FORTIFYING YOUR HOME
This topic is applicable to most people so we have decided to isolate it as the first discussion point for the Security section of our site. AVR Defense has the capability to custom design and install a home security system that meets the needs of you and your family.
Before we discuss solutions to home security, however, here is some general information regarding property crime, burglaries, home invasions, and Physical Security applied in and around your home. This information, collectively, was obtained from the following resources: FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics from 2015 and The U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report on “Victimization During Household Burglary”. The data:
- In 2015, there were approximately 2.5 million burglaries. 66% of which, were home break-ins
- Police solve approximately 13% of reported burglary cases. This is due to lack of a witness or physical evidence
- On average, there is 1 burglary every 13 seconds (and if we do the math that means every 26 seconds one of those is likely to be a home break-in)
- More than half of all home break-ins occur during the day, and they are 6% more likely to take place between 6 A.M. and 6 P.M. while the residents are at work or running errands
- Homes without a security system are more than 3 times as likely to be broken into (DETERRENCE – the first element of an integrated approach to Physical Security – it WORKS). If your home is a soft target, it is more likely to get hit
- Weather is a statistically significant factor in the likelihood of a break-in occurring. Data from the U.S. Department of Justice indicated that from 1993 to 2010, on average, burglary rates were highest in the summer, with about 9% lower rates in the spring, 6% lower in the fall, and 11% lower in the winter months. The month of February had the lowest rate, according to the data
- In 95% percent of home invasions, forced entry is made (the criminal breaks a window, lock, door; or the resident unlocks and answers the door, allowing the subject to force their way in)
- The most common tools used during home break-ins are pry bars, pliers, screwdrivers, and hammers (likely because they are common tools, easily concealed, and harder to trace in investigations)
- 6% of the time, a person (and this does not exactly mean the renting resident or homeowner) is home while the burglary occurs. 26% of those people are harmed, which means roughly 7% of burglaries become a home invasion resulting in injury to somebody who happened to be home
- 65% of home invaders who attacked a person knew them, while the rest were strangers to the person
- 66% of burglaries did NOT involve a weapon
- Data suggests there is strong correlation between a higher household income and the likelihood of the resident not being home during a break-in. As the household income increases, the likelihood of the resident being home decreases
- Residents are more likely to have their home broken into if they are renters
- Data suggests that burglars are less intimidated by residents who are females or elderly
- The most likely items to be stolen are small (because they are easy to hide and move), and high in value. This is often small electronics, jewelry, cash, and documents containing sensitive information
More information – according to a study performed by The University of North Carolina, Charlotte:
- Burglars are more likely to be a male, and under the age of 25
- 85% of break-ins are done by amateurs (not career, or serial, burglars); they’re done out of desperation
- Nearly all of the participants of the study stated they had considered factors such as proximity to traffic and possible escape routes. 12% stated they’d planned well in advance, while 41% said their actions were impulsive
- 83% of the individuals admitted that they would specifically look for a home security system and 76% of that 83% stated they would move on if they observed the home was equipped with one (this claim supports the FBI’s report which indicates that your home is three times as likely to be broken into if you do not have a home security system installed)
According to statements from the study above, we see the importance of DETERRENCE as a significant input to successful home security systems. The truth is that criminals are always opportunists and none of them want to get caught and go to jail.
We are not here to suggest monthly subscriptions alarm system companies out there, although they are certainly an option. The problem with having some kid audit your premises after he’s knocked on your door, and cleverly convinced you to let him in to sell you something, is that he isn’t an expert in physical security. He is a salesman with limited information regarding what you need, respectively. Furthermore, he is likely not an expert in network design/infrastructure, or the complex electronics and sensors found in the hardware he is selling you.
We are going to be unbiased, and suggest a wide range of solutions. All of which will leave the detail in your hands alone.
Remember that you will be the first line of defense if a criminal enters your property. You are the security detail assigned to your home - not ADT, not the police. During the first moments of an encounter with a criminal – this will always be your job first – you are the initial response team. This does not mean you should not call the police, however. You always should. Do it immediately, if possible – have them on the phone – and, if the situation allows, inform the intruder the police are on their way.
With that out of the way, your first step in home security is to consider your home as your base, and treat it as such. We recommend taking the same approach the government does for military installations and government buildings, by following the four principles of physical security: DETERRENCE, DETECTION, DEFENSE, and DEFEAT.
Do not make your home appealing to criminals. Consider the statements from the individuals in the abovementioned study. They DO NOT want to get caught in the act (most of the time). Here are some things you can do immediately to proof the perimeter, and make the home a less attractive target:
- Trim back foliage around your house where a burglar may use it for cover and concealment during a break-in attempt
- Strategically place high-output, motion-activated floodlights around the home. Considerations for placement of these should include possible entry points, and illumination of darker sections of the property. At minimum, the front, rear, and side entries of the home should be well lit, and well maintained. If possible, position the lights so that you would see them from inside your home as they are triggered. Adequate lighting is an effective psychological deterrent.
More on floodlight selection and placement:
- They should be on a closed power source for redundancy. This prevents them from being disabled if your power is shut off prior to a break-in attempt
- A variety of sensor designs should be considered for your specific environment (variable weather patterns in your area, for example, may be impact the functionality of an IR sensor or cause an increased number of false alarms, making them less effective – snow, fog, rain, and wind can impact performance and reliability).
- The sensitivity should always be adjustable to maximize sensitivity or reduce false alarms. Additionally, common sensor types that are good for detection of slow-walking, walking, running, and crawling objects are: IR, Seismic, Seismic/Magnetic, Microwave, EF (electrical field), and Capacitance sensors. Research the benefits and drawbacks of each and decide accordingly what you need
- The lighting system should have a manual override feature. Meaning, they can be disabled if you so choose
Back to the main points of DETERRENCE:
- Automatic interior and exterior lights work well. Do not leave the same lights on all day when you are out of town or at work. Do not leave packages on your doorstep for extended periods of time. Have a friend or neighbor pick them up. These are tells that you are not home, and it allows a casing home intruder some insight into your patterns of arrival and departure
Remember that security of information, of all types, is a deterrent/barrier. This includes information about when you travel and work. Do not post on social media, or outside of a private forum ever, about your current or upcoming vacation you are taking with the family. Such information is invaluable to a burglar.
- Place a sign on front side of the property, visible from the street, that informs people the house is equipped with a security system. Place stickers on the windows indicating the same
- Be aware of what people can see from the street if your blinds/curtains are open. A passerby might be inclined to steal valuables observed from the outside
- Do not place signs on the door, or anywhere visible from the street or entryway, stating how “You don’t call the cops” or “This home is protected by a high-speed wireless device”. These are comical satire, yes, but they could be an invitation and seen as a challenge. Here’s why:
Informing a stranger that you keep guns in the home is going to go one of two ways. He will either be completely turned off by the thought of encountering an armed resident, or he will prepare to encounter an armed resident. Do NOT show people your hand. Advertising your capability and willingness to respond with violent force could get you or somebody else killed if you encounter a more brazen, violent, and desperate criminal.
Regarding the detail of valuables and residents inside: let the criminal guess what and who is on the other side of the door.
The moment a criminal has decided to go through with a break-in attempt you, as the resident, must have in place early detection and warning systems.
Side note: a barking dog is a great warning system, but not always a deterrent. Dogs, unless they are viscous and aggressive by nature, are usually passive and approachable if the person they are barking at does not respond with fear.
Most criminals who break into homes know this about dogs.
Moving along… A wonderful thing about current advancements in technology is that there are countless options out there for an ESS (Electronic Surveillance System). As with the lighting sources, we are just going to list desirable characteristics of an ESS; then, discuss detection and response time as a whole and its importance in home security.
When selecting an ESS, consider the following:
- The camera’s FOV (Field of View), relative to your needs to provide adequate coverage (i.e., wide-angle cameras have great FOV, but can distort important detail at distance. So, if you’ve got a long, narrow section of your yard, select a camera with the appropriate FOV to see what you need to see)
- Daylight to darkness transitions – how well the camera performs in approaching low-light conditions (i.e., your automatic outside lights have not switched on yet, and dusk has approached. Many image sensors do not fare very well in these conditions, and image noise can be high, washing out detail)
- “Strike time” of the camera, and system as a whole (i.e., your power goes out, and the system needs to reset itself)
- Motion activation and sensor type
- Complemented motion-activated light sources; or, night vision capability (cameras, ideally, should run constantly, or begin recording a second or two before the motion-activated lights switch on)
- Video Resolution (at minimum, we recommend 1080p)
- Video codec – if possible, find a camera that records in H.265 HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding), or something equivalent. This codec reduces the digital footprint of media, and will eat less bandwidth if your ESS utilizes your home’s internal Wi-Fi to transmit data; efficient video codecs also reduce used storage space on hard drives (which will allow you to store footage for longer periods of time if you need to)
- Power source and signal redundancy. If possible, hard wire cameras on a closed network so they are not rendered inoperable with a power outage or Wi-Fi signal disruption
If you are a bit more tech-savvy, set up your entire ESS on a closed network, and access it via a VPN, and have a separate Wi-Fi-connected camera at your front door for notifications when a package is dropped off (commonly used is a “Nest” device, or something similar).
Your systems should not be disabled entirely in the event of a power or signal loss. More considerations…
- Tamper-resistant design - recessed into a wall protected by hardened plastic or thick tempered glass. These are harder to install, but are far more resilient
- Third-party services
On third-party services: we understand the popularity nowadays in using cloud storage for literally everything. It is convenient. It saves you time and hassle. However, you must think of the functional loss due to a massive data breach of the cloud service, or disruption of services during a cyber-attack, subscription costs (if that is your concern), etc. You should always consider the risk of entrusting others with your security. If you use a third party for service, when that service is interrupted so is the functionality of your ESS.
DETECTION is an important feeder to mitigating DELAY and RESPONSE; delay being the time it takes an intruder to reach their target (the interior of your home, in this case) with all barriers and mechanism he must defeat considered. While response time is the time it takes the security force (you, in this case, and eventually the police) to contact and subdue the threat after one is detected. Thus, early detection is a critical node to effective response.
Audible alarm systems are useful to reduce response time as well. These do not have to be linked to a monitoring service either. They can be used solely to alert the residents as they sleep and/or let the resident know that a door was opened as they are cooking in the kitchen, for example.
Regarding “alarms” - personally, I prefer one that only alerts me as opposed to the entire neighborhood. The reason for this is to reduce annoyance during a false alarm and not numb your neighbors to the sound of an intrusion onto your property. Because first of all, they are probably not going to run over to your house to check on you or your things. At best, they might call you or call 911. Another important consideration is that you want to be able to effectively communicate quietly to your family during a home invasion, and keep a sense of calmness during the situation. An obnoxiously loud alarm going off creates a chaotic environment for everyone involved, especially small children, and may have detrimental psychological impacts during a deescalation attempt.
Besides, if you have signs in your front yard stating the property is being monitored, visible ESS, and a person decides to go through with it anyways, do you honestly think they are going to care about a loud alarm going off, as if that will scare them away? They will not. They will know what they are getting into at this point and, because of this, could be more dangerous than the average criminal Joe. This means you will need to place yourself at a tactical advantage by allowing yourself the element of surprise – which is an important card to hold in such a situation. If you have a blaring alarm going off, they can certainly assume that you’re up and aware of their presence.
In summary: detection of prowlers and possible intruders should be immediate. Information should be fed to you directly and it should be clear, and accurate, to provide you with the information you need to take appropriate defensive actions. You should have a system in place to alert family members and move them to safety. Your response plan should be rehearsed with family members.
In the context of home security and your property, defense is any physical barrier or mechanism that prohibits invasion of the premises. Take into consideration the access points to your home, and how you might successfully employ or make use of barriers/mechanisms to restrict access to intruders, while allowing yourself and other residents access that is more fluent. For example, automatic locks on your doors; or locks that can be deactivated with a key-fob rather than a key are useful quick-access methods.
- LOCK. YOUR. DOORS!… and windows! Keep them locked during the day. Before you go to bed each night, do a quick perimeter check of your doors and windows. Use dead bolts on exterior-to-interior doors
- Reinforced door frames on exterior-to-interior doors
If you do decide to leave windows open during the day or at night, use window stops. Cut them a length that allows the window to open no more than three to four inches.
- Place a door security bar on the door leading from your garage to the side of the house. This will add another delay factor if forced entry is attempted via the garage door. You can also place one at the front door (which is where most premeditated home invasions kick off) to buy yourself a second or two
- Place locks on exterior power boxes to prevent somebody from easily shutting off your power
We do not recommend the use of window bars. These devices can trap people during a fire or other emergencies where the resident must escape through the window. Use these at your own discretion and risk.
If you are not expecting company, and you do not recognize the person at the door – you are not obligated to answer it. You can communicate with the individual without opening your door. Teach your kids to not run to answer the door by themselves.
Do not waste your time with door-to-door salesman. Do not give them your personal information. Do not answer their questions. Do not entertain them. Many of them carry around extremely sensitive information about their clients in hard copy format - paperwork - and they would certainly be a prime target for a robbery because of it.
Successfully defeating a threat DOES NOT mean shooting them, or doing anything violent at all. It simply means you have taken a course of action that has caused the threat to no longer be a threat. In this case, the retreat of a home invader or burglar is certainly them defeated and a win for you.
It is not a good idea to confront a home invader unless you are forced to do so. Nothing you own is worth killing or dying over.
If you are alone – if possible, barricade yourself in a room, call 911 and inform them where you live and of the situation. Stay on the phone until the operator tells you that you can hang up. If you have access to a firearm, or weapon of any kind, and you are trained to use it you should have it with you.
Arming yourself should be a carefully thought out decision, considering neighbors, family members, your proficiency with the weapon system, and ultimately your willingness to defend your life by taking another. Do not be reckless. Seek professional advice for selection of a home defense firearm and tactical training from professionals. Often times there are legal ramifications in the aftermath of a shooting – which is a homicide. Investigations occur, and you may be liable for the life you took if your actions were reckless and not justified. Know the laws of your jurisdiction and act accordingly.
If you have chosen to barricade yourself with a firearm, inform the operator that you are armed, and if the intruder tries to enter the room, inform them you are on the phone and the police are on their way. If they continue with a forced entry attempt, set the phone down somewhere close by, make sure the lights are on, create as much space as possible between you and the door, and prepare to give them verbal commands to leave as they come through the door and see you. Announce to the police that the intruder is attempting to break into the room and only announce that you are armed if the intruder does make entry. Commands should be loud, and aggressively stated. Let them know through your tone of voice, posture, and presentation that you are to be taken seriously. What you are willing and not willing to do at this point should have been decided long before this day.
If the intruder breaches the door and presses with an attack, or continues forward after you’ve made your intentions clear, they’ve decided the outcome and the ongoing emergency call (that is recorded) will likely be used to support the fact that you gave this person (despite their poor decisions) at least a chance to retreat and walk away unharmed.
Your actions shouldn’t ever be driven by bloodthirst, or revenge. Such a mentality is immoral, and vile. Do not lower yourself to the criminal standard.
Alternatively, if you can successfully escape and leave, you might consider this as an early option. Escape and evade is always the best decision. Carefully consider this option, however, especially if you have a firearm on your person (it might not be a good idea to take a stroll through the neighborhood at that point). If you are not armed, however, and escape is possible, you should take this course of action. Get as far away as possible. Your destination should be a predesignated location, and remember to stay on the phone throughout the ordeal while informing the operator of your plans.
It is important to evaluate your specific situation, think rationally, and make smart decisions that are centered on the safety of everyone involved.
Everyone involved – the scenario described above and the course of action you should take may change, and becomes critical, when kids or other family members are involved. Threat assessment and possibility of harm to others in the home should be evaluated immediately. This may require direct confrontation.
Your family's safety, and yours (in that order), should be placed above the intruder’s at this point. Your priority should be to reach them and corral them to a safe place that you can defend. Depending on the layout of your home, where the break-in occurred, and where you are relative to others in the house, reaching your family and confronting an intruder may not happen in the order you would hope. Remember your priority is their preservation and safety.
If you do have a firearm, you should not announce that you do. There is absolutely no reason for this under any circumstance. If the intruder has one too, he will not care anyways. If he does, he has come prepared to commit acts of violence, so do not assume he will be scared of “you racking your 12 gauge shotgun” from upstairs or broadcasting down the hallway that you are armed. The only thing you will accomplish by announcing yourself and your intentions is giving up the element of surprise, while potentially motivating him to ready up for a violent encounter.
In addition, in your response and movement throughout the home, you may inadvertently corner the individual. This makes announcing your intent potentially more dangerous because they might think you are going to shoot them anyways, and decide to engage you out of fear alone, when they initially might not have done so.
Do not advertise your capability or your location. Control the information they are receiving, and the situation.
Arguably, the most vital element of all of this is obtaining a positive ID an intruder, and any weapons they may be carrying. This is of utmost importance. You must unquestionably identify the person, their intentions, and react accordingly. Without positive ID, the actions you take can certainly be called into question. Obviously, this is much easier to do during the day. At night, however, it can be a challenge. Knowing where light switches are, for example, is important as you confront an intruder and a high-lumen flashlight (300+) attached to a firearm (or held in your hand) is a great way to disorient and blind the intruder as you contact them and are giving them commands to deescalate and control the situation.
Only use flashlights to illuminate what you cannot see and be cautious of reflections of white walls, glass, mirrors, and metal objects in your home, as you can temporarily disorient yourself if a beam of light is redirected back into your face. Ideally, your light should be switched on the moment you see the intruder and you have put yourself in a tactically advantageous position to confront them. Waving a light around in a dark area like a tactical lightsaber only gives away your position, and doesn't allow your eyes to fully adjust to the dark environment.
As described before, commands should always be loud and aggressively stated. Your intent is to subdue the potential threat and control the situation, while reducing their ability to see and make any sudden movements and keep everybody (including them) safe. When making contact, train your light to their upper torso (chest and face), and immediately tell them to make their hands visible. Track your eyes to their hands and scan for weapons or other objects. If they are carrying anything, order them to drop it immediately. Do not approach them and do not allow them to turn around to face you if their back is turned towards you.
At this point, it would be a good idea to instruct somebody else to call the police, while you order the intruder to the ground. Instruct them to lay on their stomach and face, spreading their legs and arms as far apart as possible. Keep them there until the police show up and inform the operator you are holding the person at gunpoint (law enforcement officers will not take their time getting there. Such a scenario will always qualify as a code 3 response – lights, sirens, and moving as fast as safely possible to the scene).
As the police arrive to the scene, have somebody else let them in, and cooperate with them.
We are not lawyers or legal experts in self-defense shootings. What you decide to do if a situation turns into a violent encounter should be based on information that is unique to your situation, and your local laws. It is important to educate yourself on local and state laws so you do not end up in jail for murder. Somebody breaking into your home, or your car, is not adequate justification for a deadly force response in most states. Many local and state laws require that somebody’s life, at the very least, is being legitimately threatened.
Do not be reckless. Think!
That said, and all things considered, the safety of your family and you should be your highest priority. The importance of planning and real-time threat assessment cannot be stressed enough.
Lastly, check out the July, 2019 Newsletter – “Home Defense and Firearms”, as it will provide you with useful and objective information on home defense weapon considerations.