Be prepared – a home burglary can happen to you
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By Ken Schrier  June 6, 2014 12:00 am

I have had several people ask me if I would reprint an article I wrote almost four years ago about a burglary that occurred at my own home in November of 2010.

Most of the readers who wrote back thanked me for my openness and appreciated that I gave them some good advice on protecting their home and their families from a similar incident.

The following is the article I wrote:

Every week I talk about Real Estate. I talk about buyer and seller trends, where the market is heading and what you can do to make the most of your home in a down economy. This week I am going to talk about home security. Why? Because last week, we were victims of a burglary at our home in H Section.

For those of you fortunate enough not to have had this happen, let me walk you through what you are missing.

We left the home as we normally do. I took my daughter to school and off to work I went. I came back around 11a.m. as a fluke to grab some paperwork for the office, only to find my front and back door wide open. No forced entry. No obvious signs of anything left unlocked or unattended.

Once I came inside and noticed the doors were wide open and my laptop was missing from the dining room table, I called the Rohnert Park Dept. of Public Safety. I told them what had happened and that I wasn’t sure if anyone was still in the house because I hadn’t been upstairs yet.

I was told to stand out in front and wait for the police to arrive. They arrived within four minutes, and I stood outside as they did a room-by-room search of the house. Once the “all clear” was given, I was told I could come back in.

They told me the master bedroom had been ransacked. I went upstairs to find drawers emptied on the floor and medicine cabinets rifled through. They went into both our daughter’s rooms but didn’t disturb much. Their attention was spent in our bedroom closets, nightstands and dressers. They even stole pillow cases off our bed to haul stuff out. 

I called Susan at work and told her what had happened. I called and canceled all my appointments and spent the next 20 minutes giving the officers a detailed list of what was stolen. Jewelry, my laptop, and a fire safe with important papers in it were the bulk of the items taken. They even found a bag of Christmas gifts from Best Buy we hadn’t wrapped yet. Of course, the insult to injury came in the sense that we had ventured out at 5 a.m. on Black Friday to get them.

Susan came immediately home and spent the rest of the day cleaning up the fingerprint dust from the police and putting away the chaos from the burglary, while I talked to our insurance company and investigated an alarm system.

There isn’t anything worse than not feeling safe in your own home. You walk outside and everyone is now a suspect, and no one is innocent.  You find yourself sleeping with one eye open for days as every noise is someone coming in a window to finish what they started. You leave the house and circle back a dozen times. You check and recheck locks and windows 10 times before you walk out the door. You eye the people walking their dog down the street, wondering if they are scoping their return visit. It’s a horrible way to live.

The feeling goes away with time. It took a few days for life to return to normal and for us to realize that this was probably an isolated incident. The big question is, of course, what could we have done to prevent this and what can I suggest to you to keep this from happening in the future?

Locking your home seems like such a simple thing to do, but how secure is secure? Make sure your doors and windows lock securely and don’t need a stick or twist pins to make that happen. Dead bolts, throw bolts, door handles and windows should be latched at all times when no one is home. Also, make sure all gates are padlocked. If you have a gardener, set a reminder to yourself to unlock the gate before they come, and then make sure to relock it after they leave.

Get a safe…a good one. Redwood Lock and Key, Costco, even Lowe’s have decent safes that easily bolt to the floor. Some of them even have alarms that sound if they are moved or tampered with.

One of the best investments you can make is having a good alarm system and monitoring company. I searched and compared multiple companies and settled on a system that had everything from motion and heat sensors to surveillance and cellular backup. Most of the larger companies have great deals going on and even with all the extras bells and whistles, it was still less than $500 installed. Of course, that requires two years of monitoring at $40 a month, but it seems a small price to pay to sleep at night. Besides, the system got me a 15 percent reduction on my insurance premium. You don’t need to go all out on a system if you don’t want to. Basic systems virtually anywhere start at around $99 installed. Speaking of insurance, check your coverage and your deductible. Our insurance company was great and responded within a week with an estimate and a week later with a check for our loss.

Lastly, take pictures of your valuables or a video and keep it in a safe place. Update it often and have jewelry of significant value appraised and updated to your insurance policy.

I have to say that our neighbors have been great. Everyone came over and wanted to make sure we were OK. The support from them was a comforting reminder there is strength in numbers when it comes to watching each other’s backs.

This incident has been a learning experience for us all. It could have been a whole lot worse and I am thankful no one was home or got hurt, that there wasn’t more damage, and that I am able to take what has happened and pass it on to you so you can take the steps to secure your home and your family’s safety.

 

Ken Schrier is a licensed Realtor working locally for RE/Max PROs. He works with buyers and sellers throughout Sonoma and Marin County but focuses primarily on Rohnert Park, Cotati and Penngrove. He can be reached at www.KenSchrier@aol.com or by cell at (707) 529-4819.

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