The recent burglary / homicide in the 6200 block of Massachusetts Ave was a shocking crime, illustrating what can happen when a burglary goes wrong.
The greatest risk of a burglary is a confrontation. And while I am the first to call-out that an alarm system does not “protect” a home (an alarm system “secures,” which is a subtle but important difference), this scenario is one where an alarm system may have made the difference
The initial indications show that this home has an alarm system (not from Urban Alarm), but it was not in use at the time of the burglary. Local media noted an ADT sign in the yard. While an alarm sign may be a somewhat of a deterrent, burglars know many people do not use the systems and disregard the signage.
An alarm system is effective at alerting residents when an intrusion takes place. Sirens warn the residents to lock themselves in more secure locations while the intruder is likely to flee. This reduces the chances of a direct confrontation from a resident investigating noises from downstairs.
When out of the house, residents are immediately notified of an intrusion via a phone call and the police dispatch, which reduce the likelihood of walking in on a burglary (see the famous example of the “Micheal Halberstam” Burglary/Murder)
I live just inside Western Ave from this incident and we have re-doubled our attention to arming the alarm during the day as well as at night. Some tactics to improve your security include:
- Arm the alarm system at all times of day and night
- If you are in the home and not expecting anyone to come home, be sure to arm the system in “instant” mode.
- Make sure your alarm system is setup with an “Ambush” code which you can use if being coerced to disarm the alarm system. An ambush code will turn off the alarm system but will also send a silent panic to your alarm company.
- Identify a “secure” room in a bathroom or bedroom where everyone goes in the event of an alarm. The room should be lockable from the inside, ideally with a metal crossbar and should have a method of communication.
- Have periodic burglary alarm drills as well as fire alarm drills. This is particularly important with younger kids.
For more on this crime see The Gazette’s story: “Police note burglary spree in community of slain professor”.