Nobody knows the exact nature or frequency of your average home invasion. No surprise there. Home invasion isn’t even a crime per se; they’re recorded as burglary, robbery, breaking and entering, assault, possession of a deadly weapon, etc. There’s no federal, state or local agency specifically dedicated to collecting or analyzing home invasion data. No hard facts upon which to base a home defense. That said, the police who deal with home invasions have seen enough of them to draw some general conclusions. pennlive.com gives us some 411 on the 911 in The Keystone State . . .

Home invasions are a regular occurrence in central Pennsylvania . . . But several midstate police officers said home invasions are not on the rise.

“The chances of an average, law-abiding citizen being the victim of home-invasion robbery are low,” Dauphin County District Attorney Edward M. Marsico Jr. said. “With that said, there are plenty of home burglaries.”

Home invasions aren’t crimes of opportunity, Lt. Robert Fegan of the Harrisburg police said.

“They’re targeted by the robbers, knowing or believing that they have money or drugs,” Fegan said.

And how, pray tell, did the home invader know that his target had money or drugs? What do YOU think?

“It’s really difficult for law enforcement to talk about the problem because we’re going to offend someone,” [Lower Paxton Township Lt. Gary R.] Seefeldt said. “It’s possible for an innocent victim to be a victim, but it’s not likely.”

Marsico said, “Most of these crimes, the homes that are invaded are homes of people involved in some type of illicit activity, usually drug dealing. Not all of them. Some were purely innocent.”

You see? That’s where we need some stats. Assuming (as we must) that TTAG readers are law-abiding citizens, it would be really helpful to know what percent of home invaders hit people who weren’t involved with drug dealing, loan sharking or divorce attorneying.

Even better, everything else: the typical invader or invaders’ age, criminal history and weapon or weapons possessed; the time of day, most likely entry point, length of invasion, violence inflicted (if any), etc.

In the absence of reliable info, we get this . . .

Sometimes, criminals in home invasions know victims are in the homes, but other times they’re caught by surprise, said Dick Hammon, superintendent of the Silver Spring Township police. They often turn violent, he said.

Hammon disagreed with other police who said they weren’t seeing an increase.

“We didn’t see these 20 years ago,” he said. “I think anybody who sits back and looks at our society sees that we’ve become very violent, not just home invasion but road rage. It just seems our society has become much more violent. I wish I knew why.”

So home invasions are either more or less frequent than some time in the past, and either more or less violent than they were before.

So, let’s have a look at the home defense advice based on this vague home invasion profile. My comments below.

* Lock your doors

Well duh. Does anyone leave their doors unlocked anymore? And if they don’t, will telling them to batten down the hatches affect any change in their security routine? I think we’re at the “buckle up” stage here; where everyone who does does, and everyone who doesn’t won’t until they have a near-miss.

* Don’t talk about the valuables you keep at home, including cash, gun collections or coin collections

Tell that to the stupid bastards who let MTV cribs video their place. But we’re not just talking about bragging to TV audiences or your best buds. For middle class white folks, pawn shops, auction houses, antique dealers, coin dealers and other so-called professionals are a genuine red alert. Do NOT give your home address to people valuing your goods unless you are 100 percent sure of their rep. And probably not even then.

* Notice who comes to the door, especially at odd hours

If someone comes to your door that you don’t know, assume they’re a threat. If it’s during the day and they look OK—postal uniform, flower delivery guy from a flower delivery van, etc.—the chances are they are OK. Still, ask for their ID through a locked door [see: below].

If the stranger says he doesn’t have ID, tell them that’s fine. Do you mind coming back later?

Now’s the time to notice them: age, sex, height, weight, clothes, hair, etc. If they persist, tell them to hang on a moment: you need to find the key to the door. Call 911 and describe the person at the door.

As for firearms, we’ll get to that after this . . .

* Install a good storm door, keep it locked, and talk to strangers through the locked door, or don’t open the door to strangers

Storm door? I’m not feeling it. There are very few storm doors that can withstand a good hard shoulder assault. And none of them can beat a proper security door. So what’s the point?

If you want a screen door to let in cooling breezes, go for it. Take the risk. Just maintain situational awareness. Close your proper door when you’re not monitoring the area in front of the door, or if you see someone you don’t know approaching the house. Always talk to strangers from behind a proper barrier.

As far as a home defense gun is concerned, if you don’t have your weapon on you when you answer the door, you’re relying on a closed portal to give you enough time to get your gat if/when someone starts to tear your playhouse down. Oh, and you’ve got to call 911 at the same time. And corral the kids.

It’s possible. Quick: which one first? You tell me. Whatever you do, practice. And don’t keep your plan a secret from the people inside the house. Assign them tasks. You call 911, you go into the back bedroom, I’ll get my gun and stand here until the police arrive.

After you dial 911, put/throw the phone down (provided your on a land line) and shout “There’s a man trying to break into my house. My life is in danger!” The operator will trace your call. If you’re using a cell, you’ll have to give your address as well.

Get on with the business of taking your children to safety (behind you, hidden) and assume a defensive position with your gun. The cops are coming—and they’re recording the unfolding events.

A defensive position is a place where you can combine maximum cover/concealment with maximum distance (i.e. enough room to shoot). It’s best to have that figured out now. I don’t recommend leaving the house; you don’t know who else may be out there (burglars tend to work in teams of two).

Remember: if someone is being violent with your door, they will be violent with you.

Alternatively, keep your gun on you when you answer the door. (Do not brandish it preemptively.) Install a panic button next to the door. If bad shit’s going down, press the button and go.

You might want to issue a threat. “LEAVE NOW! I’VE GOT A GUN!” And then retreat to assume a defensive position. You might not. That’s a personal choice whose wisdom depends on how much time you have. Which depends on the strength of your door.

* Make your home look occupied at all times

True dat.

* If a stranger comes to the door, make it obvious you’re at home, even if you don’t answer the door. A thief is more likely to kick in the door if he thinks no one is at home

Also true. And if a burglar thinks no one is at home and breaks into your house and finds you there, he will not be pleasantly surprised. Play the game. Pretend to be stupid even as you do something smart.

* A thief wants to get in, get stuff and get out quickly. Anything you can do to slow him down, such as turning the dead bolt or locking windows, increases the chance that he’ll leave your house alone

Hang on; if you’re in the house when the perp is invading, you’ve got a lot better things to do than run around locking windows and turning deadbolts. Phone, gun, hide, defend.

[NOTE: If you don’t have a gun, or have access to your gun (d’oh!), secure any weapon you can find: knife (careful!), baseball bat, coffee mug, whatever.]

If the home invader’s a destination shopper (i.e. they know what they’re coming for), they’ll try a locked window and then break it. The breaking glass will alert neighbors and you. Or not.

Bottom line: locked windows or doors are advisable, but don’t depend on them to deter a home invader.

* Don’t let your guard down if a woman comes to the door. Women can be criminals

Don’t let your guard down, period. Just raise it higher or lower depending on your circumstances. It’s your life and the life of your loved ones. Guard yourself and them well.

* If you see someone suspicious around your house or a neighbor’s house, call 911

Try not to let the psycho-burger out of your sight (whilst staying in your house). And make sure you give the cops a proper description. At the same time, start planning your next move. Close your door. Send the kids to the safe(r) room. Get your gun. Don’t panic. Prepare.

The truth about home invasions: in the main, they can be avoided by avoiding stupid people who do stupid things. Like dealing drugs. Or fencing stolen property. Or refusing to pay off an unstable spouse.

But if you want to have a plan to deal with a home invasion, remember: do everything you can to not shoot. Try and “buy” enough time to let the police deal. Not only is that the most legally defensible scenario should you end-up discharging your gun, it’s also the best outcome for your mental, physical, financial and moral well-being.

Other than that, the best home defense plan is the one that starts long before trouble arrives, not after.

One Response to The Truth About Home Invasions

  1. Robert: Don't forget the dog. Yes, I understand a dog is not a viable option for everybody, but for a lot of us suburban dwellers, it is. And I'm not talking about a throat-ripping doberman or rottie here (which could be as much of a threat to your family as a burglar or home invader.) Any dog, even a yappy little rat dog, can be of assistance. Why? Because dogs are territorial. We have the sweetest little cattle dog in the world, a dog so shy she actually stands behind my legs when people come to visit. But she barks like a rabid pit bull when anyone comes to the door (or near the door. Or near the front yard. Or walks on the sidewalk in front of the house (we finally got her to stop barking when people drove by on the street in front of the house.) To a burglar/home invader, there's not a lot of difference between the bark of a dog that will roll over and show you her belly, and a dog that will rip his throat out, and most of them don't want to learn the hard way which is which.

    Dogs also have great hearing: Many times our dog has alerted and barked when the wife and I had no idea of what was happening outside. Sure enough, a minute or two later the doorbell rang. Our dog heard the person walking up the driveway before we did. That's several seconds of time that can be invaluable.

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