Home Safety Tip

Home Safety Tip of the Day: Remove the key from your double cylinder deadbolt lock, even if you’re only going to be gone a few minutes.

Wife Lila and I always make it a point to remove the keys from the front and back doors if we’re going to be gone for an extended period of time, but this morning we were going to be gone only for about an hour, so we didn’t bother. She was going to pick me up at the service station where I was having my oil changed, then we were going to have breakfast. We left the house at 9:10. We returned at almost exactly 10. I went to my home office to edit some photos, and she went to the back of the house, where I heard her say, fairly calmly, “Somebody has broken the glass in the back door and it’s standing wide open.”

My underwear was untouched

She dialed the West Palm Beach Police non-emergency number while I headed to the bedroom to see if it had been hit. I could see two of her dresser drawers open and two of mine pulled out a couple of inches. She noticed two wooden jewelry boxes were missing.

Now, before you get the wrong idea, we’re not big jewelry people. I don’t even wear the 20-year watch I got from the company. Most of her jewelry consists of inexpensive things I’ve picked up on the road, like when I covered the Queen’s visit to the Bahamas, or gifts from her mother and grandmother. They are things that aren’t worth a lot of money, but are priceless in sentimental value.

The contents of my dresser drawers were untouched. I guess the perp got it open far enough to see that it was my underwear drawer and decided that there couldn’t be anything of value in there based on the condition of my underthings.

The officer arrived within about 20 minutes and was a total pleasant surprise. I figured he’d show up, get enough for a minimal report and leave. Instead, he took a lot of time surveying the house and found some footprints in the backyard, which indicated that the bad guys had jumped the fence behind our house to get out. He left to walk the neighborhood to see what else he could turn up.

Good news

He came back about 45 minutes later and said, “I have good news and I have good news,” and handed Lila this school photo locket of Matt. He said that he guessed that Bad Guy One must have handed the jewelry box to Bad Guy Two so he could jump over the fence. One of the drawers must have come open and some of the stuff had fallen out. The other piece of good news was that a neighbor saw the mopes and followed them a couple of blocks until they disappeared. When the cop walked the path, he noticed that two businesses had video cameras that could have picked up the guys walking on the street.

This evening the officer called the house to make sure everything was OK and to tell us that the first video he watched didn’t show the faces clearly enough for an ID, but it gave him a direction of travel that might have taken them past a third business with high-quality surveillance cameras that he was going to check later. He was able to determine from the video timestamp that the burglars hit our house about 15 minutes after we left this morning. We don’t know if it was a random thing or if someone saw both of our cars pull out and figured the house was empty.

So, rather than just replace the glass on the back door, we’re going to replace the whole door with one containing hurricane impact glass. It’ll not only give us storm protection, but it’ll also make anyone who wants to break in have to work hard. The salesman said you can’t smash it with one blow of a sledge hammer, it’ll take several.

And, we’ll make sure not to leave the keys in the deadbolt. They might be able to come in through a window, but they won’t be able to walk out the doors.

Must have been after gold

Either the bad guys heard us coming home and took off before we saw them or they were interested in only gold and silver jewelry. None of the electronics, computer or camera equipment was touched. After the officer gave us the OK to move stuff around, Lila found that they had dumped one of the boxes out and left some novelty holiday earrings behind, plus this set of 60’s stained glass Peace earrings.

Both the Steinhoffs and the bad guys would have come out ahead if I had just taped a 20-dollar bill on the door with a note saying, “This is more than you’ll get for fencing all the jewelry we own. Please take this and move on to the next house.”

23 Replies to “Home Safety Tip”

  1. I will be breaking in soon to steal those peace sign earrings-I’ll leave the underwear for the next guy. Glad no one was hurt and not much was stolen.

  2. Well, I would say something like, “Whatta ya expect, living in Florida,” but JD’s street in Dexter has had some burglars break in the houses, while the owners were working in their garages! Pretty darned bold! In fact, there’s been a whole rash of break ins in the area.
    I can’t imagine how your thieves could have left those 60’s earrings behind!

  3. My husband and I were burglarized in St. Louis, shortly after marrying and moving there so he could go to graduate school. What a horrible feeling! These guys did get some nice jewelry, things that my grandparents had worked hard for and had given me, again priceless in sentimental value. It really traumatized me. I was new to the midwest, and all my family was back in Virginia. But it did teach me to be cautious. And more importantly it taught me that the important things, like your family, your memories, and who you are, cannot be stolen. And they are worth more than anything.

  4. I’m glad you got off so lightly. But it still has to creep you out that strangers had the nerve to enter your ‘castle” and search for booty. I know the feeling.
    I had two breakins. After the first, a neighbor-cop told me to get better locks, but not to spend too much money because if they can’t get through the doors, they’ll find other ways.
    Sure enough, a few months later, they broke a window, WHILE I WAS HOME sleeping, and tried to steal a TV. My cats woke me and the noise of me getting up scared them off before they got it.

  5. Ken-Sorry for your losses. Fortunately they are just things and you will still have the memories. Of more concern to me, is your use of double keyed dead bolt locks. These locks are dangerous and will not pass a new home or reoccupancy inspection in our fire district. The absence of a key in the lock during a fire or heavy smoke could be fatal. They have been replaced by the standard snap locks.
    I am not trying to scare you but if you are changing things on the door, you might consider the locks.

    1. Bill, I’m probably more safety conscious than the average guy and one of my specialties was writing disaster and contingency plans.

      My kids learned at an early age that the first thing you do when you walk into a room is to locate a second exit, and I still quiz them about it even though they are in their 30s. If I’m in a hotel above the first floor, as soon as I check in, I stick my head out the door and count the number of doors I’d have to pass to get to an exit in both directions. On a plane, I count the number of rows I’d have to climb over to get to two exits, and I try to sit in an exit row when possible. And, even though I could recite the safety spiel from memory, I always scan the safety placard in the seatback in front of me.

      I’m not concerned about the deadbolts because there will always be a key in the lock when the building is occupied. If a key isn’t IN the lock, then there is always one within easy reach of the door, but out of sight.

      In addition, we’re a one-story house and every room has from two to four windows. Given a bit of incentive (like smoke and flames), egress would be made, even if it meant heaving a chair through the window.

      Thanks for the concern, though. It’s worth thinking about.

  6. Years ago in the middle of the night, I suddenly woke up out of a sound sleep, wide awake. I didn’t hear a noise but I felt something was amiss. I started to get out of bed to look around but then I felt Holy Spirit was saying to lay back down,pretend to sleep and pray. (Boy, did I pray!) I began to pray for protection and that if there was someone in the house that they would become fearful and leave. After awhile, the fearful feeling left, peace came ,and I returned to sleep. When I got up the next morning the garage door and the door into the house were standing wide open.(I never fail to check both before retiring) The door into the house had been tampered with,but nothing was stolen.I hate to think what might have happened if I had gotten up to look! Grateful!!!

  7. sorry about your break in. a good friend of mine,his grandmother used t say don’t cry over anything that can’t cry for you. i had my house broken into. i had in my house less than a year.came home one night and walked in on a guy with a ski mask and large craftsman screw driver.that remember! god protects the drunkards and the fools..cuz i was buzzed..told him to get out and he did.now after an alarm system was installed..if a mosquito farts in my backyard 6 spot lights come on.the kicker is st.louis banned two key deadbolts. the reason is someone could be trapped inside the house during a fire. well home depot and lowes still sells 2 key deadbolts and they are on all my outside doors.it’s the feeling of being violated that is difficult to recoop from.

  8. I know how you feel. We were burgled twice. Once they took tvs, my husband’s wedding ring (he only wore it to church and when we went out because of work safety issues), silver dollars his grandfather had given him every year for his birthday since he was born, wedding silver tea/coffee set, and just made a mess. The second time, we had been to Cape for Christmas and when we came back, the tv, microwave, cordless telephone, daughter’s jewelry box, vcr, and again made a mess. I think the meanest thing was the cops thought it was the kids next door who were always in trouble, but there was nothing they could do about it.

  9. Laurie- I’ll make sure those earrings are yours when I go toes-up. You, of all people, would love them as much as I do.

    Except for what I wear daily, those earrings are the only jewelry I have left, and the one pair I would have chosen had I been faced with a ‘you can have only one’ scenario. They have been my favorites for 40 years.

    Those two young men are going to be so disappointed. I had so few things that were of any monetary value, if they melted down everything in that box, including the hinges, they couldn’t get ten bucks for it. Most of it was 63 years worth of memories and sentimental ties to my children, mother, grandmother, various friends, etc.

    The best outcome of this is that something in my box of memories will touch whatever empathy is buried in the thieves and cause them to realize that they are stealing precious pieces of people’s lives, not just things. I won’t hold my breath, but there is no harm in hoping.

  10. when ADT came to talk with me about an alarm system.the salesman was sitting at my diningroom table all business like. he asked me just what type of security system would i like..i thought for a minute and said…i would like that when the system was activate it would vaporize thebad guys and all i would have to is have the carpet cleaned..LOL the look on this guys face was priceless.he laid down his ink pen and said what would i be happy below defcon 1? we both laughed which had been the first time i could do that since the break in happened..i told what could get and be legal?

    1. After both of my break-ins, both the town cops and a neighbor who’s a county deputy told me I should get a gun and that if I managed to shoot one of the thieves it would save them some paperwork.

      I never got a gun, but I keep a heavy hatchet handy.

  11. after moving to phoenix 25 yrs ago, hadn’t been in the house more than 6 mos. we were broken into. my husband was in san fran, and it took me 2 days to notice my car was missing, and no i wasn’t drunk or high or any of the usual stuff, i was just driving the other car and never opened the garage, the cops thought i was a bit “off”. they had also taken my wedding rings and some other stuff, when i worked i didn’t wear any jewelry, so didn’t notice that either. insurance comes in handy.

    1. When I worked in Gastonia, NC, I carried a .25 automatic at the urging of an old-timer who worked at the paper: “Kid, if you don’t want to end up as a couple of paragraphs in the obit section of Editor & Publisher, you better get a gun. A small gun in your pocket is better than a cannon in the trunk.”

      After I got to “civilized” Florida, I quit carrying, but kept it in a pouch in my glove box. It was legal in FL if it took two motions to fire. I figured I was OK if I kept the magazine in the pouch, but not in the gun.

      My car was always locked when I wasn’t in it. I needed an oil change in Cape, so I took it to a quickie place. A month or so later, I needed something out of the glove box and moved the gun pouch. It felt suspiciously light. The gun and one mag was missing. They guy thought, correctly, that it wouldn’t be missed if he took the gun and left the pouch.

      I can’t prove it happened in Cape, but that’s my bet.

      We also had someone steal some photo lenses from the office. The swiped the glass, but left the cases, so the theft was noticed until someone went to grab a lens for a shoot.

      Based on that, I can see how you could overlook a theft.

  12. I hate this. I’ll loan you Tiki. Nobody risks getting past the “bad dog” sign. They only go after our cars out in the driveway. And once, they swiped a bike out of our open garage. My ex-cop bro-in-law swears dogs beat any electronic system going.

    1. It’s cheaper to feed a burglar every 15 or 20 years than to feed the size of dogs you own.

      Maybe I’ll slobber on a few windows, get a BAD DOG sign and fix a motion detector to play barking sounds.

    2. If you have a dog, you still need to hide valuables. Someone broke into a neighbor’s house, the dog started barking and they fled, but they still had time to grab the woman’s purse off the kitchen table.

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