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March 05, 2013

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Sorry to hear about the increased crime in your neighborhood -- especially the murder! Yikes!

We just do the basics: doors and windows always locked, garage closed, etc. We leave outside lights on throughout the night, as well as a couple of inside lights. Actually, these pretty much stay on 24/7, as we often forget to turn them off during the day. We should probably invest in some of those dusk-to-dawn things you mentioned or get some timers. :)

Maybe we should look into that shatter-resistant film you mentioned for our basement windows...

Overall, our neighborhood is fairly safe. There was a garage break-in across the street a year or two ago, with a lot of tools stolen. But that's about the worst of it, as far as I know.

That's so horrible...unfortunately, its happening everywhere. Its the main reason i recently moved from my comfortable, paid off house in an older neighborhood to a new, fancy neighborhood across town. Two boarded up foreclosures on my block that had remained vacant for 4 years, drug items and condoms started appearing in the park where the little league played, and yes murders, drive by shootings, and frequent drug shootouts at several different motels, multi family housing, and run down single family houses not more than 3 blocks away from where we lived. Lots of sketchy stuff was going on that wasnt even obvious to me, as I learned from talking to neighbors and when I finally started checking police reports. Also, the city had stopped maintaining the streets for some reason...lots of potholes and broken sidewalks that contributed to the general run down feel. I didnt have a security system because I didnt think it would help enough. I wanted a home that would still be nice in 15-20 years when I would be ready to retire, and where my kids could finish high school without being fearful of going outside or staying home alone, and I also wanted my kids to attend a better high school. I'm very happy with our new home, but we did take a hit on the cost of living. On the other hand, I feel sure that my house in my current neighborhood will maintain its value in contrast to my old house. Of course there is zero crime in the new neighborhood....the county maintains a website where you can search a map for all police incidents in a given range of time. My old neighborhood is covered with hits, while there is nothing at all in the new one or anywhere nearby. My current security system is that we are surrounded by chatty retired people :) who seem to notice every strange car in the neighborhood!

I had a prowler looking in my windows a few weeks ago. I was very frightened by the footprints in the snow that moved around my house and I have been thinking about security every day since then.

I am replacing an old, less than secure window and I am putting a piece of wood in the tracks of all of the slider windows. You would have to be a slim person to crawl through my basement windows but the opening is much larger if the window is forced open.

I will look in to the 3M film.

That's quite terrible to hear. In our condo there were a few break ins a few years ago, and we found out a thief climbed up many stories on a precarious ledge only to break in via the balcony and sliding doors. The guy must have been Spiderman as it is very sheer and treacherous.

The people broken in had their sliding doors unlocked. We always lock every door. There are guards 24X7 so the chance of a violent crime would be quite rare. The best defense against that would be a combination of prayer and luck. I am not a believer of keeping a loaded gun in the house.

-Mike

Man been there. We moved into a middle class neighborhood and the economy hit that area hard. Our house went from a peak appraised value of 175K to a current value of ~80K. Several factors forced us to move when the kids across the street grew up and did nothing but blare music all day, buy/sell "knock-off" goods from the trunk of a car, and fight in the street. We went from a place we enjoyed living to one of high stress and anxiety.

The surrounding areas had a serious uptick in crime including break-ins and violent crimes. This caused us to get a security system since my wife was home all day with our infant son. We got a wireless system that I could install myself and get monitored for $15/mo. We also installed automated lighting inside/outside the house including day sensors like you did and a motion sensor flood light in the back yard.

Then in 2009 a shooting happened less than 2 blocks away. This prompted some serious concern for us after much wrangling and work we found a way to move out by early 2010. Unfortunately we still have the old house as a rental since we still can't sell it but when I last spoke with the neighbors some things have improved because the kids finally left/were kicked out and some others have moved...hoping for a recovery to be able to get rid of this albatross but don't forsee us selling for at least another 3 years.

Gonna have to look into that 3M film. We do all the basics and live in a fairly safe area, but we do have basement windows similar to yours. I wonder if you can still open them with the film? We like to open them sometimes to air out the basement to prevent molding.

I can't believe people don't lock their doors and windows. I mean really.

We have a standard Brinks system in our small house, it is just one motion detector in the living room and glass break sensors everywhere else. My wife has an alarm on her cell phone that goes off every night to check and make sure the alarm is on and the doors locked. We have a gate across our driveway between the fence and the house, and we always close it if we're going to be home more than an hour. I have been told the gate is a big deterrent, although it can be easily opened by anyone. We have one motion sensor light on the back patio, and a very bright light above the garage that illuminates the entire driveway. We also randomly turn the front porch light on so it is not indicative if we are home or not. Oh and we use light timers too when we are gone overnight or very late. I too am thinking about looking at that 3M film to cover my ancient windows that seem very thin.

The previous owner had no security system, we had it installed when we moved in. I believe his security system was his collection of guns, but we do not believe in this... so I'm very open to any non-firearm tips.

One thing I do, in addition to the things already mentioned, is leave something like talk radio or music playing when I'm not home. A very common crime, at least around here, is the thief knocks on the door to see if anyone is home during working hours. If nobody answers, the cars are gone, and it seems the home is empty, then they sneak around to the back and break in. Any sign that there might be someone in there tends to make them move on, according to the police.

Having the shades or curtains drawn so they can't look in to see if anyone is home is also a good idea, which was counter intuitive to me. I figured closed shades would suggest nobody home, but apparently many people leave their shades or blinds closed all the time, so it adds just enough uncertainty to discourage thieves.

I also always park my car in the garage, which is difficult to see into. That way, no car in the driveway is not a good indicator of if I am home or not. My house was broken into once - when my brother lived there, parked outside, and happened to be out of town (with his dog) on a Monday so his car had been gone all weekend. I did not have the shades drawn, and no music playing. I doubt that was a coincidence.

Finally, I do have a couple of cameras mounted to look out the windows. They're mainly toys, but they do let me see who is at the front door without going to the door to answer it. I can also see my driveway, which is in the rear of my house so I can't see it from the living room, and my side door, which faces a sidewalk/street since I live on a corner. I can see them from my smartphone (at home or anywhere I have cell service), or my laptop. In fact, my laptop has the four cam feeds as a screen saver, which I let sit on an end table so I can see every street-facing side of my house even at night with all the shades drawn.

Signs of the times. There have been a couple of berak in in our neighborhood in broad day light and on a corner house stealing a 50" tv. Really and no one saw anything. Other things happened at night.

What you have done is good. Now look at how easy would it to jimmy a door or break a window around the house to gain entry. Maybe add some film to those windows or windows that are not out in the open. Most people hide a key which is a bad idea. We have a lock box that is screwed to the jamb of the door similar to a lock box for real estate showings.

I use to have shrubs around the house that were never trimmed. I cut them out and made a major difference in the appearance of the house. Someone asked me if I did it for security reasons. Made me think where can someone hide in the bushes areound your house?

I have checked into this but have not done so but you can get a security system with 4 cameras that will tape the people stealing your stuff for around $300 to $400. Not linked to a security company but you can look at it via a smart phone and the internet. A good way to check while on vacation to check remotely.


Regarding in-home security, a gun is a good deterrent, but obviously dangerous and would require lessons, a safe, etc.

The other options, mace, club, taser, etc. all require being very close to the criminal, which is not idea. A gun can handle things from across the room.

I'm not advocating for buying an AR-15 assault rifle, but a 9mm or a shotgun would be more than sufficient.

The real question is, could you actually shoot someone?

We also had a prowler try to get into our home in the past few months. Our windows and sliding glass doors all open by sliding to the side we have placed dowel rods in the trays, and that was enough to keep the prowler from gaining entry into our home. When we called the local police and they came out, they said the dowel rods were better than a security system (back to your noise comment - most prowlers have a time and noise aversion - if they feel like they will make too much noise and spend too long around your house, they will bail).

I just bought a new house in December, which was broken into while it was undergoing renovation, and many of my contractor's tools were stolen. They came in through a door that easily pushed open and a window that didn't lock. In retrospect, I think the thieves (and neighborhood kids) had discovered it easy to break into while it was vacant for sale, and probably broke in a few times until there was actually something worth stealing. We haven't had any problems since, but we've improved the locks and haven't left many tools there. I'm hoping it won't happen again after I move in again next week.

It was a shock for me, especially moving into a more urban neighborhood, and I'm hoping that it was a one-time thing while the house was vacant. I entertained an alarm salesman's visit, though the price was ridiculous and the salesman really turned me off. I have installed new outdoor lights, new locks and windows, and I am looking for other ways to make my house more secure myself (thanks for the tip on the 3M film).

That said, I choose not to live in fear. I grew up in a rural neighborhood where we didn't even have doors that locked. That is the way life should be, but we have lost it as we have gotten more urbanized. In our current economy and hysterical media, we seem to focus on the occasional tragedy as if it's likely to happen to us personally, but I know that I'm far more likely to die in a car crash than a gunshot (but that doesn't stop me from driving).

Thanks for all the security tip.

Detroit's story has been well publicized.

Detroit has half of the median income and 3 times the poverty rate of the rest of the nation.

The population has been declining faster than every other part of the country, losing a quarter of its population in the last 10 years. One person is leaving every 22 minutes and the population is now below 700,000.

The homicide peak has hit the highest peak in the last two decades.

It's time to bail out.

Old Limey --

I don't live in Detroit. We are 2 hours away from that city...

FMF
I'm very glad to hear that you don't live in Detroit, there's even discussion that its economy is so bad that the state may have to step in and take it over.

I thought the big three automakers were doing very well. There must be a lot of other factors responsible for Detroit's problems that I don't know about.

We live in the poorest neighborhood in our town. When we were newlywed and poor ourselves, it was all we could afford. In the intervening years, we didn't get bitten by the upgrade bug enough to want to leave our humble neighborhood for the restrictions of an HOA. There have been a number of break-ins in our town, in both the wealthy and poor areas; but we don't own much that is worth stealing. Our TV has a 12 inch screen and is a cube, no flat screens for us, yet. Laptop is from 2006, digital camera is from 2007; each is lesser quality than what most folks have on their phones today.

We did amass a bit of a wine collection. But since we've both quit drinking alcohol this year, we should probably just give it away now.

I have a stay-at-home spouse, which is probably the most valuable home security system devised. We'll probably add a dog in the not-too-distant future.

I do think about home security, in spite of not owning much of value because it would be aggravating to lose what we do have. Our 13 & 14 year old vehicles would not be easy to replace with something comparable, so mine is always locked. As well, I think that before installing protection systems, it is wise to upload private data and valuable documents to zip drives and secure those or use an off-site network. This is as much for protection from theft as from fire or flooding. I'm in an area hit by hurricane Sandy. Having witnessed in person what two felled trees and a storm surge can destroy in a few short moments, the loss potential from some theives is, by comparison, quite small.

In terms of personal safety, I don't think a weapon would improve my security. I commute into NYC and ride the subways on a daily basis. I don't feel unsafe there or in my home in the suburbs. But then, I'm a satistician by nature. I know that as a woman, I'm at far greater personal risk from a man I know and trust and would open the door for than I am from a complete stranger.

I'm surprised nobody has mentioned having a dog yet. Dogs make noise and can be vicious towards strangers in their territory. I've read that a burgler may think "why deal with a dog, when the next house has no dog?" Also, a little trick that I use is to find someone who has ADT or whatever kind of service, and ask them for one of their signs and some stickers, they can usually get as many as they want from the company on a maintenance or service call. I got a few from my brother who uses ADT. Timer lights of course make it look like someone is home which is smart.

As far as a gun goes, its hard to beat a shotgun because no real aiming, just point. But to add to that, Taurus makes a gun called "The Judge" It's a revolver type pistol that shoots a 410 shotgun shell. Couple things here, it allows you to keep one hand free for calling 911 in case of an entrance, its less cumbersome than a long barrel shotgun, and still "sprays" shot, so pointing rather than aiming will do the job. Just have to consider family in the house and where they are, if a few rooms away or across the house, then you might be ok. If you live alone or all occupants are in the same room, then its a great option hands down.

Have your car keys on your nightstand. If you do think somthing is going down, hit the panic button and have your car alarm go off. It will make a lot of noise which will alert the rest of the family and your neighbors.

Wow, that's crazy. It's terrible that a great neighborhood goes downhill like that. Can you guys put together a neighborhood watch? I think revamping the security was a great idea.
Our neighborhood isn't all that great, but we feel pretty safe. The police station is only a few blocks away and we have private security coming around frequently. There are still a lot of small time crime, but that's the cost of living downtown though.

That's horrible; hopefully the guy caught in Chicago was the killer so he can face the consequences.

I'll add to your list: cameras. Finally, the monopoly in security cameras (Analog CCTV) is being broken. You can pick up 720p IP cameras for ~$150, cheaper if you're quick and shop around. I just grabbed a Wansview camera; it has motion detection *in* the camera, and can email you alerts and pictures of motion, even if you don't have a DVR (It's a brave new world.) Some can record directly to an SD card when they detect motion.

With the garages - it's very easy to pop a coat hanger through the slot between the top of the door and pull down on the e-release. The neighbor 2 doors down had some tools stolen from his garage, so I put a zip-tie around the latch. I should still be able to pull down if I do need to pop the latch, but there is no way a coat hanger could do it anymore.

A dog might help. We've got an 85# pitbull; but seriously, anything that's loud, big, scary, and/or annoying will keep the casual thieves away.

Also, don't store anything at home, haha. I don't think I've got anything here worth too much, short of the cars. Those other things are more to give myself more time to react if someone breaks in while my family is home.

Oh, someone mentioned sliding doors - they're the worst. We have the old school single pane ones; super simple to knock off the track. I drilled holes above the door where it would be in the closed position, and put 3.5" screws above it, with just the edge popping out so the door can only be 'lifted' when it is open anyway. That might help some of you.

While a pitbull is not the breed we'll be getting, I can vouch for their skill at defending a property. Our investment property is in the next town. The tenant's bulldog/pitbull mix jumped thru a plate glass window to chase away an intruder, who then ran down the driveway and up a tree, where he was cornered until the police arrived.

Yikes. I love where I live precisely because it is middle class (not high middle, there's not a new car around) and extremely safe. There has never been a break-in/anything missing in our neigborhood. I intentionally leave my out-buildings unlocked in the hopes that if there ever was any issue I'd first find out with just the loss of stuff. The last argument on my street was two neighbors fighting over which one would plow my driveway when I was away....This kind of neighborhood is literally worth more to me than any $1M gated home would be.

I've lived in very different areas growing up and it really affected my attitude toward humanity, to a point I really didn't like it or my own feelings toward it. Having now spent 10 years in a nice middle class no crime rural area I've finally lost some of my negative feelings toward the human race. I can only hope my neighborhood, now truely my HOME, remains a place where my family concerns can be health & car accidents and not anything darker. I'm sorry this has happen to yours and so many areas of the country. I have little against gun ownership, but if I ever thought I actually needed one to protect my family in their own home I'd move.

We have always had big dogs (who would probably not do more than lick someone to death, but an intruder wouldn't know that) and they have always made me feel safe. But I don't think that's a option you're going to go for, based on previous posts ;-)

When my parent's neighborhood was dealing with some repeated vandalism, they formed a neighborhood watch and had regular meetings with local police, much like your subdivision has done. Many people also installed motion-activated floodlights in their yards and driveways.

In terms of security within your home, weapons are only as good as your ability (and determination) to use them safely. I would definitely recommend running through some situations with your family on what to do/where to go if someone broke in. If someone breaks in the back door, should they run to the garage or the front door? Can the kids get out of bedroom windows? Where would the safe meeting place be? Also, keeping a charged cell phone by the bed is always a good idea. Someone mentioned car keys so you can hit the alarm button - that seems smart! Maybe those air horn noisemakers for the kids?

Getting killed in your own house is terrible. I am more worried about getting some of my personal information such as SS-Card, SSN from tax returns, Passports, or online account information stolen then my consumer goods. Actually thought about getting a lock box just for these items.

Here are some security ideas:
A dog or a "Beware of Dog" sign at the gate even if you don't have one. A friend had his dog in kennel when his house got broken into, needless to say that that didn't do much to stop the thieves. Get some security signs and stickers so that it looks as if you have a security system and maybe leave a gun catalog on the porch.

Echoing JayB, our security system is a 70lb German Shepherd who loves to watch out the front window.

We also don't have many big ticket items to steal and sell on the street.

Our neighbors have a huge flatscreen that can be easily seen through the front window and no dog. If I was a thief I know which residence I'd spend my time breaking into.

I've also thought of rigging up a motion-activated IP camera that will at least log a picture/30 second clip of anyone who trips the sensor.

The home defense discussion depends on your family dynamic. I personally keep firearms in the house, but I trade the speed in which I can access them with additional lines of safety because I have children in the house.

Thats tragic. Thankfully all we've had to deal with is rare incidences of petty property crime.

Crime has NOT gone up during the recent recession contrary to what you might expect. In the long term trend nationally the crime rate is on a downward trend for decades. Individual areas or cities may have increased numbers but nationally crimes are not going up. Violent crime is half as common today as it was in 1980 and property crimes are down around 40% or so since then.

Of course everyone should take reasonable security precautions but I don't think we should get the idea that crime is on a 'rampage' or something like that when its actually in a downward trend.

A lot of good points above, just a couple of things to keep in mind when considering home security:

It's all deterants versus opportunity. If someone really wants to get into your particular house, they will. The best alarm systems can be bypassed. You can avoid motion sensors and window alarms by cutting a hole in an outer bedroom wall with a chainsaw in under thirty seconds. Bars on apartment windows can be cut with welding torches in minutes. A deadbolt is only as strong as the doorframe. Fortunately most crimes are of opportunity and because you present yourself as an easy mark with few deterants rather than more planned attacks. The more deterants, the more likely they move to an easier target.

A dog is a deterant because they make noise, not because they bite. Little, yappy dogs are actually disliked by most burglars than large dogs for that reason. Keep in mind dogs take cues from an owner, and with no owner around, family pets tend to be more anxious than aggressive so do not count on them to protect your belongings. If you ever watched "it takes a thief" the reality show on Discovery (or TLC) the thief never had a problem breaking into a property with a dog or dogs around.

Alarm system notices, obvious cameras, etc. can help but don't let them make you sloppy with open doors or cause overconfidence by not being in the habit of using them. Also, be aware many of the cheaper deadbolts and locks can be bested with a simple hammer and screwdriver. You may want to consider upgrading.

Be careful who knows you aren't around for a week or two. The only break in we've had in our neighborhood was when a woman had her carpets redone and shared multiple times with the workers how glad she was they could make it that week because she was going on vacation the following week. One of the workers and his buddy broke into her home since they not only knew she was gone, but knew what she had.

If you are going to plan on using anything for actual home defense, make sure you and yours have trained in how to use it effectively and are willing to use it if necessary. A taser sounds good but if you don't know it's range is only, say, twelve feet and you try to use it on someone twenty feet away, you could lose. Having a revolver may work, but if you blindly panic fire six shots down the stairs to scare someone and have the rest of your ammo locked in your gunsafe in the basement, you could lose. A bat sounds good, but if you try to swing it in a confined hallway you may find the guy facing you with his knife (let alone a gun) has a bigger advantage and you could lose.

Be smart and practical and use what will work for you. 90% of it is being consciouse of how you present yourself and not presenting an easy target. A little forethought and good security habits go a long way.

FMF,

Given the transition that has taken place around you, shouldn't you consider moving in case things continue to get worse? From a financial perspective, wouldn't you want to avoid future prospects of a declining neighborhood and falling values? Also, even if the risk of a future incident is small, isn't the security of your family worth the investment of moving to an area that has been less impacted bu a decline?

Jim L --

I don't think it's an unsafe area (generally, we did just have a murder there) -- just not what it used to be. If I thought my family's safety was seriously in jeopardy, I would move.

As for the values, it's hard to believe home values could fall further (remember, we are in Michigan and took a big hit during the worst of the decline). There are signs that prices are actually going up. Homes in our area are now selling for a good amount higher than they did a year or so ago.

The stories above are precisely why we moved from our home in the suburbs back to a rural area. I know we can not run away from crime but I can choose not to live in the middle suburban decay adjacent to a dying city.

I'm sorry for your neighbors and that your neighborhood had that type of invasion.

My mother had someone try to pry their way in through the front door (could see the pry marks on the framing,) but failed to get in. They did end up breaking into a house down the street. When she made a police report, the officer told her that her expensive, heavy wood door and the dead bolt that's drilled extra deep/long was probably what stopped him. He wasn't able to get in quickly and so he moved on. And just to note, my mother does own a dog, but unless they actually get in, a dog generally isn't going to be much deterrent. I'm not generally a fan of alarm systems. If a thief knows what they are doing, they can be in and out of your house even with an alarm very quickly. I think the best home security is common sense (lock your doors, closed garage, shut your curtains so it's not easy to peek in and see all the goodies on display, exterior lights - motion activated are nice, and preventing your house from looking vacant when you are gone for an extended period of time) and a bit of luck.

I'm surprised no one brought this up, and I do apologize for the off-topic note here, but Mc (post 2) cited "multi family housing" as an example of neighborhood decay? I hope I didn't read the comment out of context, but seriously? How close-minded.

On the topic of home security, we've had most of our (original 1966) windows replaced with (very expensive) energy efficient, almost unbreakable windows. (The sales guy pounded a nail into a block of wood with his sample window.) I do wonder if we will need to let the fire/police dept know about these windows when we have kids in case they ever need to enter the house through a not-door. We always lock the doors at night. All the neighbors have dogs (though they're all super friendly towards strangers!), and the entrances are generally lit by well-placed streetlights. We have plans to take out some ugly, tall shrubbery in the front of the house, which will 1) make the house look taller, we hope, and 2) reduce places for someone to hide. I never thought of leaving select catalogs about, though, that's an idea!

I'll just shoot anybody in my house that I don't know, and have no qualms about doing so. My dog barking is my first line of defense.

I'm sorry to hear this about your community. A few months ago, a house was broken into in our neighborhood. We live in an older, middle-class neighborhood but in a very safe suburban community, so this was unusual. A day later, we found people canvassing the neighborhood with flyers with the police blotter from the event. It turns out, they were representatives from the security company ADT, and they came back the next day (this time in uniform and plainly marked vehicles) asking if we wanted a security system. Pretty shady. But, as I've thought about it...you can't depend on others, including the government, for your safety. You must take the initiative.

I never had bought a gun before, but given the propensity for natural disasters (I live in the heart of Tornado Alley) and the possibility of urban unrest with the ongoing economic situation, I caved in a bought two guns.

Finally, this is why I am averse to purchasing rental properties or even homes currently in great areas since you'll pay a premium up-front for that. Inevitably, most neighborhoods decline...and you can't choose your neighbors. Between the constant maintenance, taxes, insurance, and good potential for stagnant or declining real estate market due to changing demographics or economic weakness, it seems silly to overspend on a house. N

reinforced door jambs and locks (2 on each door with one deadbolt), (locking storm doors too)..dowels to double lock each window, alarm "sign" in front yard, padlocks on back fence gates too...diligent neighbors (even though we have had zero problems here in SW WA state)..oh, I am 30+ state licensed to carry a handgun, and I do, my trusty S&W 642 (.38+P) is always nearby or on me, a 12 gauge "riot gun" with 5 rounds of low recoil 00 buckshot is closet available too (nothin nicer than the rack of a pump shotgun to make your neck hairs rise)...

Seems that your neighborhood has gone downhill and that happens over years, moving perhaps an option sometime in future as housing market recovers?

I agree completely with JimL. I'd be out of that neighborhood. Not just the murder, but all the other incidents you mention. Not worth it.

Unfortunately, I have personal experience with this sort of thing. My house was broken into in December 2011 while my wife and I were at work. Nothing like coming into your house and seeing your back door kicked in and your bedroom light on. It caught me completely off-guard as we live in a nice, rural community with very low crime rates. Luckily, I got home first that day and not my 5 month pregnant wife. The intruder had already left, but took with him a pistol that my dad had given to me along with a fire-safe of our most important documents (car titles, tax information, marriage license, etc.).

Anyways, I say all of that to say that we had an alarm system installed about a month later. The upfront cost was around $600, but we only pay $15 a month for monitoring service. To me, it has been worth every penny as it has helped to restore the feeling of being safe in your own home. It has also helped my wife and I to sleep better at night without worrying as much.

Here's one solution to this problem.

If you read your newspaper and watch the TV news regularly it's pretty obvious what type of people are involved in the majority of home robberies. It helps to live as far away as you possibly can from the communities where they live. It also helps to live in a compact community of exceptionally well maintained, beautiful homes where neighbors keep an eye on each other's property. My particular development is laid out as a series of small courts and the safest place to be is right at the bottom of a court on a pie shaped lot surrounded by neighbors on three sides. Every home also has 6 or 8ft. redwood fences on the back and sides with lockable side gates. Many homes also have ADT protection systems. Our small city also has an excellent police department that patrols regularly and responds quickly to any 911 call. I also have outdoor and indoor lighting on timers to give the house a lived in look. Our street seldom has more than a couple of cars parked in it since every home has a 2 or 3 car garage with garage door openers that are locked to outside entry.

We live on the edge of a big Section 8 neighborhood. Shootings at night, during the day across the street, gunfire on new year's eve, garage break-ins - we got it all.

We love our house and our immediate neighbors, but once the boy is on his own and we don't need the space for him...we are gone.

Meanwhile we have a big barky dog and everyone knows how to use a firearm. A pistol is within my reach as I type this.

Garage is always closed and locked, as are all first floor doors and windows at night.

Have to suggest the large breed dog, the more the better.. they are a deterrent when your out at work.. and they also are more alert to things at night.. just a dog barking or growling hearing something strange can signal the homeowner that something is up.. and also the "intruder" that his/her presence is already known.. I've heard cops mention dog's as one of the best deterrent's and in the end that's all you can try to do.. make your neighbours house look like an easier target than your own..

@Old Limey
Sounds wonderful and expensive.

@jess: I meant that all the incidents including shootings and murders just "happened" to be in the nearby mufti family housing, which include cheap apartments and also multi family subsidized housing. Unfortunately, you find a lot of criminals living in these places as well as good honest people, often due to lax management. Whatever, I refuse to live nearby and deal with it anymore. And I am just about the most stereotyped bleeding heart liberal you will ever meet.

Personally, I would never have a gun in the house. Too dangerous for the kids, and it cant even act as a deterrent. Because the criminal either doesnt know its there so he/she breaks in anyway, or they do know its there so they break in to steal it. Also, if I felt I had to rely on a locked bedroom door to protect me from a criminal, I'd do anything to move to a better part of town. Because, really, how much help would one little lock be, anyway?

I think the best things are know your neighbors and watch each others houses, make the outside of your home look well maintained, lawn mowed and pick up mail and newspapers and trash every day, and keep shrubbery trimmed so that all the doors/windows are highly visible from the street so someone couldnt stand there and work on them for a long while trying to get in, install motion activated outdoor lights, put interior lights/tv on timers, keep curtains closed but open upstairs curtains every day and close them every night, when you go out of town have someone stay over or just park their pickup with the harley stickers on it in your driveway for a few days. Also, dont leave valuables like gold or silver coins or guns or jewelry or cash in your house. I wouldnt bother with a security system (or a fake one that everyone can see is fake anyway---there are so many of these I doubt a criminal even pauses when he sees one). We had cell phones in case the landline was cut, and the neighbors were on speed dial because the neighbors will get there way faster than the police.

That is a tragedy which unfortunately is being repeated time and time again in our world today. It's a shame and my sympathies go out to you for the stress and worry it creates in your life.
Here's a few tips from a kid who grew up in a rough neighborhood.
- Get a dog, a big loud dog. Ask any veteran policeman what a deterrent a loud aggressive bark is.
- Create a safe room with a strong door and make sure it has a phone in it. Make sure that all the family members know what to do in an emergency, go to the safe room and lock the door, call the police.
- Consider motion activated lights rather than dawn to dusk lights. They are cheaper to operate and there's a shock factor to someone prowling in your yard. That light going on is guaranteed to give them an adrenalin dump which may cause them to seek out another target
- A firearm is a very personal decision, I am pro gun and am experienced shooter as well as instructor. If you decide to arm yourself, get training and understand the weapon. You should familiarize your children with it. If age appropriate teach them to shoot and teach them gun safety. If it's not a mystery, they are less likely to get a hold of it and have an accident. My kids grew up with guns and if I left one laying around( I never did but "just saying") they wouldn't touch it, they knew to come get me and probably say something like," Ooh Daddy, you goofed, shame on you". But above all, keep the weapon locked but readily accessible should you need it. I can write paragraphs on responsible gun ownership and home defense but will cut it off here. Best of luck - Jose

@Mc - Thanks for clarifying. I do understand what you mean now, I think I was imagining half your neighborhood suddenly becoming multi-family housing overnight. Aplogies for missing the larger scope.

We do have a "project" about a half mile down the street from us, but no problems that I've been aware of. It seems to be a relatively successful one, actually; it's reasonably well-kept and the kids seem happy. There's also a cop down the street, and I see a patrol car come through most weekend days (possibly during the week as well, I just don't see it as I'm at work). I do expect that that's a deterrent.

@Jose
It's sad to read about you mentioning a "Safe room".
The last time I heard that term was many years ago when we went on a trip to Africa. We were in Zimbabwe (the former British colony called Rhodesia) and happened to be talking to a white tobacco farmer at a time in that country when the white farmers were being attacked and killed during the period when the country had just got its independance. I think that nearly all of them finally fled the country. Soon after that the country went down the tubes and their currency became almost worthless.

@KJ
It is wonderful and it wasn't that expensive when we bought it in 1977 for $107,000. Today the homes sell in the range of $1M - $1.5M and the whole neighborhood shows a great pride of ownership and is home to mainly retired couples, doctors, attorneys, and small business owners and has one of the best locations in affluent and thriving Silicon Valley.

Dogs and know your neighbors. I have two big dogs. We walk the neighborhood two miles twice a day. When they were little and cute all of the neighbors came out to meet them so they know me.

Last year my next door neighbor was robbed. The thief parked in my driveway. A neighbor from two blocks over can see my driveway, knew I was at work and called the police. They weren't caught then but she gave such a good description that there were caught the next week.

I also have to call my neighbors when I have repair people come over so they know not to call the police but that is a small price to pay for safty.

Forget the dogs. They are loud and annoy your neighbors, plus they are expensive to maintain. Did anyone ever think that many neighborhoods are going down the toilet because so many people own dogs, which just sit outside all the time and bark at every little thing? Neighborhoods were that situation was common I intentionally avoided when looking for a house because I get tired of listening to the neglect of other peoples' animals. And I know a lot of prospective homebuyers feel the same way.

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