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Looting is an all too common occurrence usually following an evacuation for a natural disaster. Entire neighborhoods are deserted and local law enforcement is often overwhelmed managing other emergencies related to the event. The result is that individuals and groups see looting opportunities across homes in a neighborhood that are unoccupied and unprotected.
What’s interesting is that some people have found some very creative deterrents and security ideas to keep looters away from their property. None are an absolute guarantee but they do diminish the possibility that a home will be broken into and otherwise robbed or looted.
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The Looter’s Choice
Anytime looters enter a neighborhood they usually spend a bit of time considering some basic things. Their primary focus is to avoid people who live in the neighborhood but if no one’s around they move to their next step.
Looters will typically evaluate properties when they see a row of houses on a street. Their focus is on the perceived value of the property. The nice houses with the sharp landscaping are an obvious target, and may indicate that what’s inside is more valuable than the house across the street without landscaping or a recent paint job.
They’re also looking for easy accessibility. A house with something as simple as a fence may be a deterrent when the house next door has an open backyard.
Even an old car parked in the driveway may be enough to make a looter look to another target.
Night Time is Prime Time for Looters
Thieves don’t like to be seen and they may “case” a neighborhood during the day and return in the night. Here again they’ll be looking for clues and signals for a target. A light on in a house could be enough to deter someone from approaching, assuming the power is still on after a natural disaster.
It’s a dilemma for anyone abandoning their home in the wake of a natural disaster, and even a cause for concern when someone goes on vacation or leaves on a business trip. We’ll cover some of the traditional solutions to home security, but we’ll start with some creative ways to deter looters and any other thieves in the night, or day.
1. The Solar Floodlight
The good thing about solar lights for home security is that they don’t rely on the power grid to work, and most have a motion sensor that will turn on when someone is in a certain vicinity.
The downside of many of these solar lights is that they are relatively small and usually mounted low enough to the ground that a looter could pull them down or simply shut them off. Most have easily accessible buttons that would allow them to do this.
An innovative solar solution is a roof mounted solar floodlight. They’re relatively inexpensive running about $80 bucks and will fill a yard with bright light. The one we’ve pictured blasts lights out at 60,000 lumens. That may be more than enough to encourage looters to move on to an easier and darker target. Better yet, they’re high on the roof and out of reach.
2. Barking Dog Alarms
There are a lot of alarm systems that create a loud noise when motion activated by someone in the vicinity. An interesting alternative to the traditional siren is a barking dog alarm. The speaker can be installed outdoors but is best indoors. An outdoor speaker is fairly easy to spot and the sound of a loud dog inside is another way to motivate looters to move on.
3. Indoor Motion Activated Alarms
We usually don’t install motion activated alarms indoors because it doesn’t make any sense to have lights or noise constantly filling the house as we walk around. But when you’re away they could be a good backstop to outdoor defenses.
The idea is to mount these high where they’re hard to disable. Some have loud sirens that sound and if you have more than one of them in the house the whole house will soon be a cacophony of police sirens filling the air. Some also have flashing lights adding to the chaos. Most looters will abandon their entry and once again move on to an darker, and quieter target.
4. The Alarm Adults Can’t Hear
Statistically, most looters tend to be younger. There’s a sound frequency that people above the age of 25 to 30 can’t hear. This is a physiological fact and the frequencies above 15,000 Hz are inaudible to older adults.
The benefit of this kind of alarm is when a neighborhood is still occupied. It won’t bother your older neighbors but the younger people in the neighborhood (especially if they’re looters) will definitely hear it. Even then, any triggered alarm with a loud sound will work in an emergency.
5. Fake Video Cameras
A highly sophisticated home security system will be surrounded by video cameras actively recording any approach to the house. Unfortunately, the cost of these systems are more than some people can afford.
An innovative solution is the installing of fake cameras. They not only look like the real thing but have a small, red LED light that flashes every few seconds to give the impression that it is recording.
When placed prominently above doors or windows it will often be enough to keep looters away or motivate them to change direction and move to a different target. They’re also inexpensive.
6. Warning Signs
Even if you don’t mount fake cameras around the house, a simple sign easy to see in the front or back yard can be a deterrent. Having both the fake cameras and the signs could be a good one-two punch.
7. Fake Window Decals
Anyone who has ever had a home security system professionally installed will no doubt receive some window decals from the security service. The idea is to put them around the house on windows to make sure people know the home is protected.
Some people skip the cost of a full home security system (which can cost thousands) and simply buy some window decals pretending to warn of an installed system. Here again, it could be enough to deter some potential looters although they may not see them at night.
8. Leave a Radio On
There are solar powered radios that recharge automatically during the day. They’ll need to be in the vicinity of a window to recharge but they’ll run without electric power non-stop.
Some are also relatively inexpensive running about $20 bucks. Take one with you if you evacuate, but leave a second one home and turned on. A talk radio station may be a good idea and the sounds of people talking in the house could be an effective deterrent.
Even if the potential looters recognize it as a radio playing it could lead to the assumption that someone is inside listening to the radio. It’s an easy and creative way to indicate a home is still occupied and that’s what most looters don’t want to encounter.
9. If They Get Inside
In spite of any combination of efforts to deter looters, some will still enter a home. This could be due to visible damage to the exterior that makes the home appear to be uninhabitable, or a looter who is just too stupid or dangerous to care.
One way to protect valuables from a reckless looter is to simply hide valuables so they’re not easy to find in a home. Books are often identified as good hiding places and there are hollow books designed to hide valuables. No guarantees but out of sight is out of mind.
10. Hidden Rooms and Closets
This is an idea often used to hide firearms and other valuables. A door to a small hidden room or closet is disguised either with a large mirror or bookshelf. The mirror or bookshelf is hinged to open to the hidden room. This makes it fairly simple to hide a lot of stuff but if for some reason the looter finds it, they’ll most likely take most of it.
11. Non-Traditional Door Locks
The usual security solution for a door is a reinforced deadbolt lock, but there are additional locking solutions that can be added to reinforce a door. A bar across the door is one of the oldest solutions, but hinged locking mechanisms are the new way to reinforce a door so it can’t be broken down.
12. Non-Traditional Window Locks
Just about every window has the old fashioned twist lock at the center of the window that is turned to allow the window to be lifted. After a disaster most looters won’t hesitate to break a window to open those locks, but there are other ways to at least make the window difficult to open even when broken.
These locks screw to the sides and rails of a window with a key. Some looters may be hesitant to enter a window through shards of broken glass, and if that’s the case these locks could be enough to discourage entry.
13. Window Bars
Few people like the idea of having window bars permanently installed on their homes, but there are window bars that are quick and easy to install in an emergency. If you live in an area subject to frequent natural disasters (hurricanes/tornadoes/wildfires) the ability to quickly bar some windows could keep looters from a primary point of entry during an evacuation.
Doors are usually hard to break down even with just a deadbolt but glass is easy to break. Window bars could keep them out of those vulnerable first floor windows.
14. Don’t Overdo the Landscaping
This is a tough one for some of us but that whole thing about “curb appeal” does in fact make a house more attractive. That might be a bad idea if you want to deter looters. When sizing up a neighborhood the houses that are beautifully landscaped and appointed indicate wealth and value. That’s why people do it.
If you live in an area subject to frequent bad disasters or just a questionable neighborhood, avoid overdoing it with the landscaping. Save it for interior decorating and keep the front yard simple and somewhat average if you can. It’s not an easy decision for some of us but it may make your home less of a target. It will also provide less shrubbery for a looter to hide while trying to gain entry.
15. Booby Traps
Bad idea! The potential for harming or even killing an innocent person is too great. Many neighborhoods are significantly damaged after a natural disaster, and a common action on the part of emergency services is to walk through a damaged building looking for survivors. Any kind of booby trap can harm them or worse and the legal implications are significant. Don’t do it.
Even curious kids walking into or around damaged buildings in the neighborhood are at risk. Booby traps are bad enough in a war zone and simply don’t make any sense in a disaster area. If you have something inside that you can’t live without, take it with you or hide it somehow.
Most of what we’ve covered are inexpensive solutions. For that reason it’s not too difficult to combine ideas. The most effective fall in the category of things that create bright light or loud sounds. Whether it’s a dog barking or a police siren, looters don’t like the idea of being seen or attracting attention while looting.
Just make sure that any device that requires power to operate is either battery or solar powered. Power outages are common following disasters and if a home can still make itself visible and noticeable in the night, it just may be enough to keep the looters at bay.
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