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It takes work to be SAFE AND SOUND

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Good lighting is one of the best ways to discourage burglars and home invaders.  CONTRIBUTED PHOTOThe unspoken fear of home invasion has come to the front lately, partly because of a story in the March 20 Post about two families whose homes were invaded by the same suspect — on the same night.

Those incidents happened six months ago, but the memories and fear that linger are as real today as they were Sept. 8, 2012. The fear is real for two Welches families — especially for the teenage girl who awakened to see a man standing in her bedroom, and especially for the man who was stabbed three times, severing an artery and injuring a kidney.

Those two invasions weren’t the only ones in Welches that night, and they weren’t the only invasions in the metro area. Many have occurred since the sanctity of the east county community was violated.

Prevention

Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts gave distinguished service awards to the three victims, who showed bravery that night in the face of personal harm. They fought back and saved themselves from worse consequences.

But anyone would prefer to avoid the confrontation, and Roberts would prefer there were no victims put in harm’s way.

Offering ideas on how to prevent home invasions and burglary is Clackamas County Sheriff’s Community Service Officer Sara McClurg.

To prevent criminals from invading a home or outbuildings, the owner must think like a criminal and decide what would discourage the lawbreaker from attempting to steal.

“Criminals don’t want to be seen,” McClurg said, “so having motion-sensor exterior lights is a good tool.”

Door locks are a very important deterrent to crime, McClurg said. Deadbolts need to have at least 1.5 inches of bolt entering the door jamb, and the strike plate should be fastened with screws 3 inches long.

“The most vulnerable door,” she said, “is a door that can be kicked in. But if you have those long screws and long bolt, it makes it very tough to kick it in.”

All exterior doors should be solid core or made of steel, she suggested, and don’t forget the interior garage door that leads directly into the home.

Criminals know that if they gain entry to a garage they will have an easy time getting into the home — and out of sight inside the garage.

“Garages are not that tough to break into,” McClurg said. “If there’s a window, they’ll break it.”

When the weather warms up, McClurg says to be wary of leaving windows open at night. If they must be left open, she said it is best to block them so they can be opened only a few inches.

Alarm systems are great, she said, but there always is the chance of accidentally tripping the alarm and causing unnecessary work for the alarm company and police or sheriff’s deputies.

Any family with a dog has a built-in burglar deterrent, as long as the dog is protective in nature. In one of the two Welches invasions, the dog was present during the time the suspect was fighting with the victim, but the dog didn’t bark or do anything because of its older age and loving personality.

Home invaders and burglars often will stay away from homes with dogs, especially if there is barking. She said some people often leave a large dog bowl and dog toys in a visible place on the porch — even if they don’t have a dog.

Neighborhood Watch groups or at least agreements between neighbors to watch one another’s home can be the key to catching burglars in the act.

“If you know something about your neighbors’ schedules and their comings and goings,” McClurg said, “you can really make a difference watching out for one another.”

Criminals have seemingly legitimate ways of determining if anyone is at home, she said. They might be holding a clipboard or be wearing what looks like a work uniform, and they will knock incessantly to determine if anyone is at home.

If that happens, it would be time for a neighbor to approach the person and ask what he or she is doing. If such people are not legitimate, they likely will make an excuse and then leave.

Defense

Another tip many don’t think of is a car alarm. At the first notice of anyone attempting to break in, residents simply push the panic button on their vehicle’s key. The vehicle’s horn will sound for 30 seconds each time the button is pushed, sending the burglar running.

McClurg suggested keeping that key in an accessible place near the bed and an extra key with button on another floor or in the opposite end of a single-story home.

“That can be a deterrent, too,” she said, “because criminals don’t want to be discovered.”

Should a home invader gain entry, McClurg suggests using wasp spray instead of mace or riot gas as a defensive tool to incapacitate an invader.

“Wasp spray shoots very accurately for 20 or 30 feet,” she said, “and you don’t run the risk of having the weapon used on you. Wasp spray in the eyes will pretty much put a criminal on the floor right away, and they’ll have to seek medical attention.”

Using mace isn’t a good idea, McClurg said, because it must be used at close range, which means there is the risk of having it used against the homeowner.

Some of the recent home invasions appeared to start out as a product salesperson offering a sale at a doorstep. But as soon as the homeowner opened the door, the “salesperson” and any partners in crime forced their way into the home and began to burglarize it.

“The scary thing about this is: What if you’ve got a 12-year-old daughter you’ve told once she comes home from school she is not to open the front door under any circumstances. Then, all of a sudden, (the burglar) is inside the house with a kid.”

McClurg advises parents to tell their young children not to open the door when they are alone, “but make it clear somebody is there.”

“Make noise,” she said, “or turn the TV volume higher.

“Don’t make it clear that it is just a kid there, but make it clear that somebody is at home by making loud noise.”

The idea is that burglars do not want to be seen, and aren’t likely to break in when someone is there.

If someone breaks in while the homeowner is present, McClurg says, “run!”

First run to safety, and then call 9-1-1. She suggests adhering to the motto “Run, Hide, Fight.”

“The fastest way to get to safety is to run as fast as possible to a place known to be safe,” she said. “That’s the best defense if the criminal is likely to do you harm.”

If running is absolutely not an option, the next best defense is to hide.

The absolute last resort, she said, is to fight. But she added, “Do it with conviction, and show no mercy. You might be in the fight for your life.”




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