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Thinking of making your home secure? Here’s a start

Two veteran officers share what they know about protecting your home


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By Yoona Ha, PoliceOne BrandFocus Staff

For officers who frequently deal with calls regarding home invasions and property crimes, the topic of preparedness hits very close to home. Advice on protecting your home and property is abundant, especially among officers. Some, like Lt. Dan Marcou, have led the charge against burglars by raising awareness of what to look out for.

One piece of advice for officers? Keep a low profile. (image/iStock)
One piece of advice for officers? Keep a low profile. (image/iStock)

Just because there’s advice out there doesn’t always mean it’s always followed through. Sometimes an officer can do everything right but still become a target of home invasion. Recent events like the one that involved a retired NYPD officer who was attacked in his own home show that even the most experienced of officers can become victims at any given moment.

According to a 2017 report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 20.6 per 1,000 households were affected by burglaries in 2017. Yet, only 17 percent of homes have a home security system installed. The good news for officers today is that home security has come a long way from the days of hard-wired alarms, security guards and password-protected apartment complexes.

Today there are plenty of wireless, cloud-based, all-in-one systems that give users more flexibility and visibility than ever before. But is a smart home security system alone enough to protect officers and their homes?

Not yet.

Ron LaPedis, who’s worked as a security professional for 25-plus years, and Lt. Warren Wilson of the Enid (Oklahoma) Police Department agree that fancy home security systems shouldn’t displace common sense and personal protection measures.

So what’s an officer to do to protect your home? Here’s what the experts have to say.

Officers are targets: Keep a low profile

One thing officers should never lose sight of is this: There’s always the risk that you’re a target for criminals because you’re in law enforcement.

As Wilson puts it, there are plenty of real-life examples that show criminals are not shy of targeting officers and their homes.

“We need to accept the fact that a sophisticated burglar might find our homes more attractive, since there are often firearms,” said Wilson. “Gang members, for instance, may plan an attack on officers’ homes considering that they view law enforcement as a hindrance to their business.”

Officers can choose to keep a low profile to boost their personal safety.

A first step is to be mindful that subscriptions to cop magazines, pro-police bumper stickers, parking your police vehicle in the drive way overnight and decorating your home with police memorabilia are all things that officers should avoid displaying to avoid unwanted attention.

“Most burglars watch you before choosing you as a target,” said Wilson.

That’s even more reason for officers to be mindful of their neighborhood presence. In addition to keeping your “cop presence” to a minimum, Wilson encourages officers to build relationships with neighbors, as well to help build a network of those who will recognize and report suspicious behavior.

 

Be aware of your digital footprint 

LaPedis, a certified information systems security professional, says cops should be more mindful of their social media and online presence than ever before.

“The problem with using social media is that if you’re not careful, it can broadcast your location to the world and reveal more information about you and your home than you’d want,” said LaPedis.

For instance, you can have a family member or friend accidentally share your whereabouts on social media with a post that automatically tagged your home address as a location. Another example involves taking selfies or pictures that include information or objects that potentially identify an officer’s home. This can include taking a picture with an officer’s wall of medals and plaques, for instance.

To help curb your digital exposure, LaPedis recommends that all officers have family and guests adhere to a set of social media guidelines. An example of a conversation you might have with a new or long-time home guest could go like this, according to LaPedis:

“I’m proud to be a law enforcement officer, but you need to understand that sometimes I might become a target. I want to be careful to protect not only myself, but also my family and friends. The best way we that we can do this is by not going around announcing what I do and where I live, so I’d like for you to refrain from posting pictures or posts about my home and or any identifying materials in this house on social media.”

Having a social media plan in place is part of larger protective measures officers can take called “practicing good cyber hygiene.” This is a part of a cybersecurity strategy you can easily adopt to protect yourself from risks. Using secure and varied passwords, being mindful of what’s out there about you on the internet and having a social media policy among friends and family members are just some of many steps you can take.

Use a layered approach to home security

Having a backup plan is essential during any emergency. That’s why Wilson and LaPedis urge officers to use several security measures to protect their homes.

Officers today have many options. There are traditional security companies that sell home security, but also several startups that can hook up cameras, sensors and sirens in your home and give you access to an app that allows you to monitor your home while you’re away.

Officers can get a hold of plenty of gadgets, and the best home security option depends on what your needs are as a homeowner. But you want a backup plan in case a criminal decides to ignore the telltale security sign planted in your yard.

“Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket,” said LaPedis.  “In case one system gets compromised or breaks down, you want a safety measure that will back you up. That’s why I have at least two security systems in place.”

As any officer knows, there’s a long list of things you can do to secure your home, such as making sure your doors are locked or installing burglar bars, outdoor motion lights and motion cameras – as well as not overestimating the capabilities of your house pet to act like a trained K-9 during emergencies.

“Although dogs are great alarm systems, you shouldn’t expect the family pet to react as well as a K-9,” said Wilson. “I’ve seen this mistake happen dozens of times over the years.”

When it comes to protecting your home, it’s worth starting with a second look at your security behaviors. Finding the right home security system is a job that can be easily done once you’ve adhered to the three pieces of advice our experts recommend: Know your risk, keep your digital profile to a minimum and don’t rely on a single security measure to protect your home.

In other words, when it comes to guarding yourself from home invasions and property crime, it’s not your app that will save you, it’s your common sense.

 

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