Community Post

Proactive Anti-Burglary Advice

Since we seem to be dealing with a crime wave of residential burglaries in the area, I thought it would be good to focus on the proactive steps we can all be taking to help avoid being a victim.

So use this as an open thread to share all the things you’ve done or are thinking of doing to secure your home.  I’m particularly interested in people who have done something and felt like it worked.  For example, they installed an alarm, had a break-in, but thought that the screaming sirens reduced the amount of loss (or not).

  • Burglar alarms – who’s the best?  who’s not?  is monitoring worth the monthly cost?
  • Security cameras – anybody installed them?  caught someone in the act?  suggested systems or installers?
  • Other physical security?
  • General tips?


0 thoughts on “Proactive Anti-Burglary Advice

  1. I’ve had good luck with a simple, conspicuously placed, laminated sign that says something to the effect of “24-hour video taped surveillance.” A few years ago, I was having problem with vandalism of my vehicles in an alley-facing driveway. Someone was leaving nails and other spikes in the alley to puncture tires. I went through 5 car tires and 1 motorcycle tire in 9 months. Oh, and one attempt to light my motorcycle on fire with fireworks.

    After I called the cops a few times and put up the sign, things improved.

  2. We like the system we have from We haven’t had a break-in, so I can’t speak to its effectiveness as far as slowing down burglars. We like that the system can be set up from a browser and will send emails and/or text messages to us with the status of the various parts of the system (doors/windows open, armed/disarmed, who came in based on their security code, etc.) The one time it’s gone off, the monitoring company was on the phone to us within about a minute and had already called the police to respond. The only negative I have about it is the price that the installation/monitoring company charged for some of the sensors. If we ever do this again, we’ll negotiate providing all the equipment and just having the company install and/or set up. ( provides the online service. They have dealers in their network who provide installation and monitoring. There is not a separate fee for It’s all wrapped up together.)

  3. We have an alarm and a sign out front indicating we have a monitored alarm. We also have a dog that barks at anything that comes within 15 feet of the house (he scared off a would-be caser last week). But I think the most effective thing we do is knowing our neighbors and our neighbors know us. A burglary in our neighborhood was foiled a few months back because a neighbor saw someone at a house he knew didn’t belong there. When one of our neighbors goes out of town, we all know about it and keep an eye on their house. I feel safer knowing that my neighbors are vigilant and not afraid to report suspicious activity.

  4. I use
    Even though I have stickers saying I have a monitored alarm system, I was robbed. NextAlarm called the police and then called me.

    Inexpensive monitoring. Also, it can be managed over the internet in case you get to work and forgot to set the alarm.

    Since it’s a wireless system, you can easily install it yourself.

  5. We were broken into in May. A large rock was thrown through the rear basement window, which also had an alarm system sticker.

    As best we can tell, once they entered they tripped the motion sensor and the alarm started going off. They must have left quickly since nothing was taken and it does not seem they made it upstairs. So, I think the alarm helped a lot here.

    The “monitored” aspect of the system provided only minor benefit, however. It took repeated calls by both the monitoring company and my wife before Seattle’s finest finally showed up, 2 hours after the alarm went off. I am glad I was notified of the break-in by phone, though, so that we did not have to discover it ourselves and worry whether someone was still in the house (or discover it after coming home from a long vacation.) I’m not sure whether the police would have ever shown up without our repeated calls to them. All that said, I’m glad that it’s monitored but it is not clear at all it is worth the cost (monthly monitoring fee + city tax).

  6. Our house was already wired for an alarm when we moved in. We are monitored by Burglar Stop which is fairly inexpensive at around $13/month. We luckily haven’t been broken into but I feel better knowing it is there. Most of the reason I like that it is monitored is because it also covers our smoke detectors and will call the fire department if there is a fire when we aren’t home. We have a motion detector light on the side of the house and the front light automatically turns on when it is dark so we never come home to a dark entry way.

  7. When we moved into the CD two years ago, our first priority was to get an alarm system installed. Last fall we out for the neighborhood walk with our fellow CDites and when we returned, discovered two polic officers in our house with flashlights in hand looking for intruders. We were surprised but relieved to find out that the officers were called a couple minutes prior by Brinks because our backdoor was open and triggered the alarm. Found out that we did not close the door tight. It was reasurring to seem them arrive so quick. A final note. we were sent a bill from the city for the false alarm. Can’t remember I think it was around $90~$120. Well worth it!

  8. I have a Brinks home security system. Unfortunately, because I own pets, I cannot take advantage of the motion-sensing capabilities, although every door and window in the house is protected. That said, a number of the recent break-ins have involved the burglars throwing rocks through windows and squeezing through. Assuming the window frame is in tact (which it probably would be), this will NOT trigger the alarm system. Burglars are likely more than aware of this. Thus, even though I have a security system I do not feel completely secure. Keep this in mind if you’re looking for a security system.

    My Anti-Burglary Recommendations:
    1) Be aware of suspicious people wandering around the neighborhood because they may be casing houses. The trend seems to be if one house is hit on the block, than more will follow in the same vicinity.
    2) Work with your neighbors and have them keep an eye on your house when you are away or at work or away. Reciprocation is also helpful.
    3) Do not allow suspicious people to loiter around your home/neighborhood. Call the police. The rationale is that once criminals become comfortable around your neighborhood, that is when the casing will begin. This, of course, leads to break-ins. If they are being questioned by police from the outset, they more than likely will move on (unfortunately to another block)
    4) Putting security/24 hour surveillance signs in your lawn can only help, although I wouldn’t rely on them alone.

    Physical Recommendations — With the rise of break-ins occurring while residents are actually HOME, there is more than enough reason to protect yourself. Remember, always use caution and common-sense judgment. Keep in mind that taking a life or causing serious injury can be more harmful (both legally and emotionally) than any amount of lost property. Also, keep in mind that many of the burglars are only in their teens. Lastly, make sure that your option is legal and coincides with the RCW and local law:

    1) Keep some type of bludgeon or cudgel in close proximity. I prefer to keep mine next to the bedroom door. This is when a baseball bat comes in handy. I prefer to use a 21″ telescopic baton or a Police Issued Tonfa
    2) High-intensity LED Flash Light. I use a Maglite 4D LED flashlight A burglar seeing a flashing light may have good incentive to run. If they do not intend to flee, shining it in there eyes will cause at least 5-10 seconds of temporary blindness. This is when the maglite works as a very effective bludgeon.
    3) Self defense classes. I’m not talking your everyday kung-fu or taekwondo classes (these are better than nothing, though), but a legitimate self-defense class geared towards defending against real-life attackers. Check your local YMCA or Community Center for classes. If you’re in decent shape, or want to be, I recommend Krav Maga for its sheer effectiveness Bonus: exercise!
    4) Pepper Spray. I would keep this close to the flashlight. I prefer Mace Security International pepper spray, not only because it has a high Scoville Unit, but also because it has a UV dye that marks the criminal and allows police to identify him/her once apprehended by using a UV light.
    5) Lastly, I would consider a personal firearm. I know some people do not want to hear this. I also know that the mere mentioning of this will spark the ubiquitous left v. right gun control debates, second amendment constitutional interpretation issues, bitching about how awful Justice Scalia is, and the like, but please consider this with an objective mind. If you are willing to 1) take firearm use and safety courses, 2) invest enough time at the local firing range so that you are comfortable with it, 3) responsibly store the weapon, unloaded, in a discrete and protected location, and 4) be mindful of the people you live with (e.g. curious children, teens), then I think a firearm should be one, but not the only consideration. Also, if you haven’t followed the District of Columbia v. Heller case (D.C. Handgun Ban Law Ruled Unconstitutional), then you should know that there is compelling evidence that shows that a handgun in the household can potentially increase the percentage of deadly suicides. Keep this in mind if you or a loved one is prone to severe depression, suicidal thoughts, alcoholism, or mental disability. That said, when used responsibly, it is an effective choice.

    Disclaimer: these are just my opinions. This post was not intended to cause sensationalist scare-mongering, but to give the citizens of the CD some options for protection. Please be responsible and use them at your own risk.

  9. All the advice so far is very good, but there’s one more thing to consider. If you make your home a less attractive target than your neighbors house, or the next house down, you’ll decrease your risk of a break-in. After all, for the same expected reward, any criminal wants to take the lowest risk possible.

    Maybe this means locking the gates to your backyard if your neighbors don’t. Maybe it means leaving lights on overnight if your neighbors don’t. Or having a security system (or the appearance of a security system) if your neighbors don’t.

    In the end, a great first step in avoiding a break-in is to make your house an unappealing target, or at least too much of a hassle compared to someone else. We don’t have much worth taking, but if someone did break in, they’d have a painful time getting out with whatever they could carry in a reasonable timeframe, and that’s kind of obvious from a simple walkaround. Better to go down the road to an easier opportunity.

    It’s like the old joke: You don’t have to outrun the bear, just outrun the other guy.

  10. I have an alarm and put lights outside. I also have windows that are very hard to break downstairs. I also happen to have a lot of neighbors that are at home during the day.

    On a broader note I wonder about how we really deal with some of this.

    Is it bored kids? Let’s work with the prosecutor to not let them out once caught.

    Are there gang organizations behind it? Who is doing work to mitigate that?

    Who is fencing these goods? I bet there are adults behind some of this.

    The East Precinct Crime Prevention Coalition is a good place for us. CD News had an article a month ago:

    Their site is: and it seems the next meeting is July 24 although I do not see a location..

    Also, I’m down on 27th a few block from Chloe (who was featured on the Komo coverage) and have met her walking her nice dogs. I have a suggestion. Let’s make 27th from John to Union one great big multibock Night Out this year on August 5.

    I know it sounds trite, but isn’t half the battle getting to know and figure out your neighbors?

  11. We have an alarm, it was on when we got broken into, and _maybe_ it caused them to leave faster. But if you have people (like I’ve read recently) willing to smash a side window to get into a house and root around, or do a home invasion robbery, I don’t know if an alarm siren is going to stop them.

    Oh, and we’ve got a dog who barks too.

    The alarm’s still useful in that the smoke detectors are connected to the monitoring and thus the fire company will be called if there’s a real fire. We also get a discount on our home owners insurance. We use ADT. Not the cheapest ($25-30/month or more, plus install).

  12. we too have a big dog and were concerned about motion sensors as well. (although we found a variety that won’t detect dogs up to a certain size). One good solution is to install glass break sensors, they detect the frequency sound of glass breaking, and work very well (they also come wireless and have fairly good range)… ours are through ADT

  13. For anyone who is a cheap skate like me and has some handy skills, it looks to be fairly easy to install your own wireless alarm.

    I bought this one to install:>

    Which is apparently the same system that ADT installs, at least in some cases. It is completely wireless except for the base unit, and you can buy a large variety of additional sensors and sirens etc..

    If you have a phone line (who has phone lines these days!?) you can even arm it remotely, have it call you etc.. all without paying a monthly fee.

  14. I’d like some information about why these kids that are allegedly breaking into homes and getting caught, are then getting released. There seems to be a lot of familiarity with them, even to the point of knowing the grandmother, knowing she’s in a wheelchair, etc. If these kids are being released because they are underage, why isn’t every kid in town breaking into homes? This just doesn’t seem plausible to me. Isn’t there juvenile detention for these types of cases? Is there some other information that’s just not getting to the neighbors about this?

  15. It seems that a lot of these break ins are via a window. There are films that can be applied to windows that make the windows very difficult to break and all the glass is held in place. It takes some of the opportunity away since the window won’t break with one hit. Armorcoat is one company although I think there are several. We got a quote last year, although never followed through. For two first floor average sized windows and a sliding glass door it was $300.

  16. At a night out a few years ago while people were sitting in the street burglers came in the back of two houses and stole stuff.

  17. Our motion detectors are rated for 80 pounds of dog, but our 35 pounds of terrier terror sets it off every time. We now rely on her barkiness and general bad mood whenever anyone approaches the house to help when we’re out and she’s in and loose in the house.

    If anyone has experience with glass break sensors and their effectiveness in actual use during a burglary or attempted burglary, I’d like to hear about it.

    Great tips! Thanks for all the comments. I’m finding this a very interesting thread.

  18. Lest people be getting any ideas from reading this blog, and since I said where the block party will be, I guess I will just sit on my deck with my shotgun loaded and watch the festivities :-)

  19. Might I suggest volunteering at one of the local schools or with the United Way as a mentor or tutor? While such a solution might not be as satisfying as standing over the body of a young black man you have just bludgeoned to a pulp with your new telescopic steel baton or shot with your freshly purchased personal firearm, it is by far more sensible. It seems, after reading many of the comments, most of you believe these burglaries are perpetuated teenagers, after all. According to the United Way of King County “Two thirds of students who cannot read by the 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare and young people with mentors are more likely to stay in school, more likely to aspire to better grades, and less likely to get involved with drugs.” I understand volunteering won’t stem the tide of the current “crime wave” (ha!) but it will pay off years down the road. Let us also remember that reporting of crime is up, while crime itself is down. So let us not go all crazy here.

    As for me, I will be singing up to volunteer some of my time to the local youth directly. I am going to start with the Untied Way, then the city’s volunteer site If anyone has any other suggestions for other organizations could you please post them. I would encourage anyone who has or is considering buying an alarm system or gun, that isn’t already volunteering, to do the same. Otherwise, keep watching those Charles Bronson films!

    Disclaimer: these are just my opinions. This post was not intended to cause sensationalist scare-mongering, but to give the citizens of the CD some options for protection. Please be responsible and use them at your own risk.

    Nathaniel Buck

  20. I know I have this somewhere, and feel a little silly asking this since I just should know – but when is it appropriate to call 911, and when to call the non-emergency police number? Can anyone off-hand give the non-emergency number? I’m tempted to call 911 about everything, but also realize that it should be saved for emergancy and life-threatening situations.

  21. I’ve lived in the CD for 10 years or so and I have noticed that these crime sprees are usually in the Summer. The kids are out of school and maybe not watched as carefully and things get rowdy on a number of levels.

    We had been robbed on several occasions a few years ago ( although we knew who the thieves were we were powerless to stop them ) when we got our house alarm installed by Summit Security. We have had only one other incident since then. Again in the Summer, some teen boys broke a back window in the middle of a Saturday afternoon and were scared away by our neighbors before they could trip the alarm.

  22. I work for Neighborhood House and encourage anyone who is interested in volunteering with youth to consider working with us. It’s a great program and we always need good volunteers. Here is a link specifically for the after-school mentor/tutor volunteer description:

    It won’t solve the immediate problems of youth and crime, but you’d be a positive influence in the future of a young person. It’s also a great way to feel more involved in the community at large.

  23. Call 911 whenever there is a crime happening “right now” that could use a police response. That includes things like suspicious activity where you think someone may be casing houses in the neighborhood.

    Call the non-emergency number for all other events, such as crimes that happened some time ago but now only require a routine report or follow-up.

    The non-emergency number is 206-625-5011. Be prepared for a hellish phone tree and a long wait

    For example:
    1. You see someone breaking into a car: call 911
    2. You woke up and found your car had been broken into overnight: call the non-emergency

  24. I agree wholeheartedly with you. In fact, once the school year begins in fall I’ll be taking part in a mentorship program for disenfranchised youth at Rainier Beach High School. That said, what exactly is your solution for the time being? Let’s be pragmatic here. What are we, as concerned citizens, supposed to do in the meantime?

    While allegedly overall crime is “low” and reports are “up”, I believe this statistic applies to Seattle as a whole. Knowing that places like Greenwood, Fremont, Alki Beach and Capitol Hill are safe doesn’t make me less concerned about the neighborhood I live in — the Central District. And please, don’t undermine my post with snarky Charles Bronson references and dismissive blanket statements. The reality is(if you’d open your eyes): 1) gang activity is up, 2) drug activity is up, and 3) burglaries are up in the CD.

    Volunteer work is essential for fostering a strong community. However, it takes many years for that to reach fruition.

  25. You don’t have to wait until school starts. My neighbor recently started tutoring with:

    at Yesler Terrace (although that isn’t really in the CD).

    He really loves it.

  26. We got broken into a week after we moved in 3 years ago. I had left the bathroom window open and was out for about 1/2 hour and they slit the screen and came in – must have been watching the house. Our stuff was not yet organized, so we had laptops, cameras, etc. basically strewn about the floor upstairs and they packed it all up and took it with them. The officer who responded said that his personal opinion is that alarms are not worth it – these kids can always get into your house if they want to and they know they still have a few minutes to do a quick search of the obvious places. He said that apart from getting a big dog (I’m too allergic, unfortunately) you have to make sure that they can’t find your valuables. He said that burglars rarely spend much time in the house and generally do a quick search and get out. That was certainly the case with our burglars, although I have seen some postings here that contradict that. It was a hassle at first, especially since I work from home, but we stash our few valuables very carefully every time before we leave the house. We haven’t been broken into again to see if it will make any difference. Hope I haven’t just jinxed us!

  27. Glass break sensors are part of my alarm system. They are VERY sensitive. I even trigged mine with a quick compression of air when I tried to smack a mosquito with a rolled up newspaper. My neighbors have the same variety and set theirs off from an adjacent room when they noisily clinked two wine glasses together. Totally worth it.

  28. A few years back my wife’s car was stolen, and when we called the East Precinct (obviously not an emergency since the car had likely been gone for hours) they actually said we should call 911, for whatever that is worth.

  29. I note this is not mutually exclusive with owning and knowing how to use a firearm.

  30. I am a Big Sister at TT Minor through the Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring program. They are in desperate need for volunteer “Bigs” to meet with girls and boys one-on-one during their lunch and recess hour. Their website is While there is no immediate solution, crime occurs in waves, and when youth-supportive programming drops, crime activity by youth rises. I love meeting with my “Little” and telling her that she is special and smart, and that she can do anything she dreams. One of her dreams that she’s shared with me is to make the world a safer place with less violence.

  31. I was very glad to finally see #5 on your list. Everything else puts a person WAY TOO CLOSE to the intruder, lessening your chances of evening the playing field, especially if you happen to be female and 5’4″ when your “guest” is over 6 feet.

    Ladies (and gentlemen): learn to use a handgun responsibly and register it and stay in practice. No court in the world would convict you of defending yourself and your home INSIDE your home…in fact, you would likely never be charged to begin with.

    Burglars and other would-be thieves need to know WE know this very important law…if you arm yourself intelligently and well, they will be the one on the short end of the stick. The firestick, that is!

  32. I’ve skimmed the extensive posts and don’t think there’s mention of security film. This is what jewelry stores install on their windows. It is invisible and prevents the window from shattering when an attempt is made to break it and hence prevents a burglar from gaining entry through a broken window. We had this film installed on what we consider our most vulnerable windows, i.e., the ones that are least visible from the street and most easily reached. Also, flip locks on the inside of doors make it much more difficult to kick them in by providing extra strength at top and bottom. Sonya Richter, who was the East Precinct’s Crime Prevention officer at the time we moved in to the neighborhood in 2006, came and gave a presentation on improving home security to a group of neighbors I had organized. Perhaps the new CPO, Mike Yasutake, would be willing to do a walk through at a gathering and use the host’s home as an example to talk specifics about how to improve home security. Here’s the URL for the East Precinct Crime Prevention page:

  33. Safety Glass is required on all outside doors. When I had new windows made for my house, I had the easily accessible windows made with the safety glass as well. It is similar to car windows in that it only shatters under great stress. If you are having windows replaced in vulnerable areas this is another option.

    Our block watch had both Sonya, and Mike come to our meetings for years. They are a fabulous resource for everything from what to do with your gas line if there is an earthquake(home safety), to local schools, etc.