Summertime is for long family vacations away from the hot Bakersfield sun, trips to summer camp, and weekends away at the beach. It’s also the time when burglars are on the prowl, waiting for homeowners to leave their homes in haste so they can take what they want without being caught.
Unfortunately, burglars aren’t always obvious in their intent. To some unsuspecting homeowners, they come disguised in fake company gear and try to gain entry while residents are at home so they can scope the place out and gain insight into vacation plans. Other times, they attempt a “smash and grab” while homeowners are in the house.
So what can homeowners do to protect their homes–both while at home and on vacation? We spoke with Alysen Gelinas, Community Relations Specialist with the Bakersfield Police Department, to talk more about home safety and share with us very basic ways we can protect their homes.
To begin with, if you’re home, Gelinas has some tips for how to handle strangers coming to the door. “Do not open the door to anyone you don’t know,” Gelinas said, “However, it is important to engage that person through your closed door, to let them know you are home. Sometimes, if burglars are casing an area, they will first knock to see if anyone is home. If no one answers they may attempt entry into the residence.”
The Bakersfield Police Department recommends always locking your doors and windows, since this is the best way to reduce the opportunity for a burglary. Make sure your garage door is shut and make sure any doors leading from the garage into your home are locked.
Burglaries while residents are home do occur, despite what residents might hope. In fact, one local business, Security Guard Dog, was founded after one such unfortunate incident. Cindy Ingalls, co-owner of the company, said they developed their product out of necessity, when one of their friends’ neighbors’ homes was burglarized while the residents were home during the day. “Their doors were locked, they had dogs, and the home had an alarm, but the burglars were in and out of the house and gone before the police showed up.” Ingalls said. “Our friend had to leave town and came to my husband, who owns and operates Ingalls Machine and Welding, and asked if he could come up with something to secure his doors. My husband made two and that’s how our company was born.”
The Security Guard Dog device is impressive, yet simple. It’s manufactured from a half-inch thick aluminum plate and built to deter would-be criminals whose aim is to enter the home by kicking in double doors. When kicking a door armed with the Security Guard Dog, the prowler would be met with the heavy, thick aluminum plate and unable to break down the doors. “The beauty of this product is that it’s very simple to use,” Ingalls said. “You don’t have to install anything. You just slip it over your doorknobs or the handles of your double doors. In the past couple years it seems like you hear about double door break-ins all the time. It’s as simple as two to four kicks to the door and it pops it open. There’s not a lot holding the double doors together, so this just adds a layer of protection and holds the doorknobs together.”
“Even though it’s a simple product, you’re adding a layer of security to the home.” Ingalls continued, “the person is going to kick the door repeatedly and it’s not going to come open, so they’re going to take off to the next house, run off, or it gives you time to call 9-1-1 if you’re in the home.”
Alysen Gelinas echoed the fact that there are simple ways to prevent doors from being kicked in. For single doors, Gelinas recommends replacing the screws on the strike plate of the front door with longer ones that go into the frame of the house. She recommends 3 inch screws. “This makes it harder for your door to be kicked in,” Gelinas said.
Other suggestions for homeowners to keep their homes safe from break-ins are as simple as investing in video cameras and signage that indicates cameras are operating at your residence. “If cameras are too pricey,” Gelinas said, “there are many fake cameras available that look real and are inexpensive. Along with cameras, always keep your outside lights (porch, driveway, walkway, etc.) on at night, and encourage your neighbors to keep theirs on too. A well-lit neighborhood is a crime deterrent.”
Another deterrent may be as simple as landscaping. Gelinas suggests trimming trees and bushes away from windows and doors to reduce the opportunity for burglaries to occur. A house with overgrown foliage surrounding it is an easier target because it can serve as a hiding place for burglars and allows them to take their time while trying to gain entry into a home. Gelinas suggests homeowners plant rose bushes or any thorny plants around windows.
What about when you plan to leave for vacation? Gelinas suggests leaving interior lights on timers and leaving TV or talk radio on while you’re away. Arrange to have any newspapers picked up from your driveway daily, as that can be an indicator to would-be criminals that your home is unoccupied. Gelinas recommends reinforcing your door and window locks with inexpensive locking devices such as a dowel rod in the tracks of any sliding door or adding a sliding window lock with a thumbscrew.
According to John Dunham, Jr., the owner and operator of Western Security, the best way to prevent a burglary is to have a monitored home security system. “We carry everything from basic to touch screen keypads and can hardwire or go wireless on any residential application. A lot of the new systems we install are capable of controlling the thermostat, garage door opener, lights, water valves, and door locks. We even carry doorbells with video and two-way voice that operates through a simple app on your smartphone.”
With smart locks and doorbell cameras, home safety is becoming easier to maintain remotely. From your smart phone, these apps allow you to communicate to whoever is at your door, record their image and check the status of your door locks. These products even allow you to lock or unlock your doors remotely, making it easier to secure your home while away.
Even with great security, Dunham cautions homeowners to be wary of one of the biggest risks of the summer months: door-to-door scams. Dunham advises homeowners to be aware that scammers will often wear branded company clothing but aren’t actually affiliated with the company they claim to represent. Scammers may claim that the security company you use is going out of business or they show up without an appointment.
“Scams are tough to spot, but if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Dunham said. “Make sure anyone who shows up unannounced has some form of identification, licensing information for their field of work, and a business card. If you’re unsure who you’re talking to, stop and call someone at your security company.”
Dunham cautions homeowners to never let any door-to-door salesperson inspect their security system. Scammers often request to inspect equipment and then offer an inferior product or “technology upgrades,” upgrades that are voluntary at companies like Western Security.
The Bakersfield Police Department recommends homeowners be informed about current scams and urge homeowners to tell salesman “no” or “go away” if they feel uncomfortable. In high pressure situations, being assertive can go a long way. “If those measures don’t work,” Alysen Gelinas said, “tell the person at your door that you are calling the police, and then call our non-emergency line at 661-327-7111. Never hesitate to call the police in these situations.”
Summertime should be filled with good memories and a feeling of safety, whether you’re at home enjoying the pool on hot summer days or away on vacation with your family. Equipped with some simple and inexpensive safety measures or professional home monitoring technology to keep your home safe, you’ll sleep easier at night knowing that your house is much more secure with just a little diligence on your part.
More helpful tips from the Bakersfield Police Department:
- If you live within Bakersfield city limits, log into www.crimemapping.com to see any criminal activity in your area. The Crimemapping site is updated daily.
- Starting a Neighborhood Watch (NHW) program is an effective way to open up communication with neighbors. The Bakersfield Police Department’s Community Relations Unit will be happy to assist with the initial NHW set-up meeting. Please call 661-326-3053 to schedule an appointment.
- Always trust your intuition and report suspicious activity by calling the non-emergency line at 661-327-7111.