ELKHART — For James Hendricks, chairman of Ball State University’s Criminal Justice and Criminology Department, the best ways to prevent a burglary or break-in involve common sense approaches.
While Elkhart police don’t see a spike in residential crimes, at least two cases in recent weeks have become high-profile investigations because they involved slayings.
Experts, though, say homeowners can take steps to avoid being a target of criminals.
Hendricks, who has taught criminal justice for more than 30 years, advocates using numerous deterrents.
Hendricks said he lights up his property in east-central Indiana with numerous lights that include several large wattage flood lights.
Flag poles outside his home also tout his military background and serve as another deterrent.
“If you are looking at the back of 20 houses and you’re a robber, you’re probably not going to go to the one with a lot of lights. You’re going to go to the one that’s dark and one with lots of bushes that can conceal your cover,” Hendricks said.
He also advocates equipping all doors with double locks. Doors that include big windows might be aesthetically pleasing but also serve as an easy access for intruders.
Tom Shoff thinks home security is the way to go. Not surprisingly, he runs a company that installs home and commercial security systems in Elkhart, Shoff Security.
“A burglar would rather attack a home that doesn’t have a security system,” he said.
Most burglaries, perhaps 80 percent, occur through entry via a door, most often the door to a garage attached to a home. Most people don’t lock the doors from their homes to attached garages, he said, “and you should.”
The second most common break-in spot is via basement utility windows.
The possibilities run the gamut, but key in a system is protecting the doors and windows of a home and having some sort of interior tripping system, a motion sensor. Outdoor signs letting would-be thieves know a home has a security system are also key — they can prevent an attempted break-in in the first place. Also important is making sure the alarm system is monitored so law enforcement officials can be sent if it’s tripped.
Additional measures can be panic buttons, which homeowners can hit to immediately signal a problem to a security company. Some are even opting for safe rooms, reinforced rooms inside a home where residents can go to escape, at least temporarily, the threat of a burglar.
Of course, security systems aren’t the only way to stay safe. Hendricks said he thinks a barking dog is more effective, noting that 96 to 98 percent of all burglar alarm calls to police are false alarms.
Shoff said a trained attack dog is certainly a deterrent. But the average family pet — not so much.
“I’ve seen dogs corralled into a room (by thieves) and they shut the door,” said Shoff. The “basic family pet isn’t going to stop anyone.”
Anne Reel, executive director of the Humane Society of Elkhart County, said they don’t see a lot of people seeking to adopt dogs as watch dogs.
Shelter workers often ask potential pet owners why they want a dog.
While they won’t turn away somebody looking specifically for a barking dog, they are not keen on providing people with animals with the intention of using them primarily as watch dogs.
“If they want a watch dog that they’re going to leave outside all the time, I probably will deny them,” Reel said. “Our dogs are meant to be pets — meant to be loved and spent time with and not dogs that are neglected and left outside.”
DEFENDING AND RESISTING
Hendricks, who is a longtime gun owner, said he doesn’t think buying a gun for protection is best for everyone.
The lack of proper training and a failure to follow safety procedures, he said, sets the stage for problems beyond intruders.
“Many people believe if they have a weapon in your home, you are safer than those who don’t have a weapon in their home,” Hendricks said. “Statistics indicate just the opposite.”
Rather than resist or fight back, homeowners are better off cooperating and letting intruders take possessions.
“If a guy shoots you in the leg, you’re never going to be the same, but you can buy another TV,” Hendricks said.