By Angela, (IL), I moved out of my mother’s home and in with a boyfriend who had recently bought a home in the center of our town in an area known as “The Elms”. This area had historically been a geriatric neighborhood with well-tended lawns and quiet neighbors. Unfortunately, as the economy declined, crime rose in areas such as this which offered affordable, small houses.
We were broken into in January and lost $4,500 of belongings and incurred damage to our home amounting to $1,800. The security bars (which should have been a warning not to buy the home) were torn from our bedroom window, which had unwittingly been left unlocked throughout the winter. All of our electronics, cash, and many other items were stolen and my Harley Davidson clothes which I required for work were possibly the most troublesome.
Our cat was shaken and under a neighbors bush, while our dog remained in the house and hiding until we returned home. The theft occurred in broad daylight, in winter, when snow was on the ground. Our elderly neighbors saw or heard nothing although with the volume and size of items stolen, there must have been a vehicle involved.
We felt unsafe and I (as a small female) felt incapable of being home alone. We began looking into alarm systems but found the options expensive and limited. Instead, we decided to look for larger, more intimidating dogs (as I am a professional trainer and our beagle does not seem as opposing.) We had been considering adding another dog into our home before the break in, and this provided motivation.
We found a lovely Catahoula/Lab mix which previously belonged to a Military family and was well-trained at a local shelter. We began the daunting task of teaching Zeus to bark at everyone and everything in the radius except for us, of course. He was also trained not to take food from strangers. This made us feel more comfortable, however, in June (6 months after the first break in) my boyfriend arrived home from work early to find all the lights on in our home. Both dogs greeted him loose in the front yard. Apparently, he had arrived home during or directly after another break-in, this time through a dead-bolted back door.
The frame of the door was broken and left hanging. This time, only a few electronics were stolen not enough to meet the insurance deductible. Only the small valuables in one room, the living room, were stolen. We believe this was due to an imposing dog being present. The most valuable items in the house were in a spare bedroom and were untouched. Zeus, our guard dog, later brought me a large bone from what appeared to be a steak. While I’m sure he didn’t take it from their hand, he may have been convinced to take it from the ground temporarily outside while our thieves made their escape.
In short, we were once again fearful and uncomfortable, and now we worried about our pets safety. We began looking for homes to move out of the area, but in the meantime we needed something quick. We once again began looking into alarm companies, aware that the installation and equipment fee would be cheaper than having our valuables stolen and house damaged yet again, even when added to the $50/bag pet food.
APX alarms would not schedule a consultation with us, while ADT sent a spokesperson to our home to discus options. Unfortunately, we were told the only package included a motion detector which would be ineffective with our animals. Although the salesperson claimed this detector could ignore animals under 60 llbs, we both knew our 55 lb dog was as large as a teenager and as energetic. The salesperson said this package could not be adjusted we would receive two door alarms, one motion sensor, and one glass break sensor which was placed on the window to sense vibrations. Knowing that our cat enjoys batting at birds from the window, we knew this option would also be ineffective. The service and installation were expensive, and we elected to only buy window decals and a yard sign for $75.00 (which was, in itself, ridiculously expensive).
Disheartened, a coworker referred us to a local auxiliary police officer who did security installation and service on the side. We met with him and he informed us that he buys equipment directly from ADT Security and uses their same call center, only leases a small part for his personal service. He could offer us with any package we wanted, and was available locally for service, repairs, and questions. His charge was also significantly cheaper than ADT- $30/month monitoring or $300/year, and $749 total installation for 4 glass breaks and two door sensors. The touchpad itself was also ran through DSL, rather than the wireless option that ADT alarms offered.
Installation took a few days and required tedious adjustments dog barks and lightning/thunder set off the glass breaks (which were wall-mounted and required both vibration and high-pitched noise, as did dropping a pan in our kitchen. However, after the adjustments, we easily adjusted to entering a code when we arrived and left the house, and hearing the occasional “beep” to know that everything was functioning. Luckily, we found a house to buy in a neighboring small town that is, truly, geriatric. While the house sat empty and was listed to sell, we continued to pay for the alarm system even though the house was empty. We are thankful we did, as twice we have received phone calls from the alarm company alerting us to glass-breaks. Both times we have called the police and met them at the house to find a storm window had tried to be kicked in.
Obviously the thieves were not scoping the house, as they would have known it was long empty and had no frequent visitors. The security lights were also bright enough to be seen from the porch showing “alarmed” and “functioning.” We can only imagine how much damage could have been caused by angry thieves in an empty and meticulously cleaned house.
When my coworkers and friends say they are looking for a new house, I give them the auxiliary policeman’s card and steer them away from any questionable neighborhoods. I stopped purchasing electronics from retailers that do not report to the police or acquire identification before providing cash for items. And, most importantly, I was able to re-train our Zeus to be friendly to anyone and everyone he meets.