Home invasions are generally thought of as a premeditated confrontation in the victim’s home with the intent to rob and/or inflict violence. The impact of home invasion extends beyond the violence of the crime itself; it is particularly frightening because it has a predatory nature and violates the one place that we feel safe: our home.
All homeowners, both Canadian and American, can take some preventive measures to help minimize the risk of home invasion. Here are some preventive steps that can be taken to enhance your security:
Secure Your Home and Your Surroundings: This includes reinforcing your doors and doorframes and using deadbolts and sliding door locks. Keep windows visible from the street and consider the use of bars (ensuring a fire escape route is still possible) and devices such as security film which reinforces the glass. Have a well-lit exterior and ensure that the lights are not accessible and will not be tampered with. Consider the use of alarms and identifying valuable property with identification (e.g. engraving). Do not keep large amounts of money in your home and keep valuables in a safety deposit box. Also, you may consider having a “decoy” jewellery box with inexpensive yet valuable-looking pieces of jewelry. It may deter a ransacking of your home.
Do not Allow Strangers in your Home: Since this is one of the preferred methods of forceful entry (the other is through the garage) be vigilant and trust your instincts. You will need a good observation point where you can see people outside your door. You may observe them for a few minutes to try to determine what they want. You may also want to use an intercom system to talk through a closed door. DO NOT open the door to people you do not know, no matter how well-dressed they are or how kind they appear to be. If they claim to be representing a company (such as an electric or telephone company), call and confirm with the company before allowing them into your home. Any reputable representative will understand your precautions and should have the phone number readily available for you to call and verify.
Know your Community: Have a good sense of your surroundings including your neighbours habits and vehicles. Consider joining a Neighbourhood Watch program. Suspicious people or activities may be of interest to the police, so write down information that may be useful (description of suspicious vehicles or strangers, phone numbers identified as calls to your home that hang up, etc.).
Don’t Hesitate to Call 9-1-1 : There are numerous deceptions that can be used to have you unlock or open your door. Remember, if a stranger at your door needs assistance and asks to use your phone; offer to dial and call for them. If they claim that damage has been done to your parked car or that they need your signature, trust your instincts and play it safe. You do not have to and should not open your door to anyone, not even the police, until you have sufficient proof that they are who they say they are. If you are unsure, call 911. Stay calm and stay on the line. Give all the information requested and if you are unable to speak, a police unit will respond to your home.
Other Tips: The weakest link in home security is the occupant that fails to lock up and opens the home to strangers. The best defense against home invasion is education, planning and exercising good judgment. Practice role-playing different scenarios at the front door to feel entirely comfortable while making someone wait on the other side of the closed door. Get help from your family or friends to rehearse polite, yet firm responses to all types of potentially threatening situations. You may even want to deter home invasions by creating the illusion of others living with you. You may choose to put a pair of large boots out at the front door or a dog toy or drinking bowl. Finally, you do not want to be predictable. Vary your outings such as shopping or walks around the block.
If you become a Victim: Remember to stay calm. Further action beyond calling 9-1-1 and fleeing the scene may be necessary. Cooperating with the suspects may be your best option, as no amount of cash or material goods is worth getting hurt over. Take time to observe the description of the suspects: look, smell and listen to pick up on any identifying features. The Bulletin: Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics claims that 68 percent of home invasion crimes are committed by strangers. (A further 21 percent were casual acquaintances of the victim and the remaining 11 percent were family, friends and business relationships.)
Although home invasions account for a small proportion of robberies reported to the police, you must raise your level of awareness, rehearse your refusal to open the door, take inventory of the safety aspects of your home and reduce the odds of becoming a home invasion victim.