in helping to protect your home from break-ins when you are away, Lucas said.

“When you’re going to be going out of town or on vacation, talk to your neighbors. Have your neighbors watch your place for you, and if you get the newspaper delivered, have your neighbors pick up your newspapers and any mail you have,” he said.

“Thieves go around looking for easy targets. They will look to see if there are newspapers laying out in the driveway. If there are four or five newspapers out in your driveway, then that’s a pretty good clue that nobody’s been home for the last few days,” Lucas said. “The goal is to make it not as obvious that no one is home.”

Along with stopping mail and newspapers from coming to your home and having your neighbors keep an eye out, another popular recommendation is when you are not home or you are asleep, is to leave a radio or television on in the main rooms of your home to create noise in your house and build up the idea that someone is still home or awake. This tends to deter break-ins.

In an interview with U.S. News & Report magazine,Steve Houseworth, director of the Theft Talk program, offered an additional safety tip. He suggested leaving a radio or television on when you are out because “noise helps prevent burglaries… your home is more likely to be burglarized because [thieves] think nobody is home.”

Staying safe at home

Houseworth also suggested signing up for an initial home security trial and keeping the security sign in your yards even after the trial expires, as a cheap trick to prevent potential break-ins. Most burglars, he suggests, will likely bypass a home with a security system. 

Home insurance agency Nationwide also offers tips on how to keep your home more secure. In its “Common-sense home theft prevention tips” article, located in the safety suggestions portion of its website, Nationwide recommends keeping all curtains and blinds closed in order to prevent “thieves from taking inventory of your personal belongings and seeing the home’s layout.”

Another way to deter burglars, Lucas suggests, is using lights to make one’s home appear occupied.

“You can buy timers where you can plug your lights up in the house to where you can set it for your lights to come on during a certain time during the evening, and go off at a certain time at night. It makes it appear like there’s someone home when the lights come on when they are looking for houses as targets. A completely dark house is pretty much a giveaway that no one is there, or they are all in bed,” he said.

Handling a break-in

Although it is important to take precautionary measures to derail potential break-ins, there is always the question of what to do if someone is attempting to get in your home while you’re present, or if your home is actually broken into while you’re away.

According to Lucas, break-ins are less likely to transpire when people are home, but there is still the question of what a person could do to possibly get a burglar to leave their home.

Lucas suggested that the safest option to do in the situation of a break-in is to “get out of the house,” or if a person is unable to get outside, “lock yourself in a secure room and call the police.”

In a segment about home invasions on NBC, retired NYPD police officer Wallace Ziens offered a cheap way to scare a thief into leaving: using a car alarm. It’s loud and distracting and has the ability to cause a would-be thief to flee just as a security system would do, Ziens said.

However, Ziens warns that for the car alarm to be successful at running out thieves, a home-owner should keep their car keys near them. Placing the keys on their nightstand when they go to bed makes for easy access in tripping the alarm.

Ziens also said that the one thing that deters thieves the most is always noise, be it from an alarm or a barking dog, and that creating noise is the best way to scare off a would-be burglar.

Of course, these tips do not help as much when a person comes home to discover their door broken down or windows up or any other sign of a home invasion. Or even worse, realizing that someone has broken in while you are at home.

In this instance, there are several ways a person can handle a break-in in order to keep themselves and their family as safe as possible.

If one wishes to go with Vice President Joe Biden’s suggestion that he relayed at the 2013 meeting of the National Association of Attorney Generals, “getting a shotgun” is the best tool for fighting off would-be intruders.

For people without the possession of firearms, however, Lucas stated that the best way to protect yourself and your family is “to let the thief take what they want so they will leave.”

“Things can be replaced. People cannot,” Lucas added.

In addition to these tips, it is also always wise to establish an escape plan with your family or housemates in the case of a break-in, and to make sure that every family member, especially children, have access to a phone and know how to call for emergency services by dialing 9-1-1.

Ultimately the best way to keep yourself and others safe is to have a plan in place for emergency situations like break-ins, according to the United States’ Department of Justice.

Editor’s Note: Michelle Gould is a student in Dr. Lillie Fears’ feature and magazine writing class at Arkansas State University at Jonesboro. Fears is a former resident of Helena-West Helena.