I have had several people ask me if I would reprint an article, I wrote almost 13 years ago about a burglary that occurred at my own home in November of 2010. Most of the readers that 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 home 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 in the morning as we normally do. I took my daughter to school and off to work I went. I came back around 11 a.m. as a fluke to grab some paperwork for the office only to find the back slider wide open. No forced entry. No obvious signs of anything left unlocked or unattended. 

Once I came inside and noticed the slider was wide open and my laptop was missing from the dining room table, I called the RPPD. I told them what had happened and that I wasn’t sure if anyone was still in the house since 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 daughters’ rooms but didn’t disturb much. Their attention was spent in our bedroom closets, nightstands, and dressers. They even stole pillowcases off our bed to haul stuff out in. 

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 firesafe 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 had started. You leave the house and circle back a dozen times. You check and recheck locks and windows ten 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 always latched 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 Lowes had 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 under $500 installed at the time (you will need to check on current pricing). Of course, that requires two years of monitoring at $45 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. I personally think the RING system is the way to go if you are getting a camera system. We have the house monitored by ADT for all the doors, windows, and motion as well as cameras around the house for extra piece of mind. Everything these days has an app on your phone to keep you updated and notified. 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 were great. Everyone came over and wanted to make sure we were OK. The support from them was a comforting reminder that there is strength in numbers when it comes to watching each other’s backs.

This incident was 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 and owner of RE/MAX Marketplace located in Downtown Cotati and serves all of Sonoma County. He can be reached by cell at 707-529-4819, by email at KennethSchrier@gmail.com, by his website at www.KenSchrier.com.

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