Home invasion prevention 101: Fool criminals into thinking you’re home

By: Kristyne E. Demske, Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | C&G Newspapers | Published July 29, 2015

 When installing security cameras at home, place them to record a criminal’s face as he or she enters and exits.

When installing security cameras at home, place them to record a criminal’s face as he or she enters and exits.


METRO DETROIT — With some of the most popular weeks for American travel upon us, local law enforcement agencies say there are simple steps to take to protect your home and property while you are away.

St. Clair Shores Police Lt. David Centala said that, while putting lights on timers inside your home and making sure the outside of your home is illuminated is always a good idea, 99 percent of home invasions actually occur during the day.

“Somebody will knock, and if nobody answers, they realize that nobody’s at home,” he said. “The best thing to do is contact neighbors that you know are home during the day. Let them know to pay special attention during the daylight hours.”

West Bloomfield Deputy Police Chief Curt Lawson said that if residents are home when criminals knock on doors, typically the suspect will have a story prepared and either ask for someone who doesn’t live in the house or if the resident has seen a missing dog. Prowlers have little interest in residents being home when they are plotting a home invasion and will typically leave the premises quickly, he added.

“Be inquisitive. If it doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t right. Ask probing questions,” Lawson said, suggesting that residents ask the suspect to describe the “missing” dog.

Centala’s No. 1 suggestion is to keep a car in the driveway.

He said that in conversations with suspects, police have learned that they look for vehicles in the driveway when they are scoping out a neighborhood. If they see one, they won’t knock. Centala said he will specifically park a car in the driveway when he is going out of town, even though he usually parks in the garage. He also recommended telling neighbors who have extra cars that they can use your driveway while you’re away. If residents park a car in the driveway, Lawson said, people should not leave garage door openers in the vehicles.

Centala recommended that neighbors err on the side of caution and call police if they see anything or anyone suspicious, because it’s better to be “safe than sorry.”

Security systems are worth it, he said, and fire officials said a system can help protect your home from an accidental blaze, as well.

St. Clair Shores Fire Marshal M. Bodnar said homeowners should make sure their smoke detector batteries are up-to-date so that the detector can correctly alert an alarm company or even neighbors, who may be able to hear an alarm going off if they are outside or have open windows.

And before you leave, she said, “Make sure everything’s approximately over 3 feet away from your furnace or your water heater.”

“Make sure everything’s shut off before you leave (and) candles are out,” she said.

Nevertheless, Bodnar said, most fires don’t start when homeowners aren’t there to accidentally start them.

“I can’t remember a fire when someone’s been on vacation that started in their residence,” she said.

In addition to alarms, Lawson recommends that homeowners install cameras in locations that can record a criminal’s face as he or she enters and exits the home.

“People that are doing these types of crimes, they want it easy. They don’t want it difficult. If there are cameras and an alarm system, or large animals in the house, they’re going to find another house,” Lawson said.

Police officials offered the following suggestions for securing homes before vacation:

• Close the garage door and lock any door that leads into the house.
• Have a neighbor collect your mail and newspaper or have the post office hold it.
• Lock all fences and gates.
• Use deadbolts with long screws, not the short screws that a lot of builders use.
• Have a safe that bolts into the wall or floor and store valuables in that safe.
• Have your television, radio or lights set on a timer for the early afternoon.

“If you’re going to be gone for an extended period of time, you want the house to appear to be lived in,” Lawson said.

Before leaving for vacation, residents should cut their grass or have someone cut it while they are gone. In the winter, snow should be shoveled, Lawson said. Shrubs and trees that are located near windows and doors should be trimmed so they do not provide cover for criminals.

“If you find you’ve been a victim of a home invasion, the most important thing is to contact the police immediately and don’t touch anything, because there is a possibility we can get fingerprints if they weren’t wearing gloves.”