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Securing Your Home to Minimize Tricks This Halloween

It's that exciting time of year when not only the neighbor's kids come knocking on the door in their adorable costumes, but also people you've never seen before showing up in droves on your front step with adults you've never seen before, who don't even live in your neighborhood (because yours has the "good candy"), and even much older kids showing up who you've never seen before - some in costume and some not - all peeking into your home on a dark night as you open up the door to voluntarily and happily give out treats.

If you've passed out treats you've probably seen a few strange things, and we're not talking about just costumes (or lack thereof.) We're talking about the adults with the kids you've never seen before and how that one guy (is he the dad, you wonder) who keeps looking around at all the windows, in the trees, at the roof, and practically does a 360 degree observation while the kids he brought or is tagging along with (you think he is, anyway) steal your attention away with their adorableness. Or, the group of teenagers you've never seen before who start scoping out your car in the driveway as they very slowly make their way back down to the street? We don't want to be suspicious on Halloween. We want to be festive and fun. We want to ooooh and awwww and we love the polite kids who actually say "Trick or Treat" and also say "Thank you!" So, maybe we overlook the few unusual suspects. But over the next couple weeks it does seem odd that home invasions went up, doesn't it? It is strange, or is it, that a few cars were broken into down the street right after Halloween. And, your poor neighbor whose house was not only Hopefully, after reading this you will never shrug these oddities off as mere coincidences.

And then, there's the stories we have all heard before about dogs and cats going missing on Halloween. We recall one particular story from a neighbor with an adorable one-eyed dog she walked faithfully down the street each night. Turns out their cute little fluff-ball was stolen on Halloween night years ago when they were out treating, and miraculously returned in the wee hours of the morning with one eyeball literally hanging out of the socket and with white fur stained with blood. Somehow that dog found its way home after a very frightful night. That dog was a lucky one. Sometimes the stories we hear about Halloween night are not urban myths. For some people, Halloween has a whole other meaning and it has nothing to do with dressing up as Thomas the Tank Engine.

It's unfortunate that on a holiday that is supposed to be fun that we must take additional safety precautions because of the small percentage of those who would rather do more real tricking than treating. We've prepared the following simple checklist for all homeowners to consider to help ensure that your Halloween has far more treats than tricks.

Top 10 Security Tips to Enjoy More Treats and Minimize Tricks

10. If possible, park all your vehicles inside your garage with the interior garage lights off.

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9. Have motion detectors linked to flood/security lights? Test them out and make sure the motion sensors are aimed right where people would likely walk up, such as the driveway, the walk up to your door, and the path leading to your back or side yard gate. Make sure they come on during Trick or Treating time to send a message that your security is active and on.

Photo: No dark corners at this house!

8. Look adults and teenagers in the eye when they come to your door, and if you have no clue who they are then ask "I have never seen you before. Where do you live in the neighborhood?" This will let strangers know you are watchful. Someone who truly lives in your neighborhood will understand and won't be offended or defensive. If you see them scoping the place out while the kids are at the door don't hesitate to say something like, "Are the decorations falling down over there? I see you are checking things out." This, too, will let them know you've taken notice and are not distracted. It's not being rude it's being observant. Unless someone is truly admiring your yardwork or your house and compliments you on it, doing a scan of your property is not normal behavior. Also, if you don't know who just came up then after you've handed out the candy stay at the door as people walk away and wait til they are off the property before going back inside.

Paddington Bear's Hard Stare

7. Post well-lit, visible signs in the windows close to your front door or right at your front door that let visitors know that your house is under surveillance and trespassers will be prosecuted. Some signs are also in two languages for those who live in an area where for many English is a second language.

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6. If you have cameras installed, make sure they are working and that the infrared is on. Test them out for visibility. If you have DIY installed cameras remember that if they are near a bright light source that the light will often drown out the image captured so test, view, and adjust as necessary. If you don't have cameras yet and are in a pinch before having us come out and install them, you can buy inexpensive dummy cameras at some stores. Simply mount the camera in the corner above the front door aimed directly at the walk-up and high enough away that it can not be manipulated. Make sure the batteries for any camera lights are working. And, of course, make sure your "this property is being monitored" sign is clearly visible.

5. If you go out treating with your children, lock down your home as you would when you go on vacation, set the alarm, close the blinds, and bring the dog in. If your dog barks when people come up to the door, even better. Let your dog bark away. Don't have a dog? Purchase dog barking audio and play it on a loop. It is Halloween, after all!

4. Deploy old fashioned neighborhood watch! Talk to your neighbors and discuss being observant about visitors to your neighborhood. Make a pact with your neighbors that you will observe and share any strange activity.

3. See someone suspicious and you have a "bad feeling" but don't want to wrongly accuse anyone of anything? Give yourself 10 seconds to study that person. Make mental note of how they dress, how they look, their facial features, the behaviors they are demonstrating that are strange, their height in relation to a landmark such as a doorway, the vehicle they are driving, etc. Make a checklist in your mind of these details so that when and if there is a break-in or vandalism, you can report the suspicious activity you witnessed.

2. We know you are probably tired after a long night of thrilling activities, but stay up and observe who is coming to your home even after the lights are off and the neighborhood is quiet. After about 9pm or 10pm kids really should not be out trick-or-treating, and neither should their parents. Can't seem to stay awake? Leave a few interior lights on that you don't normally leave on to make it appear you are still up.

1. Review safety rules with your children, even if they roll their eyes at you! Young children should be with their parents or at least one adult trusted guardian. Pre-teens and teenagers may be going out alone and with friends. Be the parent who wants to know who they are with, have them over before they go out, note their costumes, review the buddy rule, discuss and review Colonel Cooper's "color codes of awareness", remind them to not take short cuts through anyone's yard or the woods, go over the areas of the neighborhood you are ok with them treating in, set the ground rules about taking rides and parties, have and enforce a curfew with consequences (get old school! They probably won't want to lose their phone for a month, or the keys to the car for breaking the ground rules, would they?), and remind them of their manners so that your kids don't become the "suspicious and obnoxious ones."

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Parents often lament together about how things are very different from when they were kids, and in many ways they are. Technology has enabled both well intentioned and not well intentioned ideas and peer pressure to travel at a rate that was not possible in the 70's, 80's and even the 90's. People you will never meet and will never know about may have more access to today's children sometimes than their own parents do. With sharing of information at an all time high in terms of amount and speed, word can travel fast about who is home and who is not. Photos snapped and shared in an instant create new issues for the unsuspecting. There is no reason for anyone to be taking photos in front of your house unless they are connected to your family and have a legitimate reason for doing so. Watch out for adults and teens you do not know who want to pose together right in front of your home, especially if your home is not a prime decorated Halloween attraction. While it's impossible to intercept all potential suspicious activity, if you are vigilant, ask questions, demonstrate keen observation, and take certain precautions like those we've outlined above, your Halloween this year and for years to come will hopefully be filled with far more treats while minimizing tricks. And, in an increasingly tech world, utilize technology to your own safety advantage as well.

If you'd like GenX Security to come to your residence or commercial property to give an assessment of how to enhance your security, particularly during the Holiday season when traveling and consumer activity is at the peak for the year, give us call or fill out our inquiry form on our home page.

Stay safe and we wish you a spooktacular Halloween!


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