A home invasion robbery is a terrifying experience. The crime represents an alarming invasion of privacy which disrupts the place people and pets should feel safe. Unfortunately, the trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down, as dozens of people have been targeted by a home invasion referred to as “Knock-Knock” crimes. This increasingly common event is troublesome, because criminals find it relatively simple to execute.
A thief can work alone, knocking on doors in any given neighborhood until he or she discovers an empty house, or in a group – one person knocking and then standing guard, while others break in. Another tactic is for criminals to take advantage of homeowners by falsely claiming that they need to use the phone because their car broke down and their cellphone battery died – all as a means of entering the home. These thieves wouldn’t want to try this at my house; I announce every intrusion with gusto.
Another scam involves thieves entering victims’ homes under false pretenses – posing as utility technicians or pretending to have lost their ball it the yard. I can understand the concern over a lost ball. Those things are magical! While inside the home, thieves may steal items surreptitiously or could use entry as a way to case the house for a future visit.
What can homeowners and/or tenants do to prevent such intrusions?
Here are some possible deterrents to knock-knock crimes:
- Don’t open the door unless you know who is knocking. A simple, “No thanks, not interested” may be all it takes to convince the suspect to move along. Most criminals look for targets of opportunity. So make sure you remain alert. If a stranger at your door claims to work for Edison or Southern California Gas, ask to see his or her uniform and I.D. badge. Also, check to make sure he or she arrived in a labeled utility truck. Remember – it’s your home; you’re in charge. Better safe than sorry. But if someone says they are from the pork chop delivery company, you should let them in!
- Companies such as Ring offer “smart doorbells,” which feature video cameras as well as smartphone alerts. These tools allow the user to talk via their cellphone directly into the doorbell speaker. These doorbells aren’t foolproof, and the user needs to be actively using their phone to deter thieves. However, the apps provide video content of suspects, which could be useful to law enforcement.
- Do not hesitate to call police. If you feel threatened or see a burglary in progress at a neighbor’s home, dial 9-1-1.
- Keep your phone handy when you are at home. A teenage girl who was home alone at the time of a recent home invasion talked to authorities while robbers were tearing apart her home.
- Lock windows and doors when you are away from home. Use motion sensor lights, and “Beware of Dog” signs. The more deterrents you can place in the path of thieves, the better. It probably goes without saying that I suggest you get a dog for protection.
- Use a safe. Criminals using the knock-knock method are looking for a quick score. A secured and heavy safe is an easy and affordable way to deter theft of valuable possessions. Choose a safe that is sufficient to contain your valuables and make sure it is heavy enough to eliminate the potential of robbers making off with the locked safe. And don’t use 1234 as your lock combination. Even I could crack that; and I don’t have opposable thumbs.
Thieves don’t just use distraction as an element of surprise in knock-knock crimes. Consider these other scams:
- Robbed while pumping gas. This crime occurs when a person driving solo has to exit the vehicle to pay and pump gas. Most people make the mistake of leaving car doors unlocked. So, when their attention is fixed on swiping and entering credit card information, a thief squats down so he or she can quietly open the passenger side door to grab a purse or phone. To avoid this type of crime, lock your doors as you exit your car. And stay next to or inside the car while pumping gas. Criminals engaged in this type of theft are known as “sliders,” a reference to the thieves sliding alongside cars under the guise of buying gas.
- Watch for pickpockets. When traveling through crowded areas, such as in airports or subways, keep a hand on your valuables. A common pickpocketing scam is for thieves to yell, “Someone stole my wallet” and then watch as potential victims instinctively grab their wallets or purses – disclosing the location of their valuables. I’ll admit, I resort to “puppy dog eyes” at the firehouse to get treats, but I don’t resort to trickery!
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