Attempted break-in

Just over two weeks ago, my cell phone buzzed while I was in the middle of an afternoon work meeting. Usually I would ignore the phone in that circumstance, but I didn’t this time. It was from Kathy, and she doesn’t call all that often.

When I answered, she told me she was hiding in one room of the house after someone tried breaking in. She didn’t know if he was in the house. The Redmond police were on the way.

It was a Monday, and Kathy was working from home that day. The door bell ran. She ignored it, figuring it was UPS dropping off a package. After a long pause, the doorbell rang a few more times, and then a bunch of times.

Kathy walked from her study to near the front door and started to yell, “who is it,” just as the decorative windowpane closest to the door knob was punched in. Kathy yelled something and ran to her hiding spot, grabbing her cell phone on the way. She called 9-11 and then me.

The would-be burglar apparently took off. She could see through the hole that it was a male wearing a dark blue jacket with light lettering, and the police found nobody matching that description hanging around.

The physical damage was minimal. But for Kathy, this episode was emotionally difficult. For the five minutes it took the police to arrive, her home had gone from being a place of safety and comfort to being a terrifying prison.

When the police left, she talked to our friends a couple of houses down. These people have young children, which means they are well connected in the neighborhood and beyond. They sent out word warning other neighbors. Later that night a neighbor down the street send us images of all the cars and pedestrians that had passed his security camera watching over is driveway. After that, we were forwarded an email from a neighbor who was likely a target of the same individuals.

He was on the second floor of his house when a car pulled into the driveway. A clean-cut white male in his late 20s or early 30s, wearing a dark blue shirt with light blue lettering, got out of the passenger side of a silver late model Kia Optima and rang the doorbell. The home owner answered from the second floor window, and the ensuing exchanged established that the visitors had the wrong house number. The police obtained a written statement about this incident, but they have not “solved” the case, as far as I know.

On this particular day, I had promised my students a 6:00-7:30 pm review session for their final exam, so I really had no time to catch a bus home and then make it back to work. When I went to The Ave for a quick dinner, I stopped at Radio Shack and picked up a few blinking LED assemblies. After fixing the hole that evening, I set up the blinking LED assemblies near all ground floor entrances to make them look like part of an alarm system. Out of my electronics junk box, I dug up a small keypad that used to be attached to a radio. I affixed it on a wall near the front door.

Kathy appreciated my faux alarm system, but wanted the real thing. “I don’t care what it costs. I want a real alarm system and some video cameras!”

Okay…I can deal with that. As it happens, good alarm systems are quite affordable and straightforward to install. In the bad old days, an alarm system with sensors on every door and window would be a pain the the ass, if only because one would run wires from each sensor back to the control unit. Modern alarm systems are entirely wireless, and can include door and window sensors, motion sensors, glass breakage sensors, water sensors, smoke detectors, heat detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, natural gas detectors and even remote panic buttons. The control unit can be programmed to call an alarm monitoring service if you chose; or, you can program it to call your own series of numbers. You can add a dedicated cell phone “line” to most alarms. Some can even utilize the internet to email messages.

So four days later, I had an alarm system in hand. An evening later I had installed a bunch of motion sensors and all the door sensors. It took another evening to put in all the window sensors. Piece of cake.

I also picked up a video surveillance system that can continuously monitor and record video from multiple cameras around the property. That was a bit trickier to install because even with wireless transmission of the video, you need to supply 5 volts to power the cameras. An interesting feature is the ability to monitor the cameras via the internet on computers or a cell phone.

So that’s what I’ve been working on for the last two weeks. I enjoy that kind of geeky tech work.

What I’m not quite comfortable with is this new security mentality around our house. It feels like I’ve enclosed our home in virtual barbed wire or something. What’s next, a metal detector at each entrance? I’m sure I’ll get used to it soon enough, but for now it feels a little icky.

What I’ve done, basically, is to make it undesirable for a common thief to burgle my house. The flashing lights, the cameras, the security decals in windows are all notices to a would-be thief that they would have a much easier time going somewhere else.

In other words…I’ve made it my neighbors’ problem.


  1. 1

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    B-b-but Darryl didn’t you listen to Wayne LaPierre? The only way to stop a bad guy is “a good guy with a gun.” (He didn’t mention good gals with guns, so I assume he expects you to take your AR-15 with you to work rush home with it if an emergency occurs.)

    When I was camping in foxholes, I absolutely loved being enclosed by barbed wire. It doesn’t stop anyone, but it slows them down, which is all you need if you have an M-16 and some frags. The alarm system was a trip flare in the wire.

  2. 2

    Liberal Scientist is a Dirty Fucking Socialist Hippie spews:

    I live in the city, and there are regular break-ins in the neighborhood. We’ve never been bothered.

    We have a 95-pound rottweiler.

    An alarm system doesn’t wag its tail or want to sit next to you watching TV, cuddling and snoring. The little kids can’t ride an alarm system. Alarm systems don’t poop, however.

    Get a dog, it’ll make you happy, and scare away the petty criminals.

  3. 3

    right stuff spews:

    Hi Darryl
    Very sorry to hear this, and very grateful nothing worse happened.
    I hope “normal” returns for both of you soon.
    That just sucks.

  4. 4

    I Got Nuthin' spews:

    The alarm industry is just one more industry being disrupted by a slew of new companies that are out to change the old way of doing things. This is good news for consumers and will lead to even more innovation down the road. I fully expect the House Republicans to put up some sort of roadblock next year. Must. Maintain. Status Quo.

  5. 5

    Another victim spews:

    Same thing happened to us. Wife was home. Knock on the door. She ignored it for the same reasons. Lesson: Always indicate that there’s someone home. Just a simple “GO AWAY!” will suffice. But yeah, we bought cameras, too. And placed them in conspicuous locations. An ounce of prevention, a TON of fear. Sigh. And I was always the guy telling my wife that the odds of us being victims of crime are very slight. While technically true, there’s nothing I can do to turn it back now.

  6. 6

    Expat(!)Chad spews:

    2. Liberal Scientist is a Dirty Fucking Socialist Hippie spews:

    I live in the city, and there are regular break-ins in the neighborhood. We’ve never been bothered.

    We have a 95-pound rottweiler.

    An alarm system doesn’t wag its tail or want to sit next to you watching TV, cuddling and snoring. The little kids can’t ride an alarm system. Alarm systems don’t poop, however.

    Get a dog, it’ll make you happy, and scare away the petty criminals.

    My ancient 56 pound Basset will instantly slobber into submission any unfortunate intruder who has neglected to proffer the requisite bribe. Her far-more-than-ample ears will provide a helpful airfoil to escape the occasional typhoon. Or blanket (she’s versatile).

    The alarm system is both majestic and disabling when employed (see bribe, above.)

    Cheap, no. Worthwhile, absolutely.

    Plus, she’s the only one in thousands of miles and is a great (awesome to some) conversation starter.

  7. 8

    Drool spews:

    A firearm is the last line of defense. The NRA would have you (as first line of defense) set up a perimeter of claymore mines with overlapping fields of fire with multiple crew served weapons.

  8. 10

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @8 With a decent minefield, you need only two crew served weapons, one at each end. Just close the tracers like a scissors. Doing it slowly is more fun because they have to think about it longer.

  9. 11

    Etaoin Shrdlu spews:

    neighbors’ problem

    Exactly. Security mitigations always involve trade-offs of some kind. By increasing your own security posture, you’ve reduced that of those around you.

    But, alas, you bowed to the all-too-common demand for “security theater.” The average home burglar is sufficiently demotivated by signs and stickers and fake blinky lights that further investment isn’t necessary. But most people don’t grok this, and demand mitigations that often are out of proportion to the threat.

    The prime example of such disproportionism, of course, is the Transportation Security Administration, the epitome of security theater. A hundred billion dollars wasted, a nation ridiculed, all because of silly demands to “do something!!1!” even though the inidividual risk of any one person experiencing a similar attack is 1 in 10 to 20 million (depends on the study methodology).

  10. 13

    Porter Browning spews:

    “In other words…I’ve made it my neighbors’ problem.”

    And that’s the cowards way out. Your wife(?) should have been armed. Then it would be the coroner’s problem.

  11. 15

    No time for Fascists spews:

    @13. Interesting.
    Do you also believe that pollution and trash is your problem and should never be dumped some where else?

  12. 16

    Liberal Scientist is a Dirty Fucking Socialist Hippie spews:

    Oh, there’s a liberal trick – you’re gettin’ all logical and stuff on him.

  13. 17

    rhp6033 spews:

    # 13: Or, it could have been a cop who was investigating a “welfare call” (person hasn’t been heard of for two or three days, may be on the floor unconscious). The it wouldn’t have been a “coroner’s problem”. It would have been the problem of the wife (in jail for several days while they investigate “her story”), or the family of the cop she just killed.

  14. 18

    rhp6033 spews:

    The previous owners had an expensive security system installed complete with motion detectors. The company tried to sign us up, but it didn’t make any sense – our dog would have set off the motion sensor in the house while we were away. Just the presence of the chow would have been enough to scare most burglars away. Chows aren’t lap dogs, they bond to a family and are protective of it, and are very concerned about strangers in the hime – even refusing treats from them until some time passes and the dog realizes the visitors are accepted as not being a threat by the masters.

    But we did have someone come up on our porch last year, knock on the door a couple of times, then steal the UPS package off the front porch which had been left there just minutes earlier.

    This year I installed a wireless security box on the front door, with one-way video. If my wife is home, she can see the person at the door and talk to them without going anywhere near the door. I’ve got a sign underneath it which simply says “If you can read this, your picture has already been taken”.

    As for the old alarm companies, I say “good riddence” – especially those that claim that they have 24 hour monitoring of noise-activated microphones around the house or business. A couple of decades or so ago a school in the area was broken into which had one of these systems, and the vandals stayed inside for more than a half-hour breaking everything within reach without the alarm company taking any notice. I guess they were activating microphones remotely at other locations, and listening for something to gossip about.