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Preventing crimes of opportunity at your home

Mold, mildew, flood water, fires and pests are the kinds of home “intruders” that we often talk about in this housing column. However, today we are discussing the more traditional intruder – burglars.

We hope you never have to experience the fear and loss of having someone uninvited come into your home. That’s why, with the help of Grays Harbor County’s new Chief Criminal Deputy, Brad Johansson, we are offering some insights into burglary prevention.

Just like the other aforementioned “intruders,” most often burglars enter homes as a crime of opportunity. The silver lining to this is that we can all do some relatively easy things to make our house less inviting to those who most certainly aren’t invited!

“Good lighting around a house is key,” said Johansson. “We especially like motion lights. When a light suddenly comes on, it can alert the people inside the house, cause the neighbors to take notice, and also can even startle the burglars because they don’t know if someone is turning on the lights,” he said.

“In addition to good lighting, any type of security system can be a good deterrent – especially one that makes loud noises – something else that burglars shy away from,” Johansson said, adding that even keeping a radio on or having a timer turn it on when you are away from the house can be a deterrent. (If you do have a loud security system, make sure to give critical turn-off information to a neighbor you trust.)

While having lights or loud noises as part of a security system can help discourage or disrupt a burglary, having cameras of some kind can actually help provide evidence to catch an intruder.

“I can’t count how many times we’ve solved crimes because we have a photo from a game camera that someone had set up,” Johansson said. “Some security systems now even will have a live feed into your home or will send a picture right to a cell phone for people to check on their house when they are away.”

With all these new security systems, Johansson said that nowadays sometimes the homeowner can give the 911 operator a play-by-play of where exactly the burglar is and what he is doing in real time.

In so many ways technology has made life easier for law enforcement and for homeowner security, but in other ways many of us need to be more careful of how we use technology – especially social media, Johansson said.

“Don’t put on Facebook or other social media sites that you are on vacation,” Johansson reminded. Most people don’t have private social media accounts and you may not want to announce to the world that your house is likely unoccupied, he said.

On the flip side, do develop a relationship with your neighbors so that you can all keep an eye on each other’s places and get to know which vehicles belong to which houses and therefore when to be suspicious if you see a vehicle lingering when your neighbor isn’t home.

If you live in unincorporated Grays Harbor County, when you go on vacation, you can let the sheriff’s office know so that their volunteers can make routine security checks. Some other cities in the county also offer this service. Check with the municipality you live in to see if this is a service they offer.


Even if someone does break in to your house, a little effort ahead of time to inventory your valuable belongings can make recovering them much more likely, Johansson said. Typically it’s electronics such as computers, phones and TVs that are taken, along with tools and jewelry.

For some people, carefully writing down and listing each item and its serial number might seem too daunting of a task, so Johansson suggested simply walking through the house with a video camera or cell phone and recording your key possessions, making sure to show any serial numbers as well as any other identifying features. (Sometimes a thief will grind the serial numbers off, but other features are enough to positively identify an item that later shows up for sale online or at a pawn shop, or just in a suspected burglar’s house.)

Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is executive director. This is a nonprofit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing for all residents of Grays Harbor County. For questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or buying, call 360-533-7828 or visit 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen. Our office is fully ADA-compliant.

Do you have questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or becoming a homeowner or one of our contractors? We have rehab loan funds at tailored rates! Call us at 533-7828, write us or visit us at 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen. Our office is ADA compliant, complete with a designated disabled parking spot, ramp and ADA compliant restroom.

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