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Home Defense Do’s and Don’ts

I live in a really nice neighborhood, but four days ago my neighbor two doors away had 5 shots fired into his home. I was out walking my dog a few minutes before it happened. We have a private road next to my house with a small pond. This road leads to 3 of my neighbor’s homes. In the past year teens and young adults have been parking on the road near the pond to smoke dope and do other adult activities. After this incident, I have started calling the police and had 2 guys arrested while in possession of drugs just one day after this event. I plan to call every time I see them now.

But let me tell you what happened…

When I was walking my dog when three young men came down the walking path. I nodded to them, and they nodded back and kept walking. One minute or so later they came running back in my direction. It was icy out, and they were running so fast with the look of fear on their faces that one slipped, fell, and quickly got to his feet and continued running.

Moments later a car with four individuals, two men in the front and two women in the back, pulled onto the road and stopped next to me. The driver and passenger windows rolled down. I was on the passenger side.

I immediately asked if the other three were running from them. I now wish I had waited to see what they were going to say since they rolled the window down for some reason. One of the individuals asked me what I had said, and I repeated my question, and they said “no.” I continued walking home with my dog and went inside.

Moments later I heard 5 to 6 shots. My wife said, “someone is firing off firecrackers“. Knowing gunfire when I hear it: I said those were shots. Shortly afterwards the police arrived and an investigation ensued. I talked to my neighbor and here is what he told me occurred (I have confirmed most of this as I am a reserve officer and made a phone call to a friend on the force):

My neighbor stated that a young woman came to his door and when his son, who is in his twenties opened the door, she stated she had been robbed. She stated that she thought she saw the person who robbed her come to his home. Some other words were exchanged, and then she left.

Shortly later she returned with a guy. My neighbor’s son told them that he, his father, and mother live there and no one else. They left and then moments later the shots came through the door and walls. They saw the car, which is the same car I saw, peeling off. Here is the kicker: one of the shooters dropped a credit card on the ground! When the police ran the name on the card they discovered the person had arrest warrants. I later learned that at least one of the suspects were apprehended after a 3-mile car chase by the police.

I have two theories on what occurred.

Scenario 1:

The 3 young men I saw prior to the car pulling up had robbed someone in the car. The people in the car spotted the guys, and that is why they came running back in my direction. The people in the car thought they might have gone into my neighbor’s home, which is on the private road and that is why they went to the house, searching for the robbers.

Scenario 2

The people in the car used the guys running away as a ruse to get into my neighbors’ home by saying they were robbed.

So, there are some home defense lessons I have from this incident that I want to share with you.

  1. Never open your door to strangers, even if it is a woman. Many men feel safe opening their door to a woman in distress, but women can shoot you too. I have video cameras around my home and can see and speak to the person at my door through my alarm unit while I watch them. Additionally, I have an intercom system that I can use to speak to them as well.
  2. When I am on the path alone, I am now armed.

TIP: Be Familiar with Your Neighborhood

This is very important. I live on a cul-de-sac, so I know who should be on my street. You know when something is wrong in your neighborhood if you are paying attention, like a strange car parked with multiple passengers inside like I dealt with in this scenario. You should pay attention to changes from the norm in your neighborhood.

Notice things like: when you are heading to work and there is a suspicious car parked near your home. When I called the police the other night and had those guys arrested, I noticed one of my neighbors who live on the private road went to her house at the end of the private road, turned and came out again to pass the car, turned back at the entrance of the road as if to get another look and then drove into her garage. You can do the same. Circle the block and see if suspicious car is still there when you return.

I have to walk my dog at least 21 times a week, but it is a great way for me to get to know my neighborhood, and my neighbors. I learn their patterns, what cars belong in the neighborhood, how many people are typically around their homes, etc. If you are a jogger, you can learn about the neighborhood during your run.

When I am out, I even pay attention to the lawn mowing companies they use so I can notice if there are different trucks hanging around. If you see something, say something like I did. Don’t be afraid to call the police on a strange person/vehicle that looks out of place. For me, I’d rather look like a paranoid idiot than regret not preventing something from happening. I usually let the police know I am ex law enforcement and a reserve officer and they show up pretty quick.

Based on my experience, better criminals will stakeout neighborhoods, observing patterns of when you come and go to see when is the best time to hit you or your home. If something feels wrong in your neighborhood, it is wrong. Trust your gut and call the cops.

TIP: Be a Hard Target

I am going to give you some other tips later in the article, but I want to tell you the difference between a hard target and a soft target. As a special agent, especially during protective service operations where my protectee was often very noticeable, I had to concentrate on making him or her a hard target. Think about all the security businesses have today. Their protection is usually a lot more than what you will see in a typical house, and this makes the house a softer target. Police will often patrol businesses and main thoroughfares more than they will patrol your neighborhood. Its up to you to make sure you are safe.

Your appearance is also a factor. Looking unsuspecting can often work to your advantage, but in some instances, it won’t. If you walk through your neighborhood and you look non-threatening you will appear to be a softer target.

When out walking, pay attention to how you’re dressed because criminals will pay attention to you. Wearing expensive jewelry, watches or driving a flashy car will attract criminals to you. Obviously, single females are a prime target, so if that’s you, pay particular attention to this article.

As an agent we were taught to use what we call Surveillance Detection Routes (SDR), which is the path you take back and forth from your home or vehicle to your final destination. This SDR can reveal a lot about the threats you face. You see, a criminal can catch you anywhere along that route.

One example of a smart SDR you can take while on foot to or while driving is to go right past your house and on a path that you know anyone that was following you would be going out of their way to take. If you are walking near stores with glass windows, or even homes in your neighborhood with big glass windows like the ones in mine, you can use those to see who is following or watching you to note suspicious activities. When driving to your home, take different paths to and from destinations to ensure you haven’t picked up a tail. I spoke about this in my surveillance blogs so go read those if you have not already.

You must ALWAYS be super observant in your neighborhood. Observation is the primary tool against recognizing threats before they happen.

TIP: Fortify Your Home

Now let us move into protecting yourself in your home. How do you fortify your home to become a hard target and protect yourself? Having the knowledge we give you here at FightFast and good planning are key. Here are some tips you can use to help fortify your home against intrusion.

Home Exterior:

  • Keep your house well-lit at night to discourage would-be criminals. I have motion detecting flood lights on the rear of my house. They are annoying at times because I have a lot of deer back there. But better safe than sorry.
  • Post stickers and alarm signs on the exterior of your home. I have stickers on my back, and front windows and doors and I have signs from my monitoring company by the front and rear doors. If you don’t have monitoring (YOU SHOULD) use fake alarm decals and signs as a deterrent.
  • Be careful about the objects you leave outside your home. Heavy objects in your backyard can be used to throw through your windows.
  • I mentioned earlier that I have security cameras around my home. Just about 3 weeks ago my next-door neighbor could not find his 10-year-old daughter. We had police and dogs and a helicopter looking for her for 4 hours. Luckily, she had been seen on my video camera, so we know she had made it home. Everything turned out OK. Yes, it has been quite a month in my neighborhood! I recommend that you invest in security cameras with motion sensors, IR and a recording device. These are relatively low-priced these days. You can also have them monitored if you like. I can see my camera feed on my cell phone which is great.
  • I recommend that you at least install a zone alarm which will alert you when someone is coming to your door or up your driveway.
  • Use highly-visible house numbers so that the police can readily identify your home if you call them.
  • Lock your gates if you have them. Hopefully, you have a 6-foot gate, but any is better than none. Also, leave some nice surprises on top of and just behind your fence in case criminals think about climbing it. A large dog would be great; a small noisy one will work too, to alert you of unwanted visitors.
  • Don’t enter your home if it looks like it’s been broken into, or if you see movement when no one is supposed to be there. I know you may feel like you want to burst in and handle your business by confronting the intruder, but it is wiser for you to leave the premises and call the police. You have no idea how many are inside and if they are armed.
  • Be mindful of the trash you throw away. Break down boxes from recently purchased items like TVs to hide them from prying eyes and the trash man (because he could possibly be checking you out for a later robbery.)

Windows:

  • Always lock ALL your windows, even second floor windows.
  • Use secondary locking devices on your windows to prevent them from opening past a certain height.
  • I use glass breaks on all my downstairs window. These are activated by the sound of glass breaking. They are connected to my alarm system. I highly recommend them. I also have motion sensors in my home in case they get by the window for some reason.
  • Consider Solar Screens on your windows which will provide you with more privacy and prevent people from looking into your windows.
  • You can consider anti-break window film. If you have glass doors as I do, make sure they’re double paned and laminated.
  • Fortify your basement windows with bars or anti-break window film. Secure windows where A/C units are attached.
  • I put a dowel rod in the track of my sliding glass door to prevent it from being opened if the lock is bypassed.
  • If you have skylights or roof-access make sure that you secure them with upgraded hardware or anti-break window film.
  • I teach that you should keep the bushes surrounding your home low so that you can see who is approaching your home and they won’t be hidden while trying to break in. If you want privacy you want them high, but we are talking security here, and for that, you need visibility.

Doors

  • For external doors, you should always use solid-core doors including the door into your garage. Also, make sure they are all secured with deadbolt locks.
  • Get a wide-angle peephole and use it before answering the door. Be careful with these as there are reverse peephole viewers that allow the bad guy to see into your home. See my next recommendation.
  • I use a doorbell camera to see who is at my door. They show up on the screen on my security display. However, a criminal could rip my doorbell off, disabling the camera, and for this, a peephole will come in handy. I just don’t like them personally because when you put your eye up to it, one, a person will know you are there, and two, they could shoot you through your peephole.
  • Invest in an anti-kick door solution to prevent a criminal from kicking your door in. A door chain isn’t going do squat for protecting you. I don’t even know why people install them at all.
  • Use high security Bump-Proof locks. Most household locks are simple to pick or bypass so spend a little money and get good locks.
  • Install 3″ or longer screws into your door jambs and hinges. What good is it to have good locks when a criminal can just rip your door of its hinges.
  • Have a spare key hidden in an uncommon place outside your home or better yet, with a neighbor. I cannot tell you were I hide mine in this article, but my sister in law knows.

Home Interior:

  • I have already alluded to this throughout, but get a security alarm with interior motion detectors and set the alarm when you’re at home (obviously not the interior motion detector). When I go to bed at night, I ALWAYS turn on my alarm. For one thing, I want advanced warning if someone breaks in. Mine even tell me through which door or window they broke in, and criminals rely on an alarm not being set while you aer home and awake.
  • I recommend that you use a monitoring company of your choosing. It will continue to work even if you lose power. As I already told you, I also use cellular monitoring. You can get an unmonitored one, but monitored is more effective in my opinion.
  • I also have a secondary alarm keypad in my master bedroom. With it, I can shut off the alarm from my bedroom, and it can be used to sound a panic alarm if I need to alert the monitoring company to send the police.
  • Have a plan for your residents in your home in case of a home invasion. My kids know to make it to my room if they can where I can deploy my weapons. Let each person know how they should respond and what their responsibilities are. That plan should include ways to escape the home if necessary.
  • Consider a safe room as a rallying point where you have the ability to protect yourself and call the police. Make sure you keep a cellphone there. Again, mine is the master bedroom, and it has access to the attic where I can put my family if I need to.
  • Keep your cell phone by the bed ready for you or another person to call 911.
  • Keep multiple weapons in places that you’ll likely be taken to in an invasion. I have young children. If you also have children, be aware of the dangers of leaving weapons where children can get to them.
  • Consider having a loaded gun mounted inside the door to your safe. I recommend having a safe. Buy a heavy one or bolt it to the floor. My ex had one I bought years ago, and when they broke into her place, they took the entire safe. If you’re forced to open it, you’ll be able to get your weapon and defend yourself.
  • I mentioned this earlier but get a dog, a big protection trained dog would be great, but any barking dog will bring unwanted attention to a potential burglar. However, don’t rely on your dog to attack a criminal unless it is trained to do. Believe it or not, most won’t. I just need mine to be an alarm and deterrent until I can react.
  • Change alarm codes often and when you have to distribute a spare key, make it to a specific (differently keyed) door in case a key is lost. This way you’ll only have to replace one lock.
  • Write down the serial numbers of expensive items and have backups of your computer off-site.
  • Mark and engrave your property with your driver’s license number (not social) to aid in returning your stolen property or discourage theft in the first place.
  • Discuss the importance of home security with everyone; it only takes one person to forget to lock a door or window.
  • As I mentioned before, you should bolt down your safe. That also goes for filing cabinets. Also, lock up expensive items like jewelry, money, and weapons.
  • Shred all personal documents using a cross-cut shredder. This includes credit card, credit card offers, envelopes with the name of your bank, etc

Vehicles/Garage:

  • Keep a weapon and tools to defeat restraints concealed in your vehicle. You could be kidnapped and forced to withdraw money from an ATM.
  • Keep spare vehicle keys or any important spares in a lock box or safe.
  • Always keep the alarm set on your vehicle, even in the garage. I still use a club in my car to prevent theft.
  • Having your keys next to you while you sleep, you can press the car alarm panic button in a pinch.
  • You may want to disable the release-cord to your electric garage door opener, especially if you have garage door windows as I do.
  • Change your factory set garage door opener code; thieves can drive neighborhoods with common openers looking for doors that they work on.

Skill-Sets:

  • I talk about this a lot, and I am going to say it again. Learn what I call special agent skills. They are skills like lock-picking and getting out of handcuffs. If the criminal does get the jump on you, have the means to escape when the time is right.
  • Buy a gun and get proper training on how to use it.
  • Get a concealed carry permit if allowed in your state. I recommend that you always carry because you never know what will happen at your bank, at a restaurant, or a movie theater.
  • Don’t open carry if allowed. You don’t want to alert the criminals, and they take you out first.
  • Use what we called OPSEC (operational security) in the military, but we will call PERSEC (personal security). This means when discussing anything outside of your circle of trust, don’t reveal personal details to anyone who doesn’t need to know. That includes on social media. Telling people all your business, including when you’re away from home over social media is just plain stupid.
  • Learn hand to hand combat.

I hope the information I shared in this article helps you to protect you and your family. Make sure you have a discussion with them and explain the dangers of home invasions and how to protect against them. Use the resources we have here at FightFast and TRS to develop your skill-sets and practice them to stay proficient. We here at Fight Fast don’t want to hear any stories of how any of you became a victim.

Click here for easy-to-implement, devastatingly effective Special Agent combat moves taught by Derek Smith

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3 thoughts on “Home Defense Do’s and Don’ts”

  1. I use some of the items you wrote about in the article, and they work very good. So, I’m quite impressed with all the information you’ve written here.