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  • A basement doorway with a single-pane glass window is an easy entry point for would-be burglars, according to Corporal James Shiloh of Anne Arundel County Police.
    Dylan Roche
    A basement doorway with a single-pane glass window is an easy entry point for would-be burglars, according to Corporal James Shiloh of Anne Arundel County Police.

How Would You Break In?

Dylan Roche
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August 22, 2017
AACPD’s Home Security Survey Gives Citizens Insight On How To Target Harden Their Homes Against Burglary
 
No city or town, not even Pasadena, is invulnerable to crime.
 
“I don’t think it’s as bad as some areas,” said Kathy Bearden, a Pasadena resident who has served for 20 years on the Police-Community Relations Committee (PCRC) for Anne Arundel County’s Eastern District. “The neighborhood I’m in, Hickory Point, everybody watches out for one another.”
 
Still, even safe communities should be aware that crime does happen. “Burglary and crime are in all communities, no matter how small,” said Debbie Fickert, president of the PCRC. “It would be unrealistic to say it doesn’t happen anywhere.”
 
One of the primary concerns the PCRC tries to address is that police cannot be everywhere at all times, but there are precautions that citizens can take to protect themselves and their property.
 
According to Corporal Jim Shiloh of the Anne Arundel County Police Department, the practice of these precautions is called target hardening. “We want to target harden our homes and really push anyone who wants to do a burglary to our neighbor,” he said. “It sounds harsh, but really, the ultimate goal is … everyone target hardens their home and we push the burglars out of our community. That’s really what we’re looking to do.”
 
To help citizens harden their homes against burglary, AACPD offers a home security survey, a program that has been available for at least 10 years. Shiloh or another office will walk a homeowner or tenant through a list of important points to assess how safe that house or apartment is against break-ins, theft, invasion or other crime.
 
To get a better understanding of how to target harden a home, the Voice joined Shiloh for a home security survey of a single-family home in a residential neighborhood secluded off the main roads in central Anne Arundel County. During the same week as the survey, Pasadena had seen about 15 counts of theft, according to SpotCrime (www.spotcrime.com), an online resource that reports data from police agencies and other validated sources, and which Shiloh described as “pretty accurate and up to date.” More than three-quarters of the thefts had happened at properties on or near a main road, such as Ritchie Highway or Route 100.
 
In a secluded neighborhood, such as the one Shiloh assessed on Thursday, July 28, a burglary is more likely to be a crime of opportunity. “What you’d find back here — and it sounds bad, and it’s not the true tale for everything — but a lot of times, you’re going to have a construction crew back here, and someone might say, ‘Oh, that looks kind of nice, looks like they’re on vacation,’” Shiloh gave as an example.
 
The first thing Shiloh looked at was landscaping, particularly the bushes and other high foliage. “We want to keep things low to the ground so there are no hiding places for people,” he said. People can still make their yards look attractive by planting flowers and low plants while avoiding anything that somebody could hide behind while trying to open up a window.
 
Shiloh also recommended that lights be installed outside to illuminate the yard at night. Lights can be put on motion sensors, and solar-powered lights are an option for people trying to save electricity.
 
When he looked at the each of the house’s doors and windows, Shiloh did so with a critical eye, considering how he would break into the house if he were a burglar. “I don’t hear a whole lot about people picking locks nowadays,” he said. “They’re going to break in somehow, or if the doors are left unlocked, they’re going to walk in.”
 
The front door’s deadbolt lock was held in the frame with screws that were only a quarter-inch long. “That’s all that’s holding this door closed,” Shiloh said. “It would take absolutely nothing to push this door in.” He said locks should be installed with screws that are at least 3 inches; otherwise, the door can be knocked in by throwing enough weight against it.
 
Although the door would have been easy enough to bust open, the house’s casement windows, in which the pane is hinged on the side and swings open by means of a crank handle, would have been difficult to pry. This is in contrast to more common double-hung windows with a throw latch, which pop right out.
 
When he saw the back door was all glass, Shiloh recommended a security glazing to reinforce the glass and make it more difficult to break. “The security glazing makes it so that if they want to take one of these rocks here in the garden and throw it through the door, … the glass might shatter, but it won’t fall apart,” he said. “You want to do anything you can do to make it more difficult for them.”
 
The basement door, however, was the easiest target and, according to Shiloh, where he would break in if he were going to do it. Blocked from view at the bottom of a stairwell, the door had no deadbolt lock and a single-pane glass window. “Down here, you’re out of sight and sound isn’t going to travel too far,” Shiloh said. “I could put a towel up against this single-pane glass and just break it, push everything in, and I’m inside.”
 
In addition to safeguarding their homes, people should take care that their car doors are locked. “With the heroin epidemic, there are crews of people who come into a neighborhood, and they’ll drop them off to check in cars to see whether they’re open,” Shiloh said. “They’re not looking for stuff that’s going to be hard to pawn. They’re looking for cash or excess change in the ashtray, anything like that. … If it’s valuable, lock it in the trunk or take it with you.”
 
Residents who want to have a home security survey and learn how to make their home safer can contact Shiloh directly at jshiloh@aacounty.org or his side partner, Corporal Megan Ott, at mott@aacounty.org. Surveys can also be coordinated by phone at 410-222-2446.
 
The overarching message that both Shiloh and the PCRC hope people hear is that they need to be smart and be safe. “People still need to take responsibility to make sure their homes and vehicles are locked up when they come and go,” Fickert emphasized. “There’s no perfect community.”

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