Author Topic: Feeling safe in my new house (partly practical, partly psychological)  (Read 4739 times)

shelivesthedream

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We've moved to a new house in a big city in an area that's known for its crime: partly gang violence which I'm not worried about and partly petty burglary and similar crimes motivated by drugs, which is what concerns me. It's a two up, two down (semi-detached with a side gate leading into the garden from the front path) on a residential street near a tube station and near a high street. We've met our neighbours on one side and on the other is a community building. We've been here a month and I just cannot calm down from being on high alert mode all the time in case someone is trying to break in. Literally every noise I hear freaks me out. I work from home a lot of the time but even when I go out I worry about not having locked the doors. I figured I'd calm down once the noises got less strange but I'm still constantly tense. We moved from a small secure apartment building with code locks on the main door  as well as key locks on our own front door and a big sense of community (we knew everyone's face who lived in the building).

Literally the only thing we own that someone might want to steal is our laptop and maybe our passports and wallets. We don't have valuable jewellery, we don't keep a lot of cash in the house. Our phones are old enough to be in the 'not worth stealing' category, we don't even have a TV. I don't know why I am so anxious about someone breaking in but I wake up worried someone might come in with a knife.

I think one part of it is that the house is so big I feel like I'm not aware of what's happening downstairs when I'm in bed. In our old flat I'd have the odd worry but no one could have done anything in the main room without us being able to hear everything. But they could get in downstairs without us having a clue.

So... Clearly I am excessively anxious about this. Can anyone recommend either practical things to make my home less attractive to burglars or psychological things to make me feel more confident "ownership" and control over our new place?

Joeko

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I'd recommend:

- Get a Dog
- Alarm System
- Make sure the outside of your home is well lit


Generally speaking, thieves want to rob a house that will give them minimal hassles.  If they know there is a dog and alarm system, they pick a less secure home.

Dee18

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Motion sensor lights for the exterior are great and inexpensive if you already have the electrical wiring for some kind of light.  Identify what you think a potential problem is.  Window access? You can get inexpensive hardware so window can only be opened a few inches, or none at all.  You may want a lock on the gate.  A police officer once told me you just want your place to be less attractive to rob than the others nearby.  When I was a young traveler I learned to make a "burglar alarm" in a cheap hotel room by stacking three coke bottles in a pyramid just inside the door.  They make quite a noise if someone opens the door.  That might help you worry less about not hearing a burglar.  It is interesting how psychology fits in.  I always feel safer when I sleep on a second floor. 

Aggie1999

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I know your situation. A year or so after moving to Houston my house was broken into. Could TV's and a laptop stole.

First, get a cheap alarm system that centrally monitored. Usually the discount on you home owners insurance mostly covers the monthly charge. Stay away from ADT and other high price companies that lock you in a contact. I personally use Simpli Safe.

Second, buy one of those IP wireless cameras and mount it on your porch. Then get a sign that says, "Smile, your on camera". I'd guess most burglars knock on your door first to see if anyone is home. Camera will dissuade most. Few cameras inside some hurt either so when your alarm falsely goes off (it will) you can check the cameras before the company calls the police. Also, make sure you registered the alarm system with the sheriff's department or similar. That gives you a few free police responses per year for false alerts. Otherwise the police will ding you $75 or more per false alerts.

Finally, put a lock on your gate. Preferably one on the inside. Low lifes that broke in my house did it in the backyard or if sight. I didn't have my gate locked.

Lepetitange3

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My husband is in law enforcement.  Even if you don't want to have an alarm system of you just have a sign in your yard that SAYS you have one, regardless of whether or not you do, will make your home something more intruders will automatically bypass.  He frequently recommends to people who cannot afford or do not want monitored systems to simply go get the signage.

  There are also a lot of security cameras now a days that you can connect to wi-FI and view from your phone anytime anywhere.  Place one in downstairs maybe facing front door (depending on your home layout).  Now you can see the entryway and hopefully also the downstairs.  You can know from a psychological and practical standpoint, hey I hear a weird noise, let's pop open the app, great nothing there or great the cat just did something silly so on and so forth.  Even if you find yourself never actually checking it, it will be $$ well spent because you have peace of mind KNOWING you can always check if you want to.  Some of these cameras also come with high decimal alarms built in that can be set to go off if they register motion if you're out or upstairs. 

SilveradoBojangles

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Where you live sounds like where I just moved from, which was a transitioning neighborhood that had some gang related violence (targeted- I wasn't worried about this), as well as property crime related to the drug trade (I was more worried about this). We lived there for 8 years, and we were just marveling that our house was never broken into, except bikes were stolen once from the garage. I also was generally on high alert, but I really came to enjoy the neighborhood. Here were my strategies which I think helped (we also had nothing worth taking except laptops and bikes, so an alarm system seemed like overkill).
- I worked from home, and I made it look like someone was home. This included a car in the drive way, laundry on the line, me out in the front yard working, etc.
- We had those awful looking but useful metal security doors - this way I could have the front door open but the metal screen door locked and bolted - makes it look like someone is home.
- We installed motion detector lights front and back, and had the porch light on all night.
- I never left our doors unlocked for the car or the house. Even if I was just running in for a second, the doors were always locked.
- We didn't leave anything of value out or in our cars.
- We knew the neighbors, who helped keep an eye on things. Not just the ones on either side, but behind us and down the block. Be chatty!
- We didn't do this, but you might consider a service like Ring, which allows you to see and converse with anyone who comes to your door via your phone.

I think you will be fine, and it's weird to say this, but you will get used to your location. But being as proactive as you can will make you feel much more in control of your situation.

Letj

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This is a very typical feeling when you live in an economically diverse city, at least in most US cities. Many poor people live in cities in the US and some make their living off the drug trade. In general, you don't need to worry if you're not part of that world; random crimes do occur but it is the exception. That doesn't mean that you don't have a real risk of being a crime victim. That's why you have to know how to live in cities - mind your business; be careful who you befriend; keep house secured and pay close attention and report suspicious or illegal activities to the police (in the US we call 911) but don't let the perps know that you're on to them. With all that said, the odds are that you will be just fine. I live in a crime ridden city, a block or two from mayhem. I don't know how it is in the UK but in the US, one block can make a big difference. You can cross one block and be in a very expensive zipcode. It's just the reality of living in American cities.

TaraB

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I send you peaceful vibes.

I had a situation a year ago and I upgraded my home security. I have Arlo cameras at my front and back doors, and I can check the video on my iPhone. The other night the doorbell rang and I was already in bed and I could see it was a stranger from my phone without getting out of bed! You could install these with a single screw. You can also buy decoy cameras, I have a few of those too.

I keep a fan running for white noise so that every creak doesn't bother me.

Best of luck!

Cranky

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I've never lived in a really fabulous neighborhood, and I've never much worried about crime. I know more people in the expensive neighborhoods who have had their houses broken into than people in my neighborhood who have, because there's just so much better stuff to steal in the nicer neighborhoods.

But last week, somebody tried to break into my next door neighbor's house, during the day, while she was home. She came downstairs to tell the dog to shut up, and the guy was trying to get in the locked sliding glass door, and when he saw her he ran off. I'm pretty sure that it was just somebody who thought he could pop in and look around for some drug money, and he had no idea anyone was home, but we're all pretty freaked out about it.

The heroin/opioid problems are just so big here right now. I've heard of a lot more robberies lately.

We're just being more careful about locking up. We've got a camera on the back porch, and I'm going to put one on the front. I've got lots of motion lights outside already.

Aggie1999

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On the camera front, wireless IP cameras are good when used with Blue Iris. Very complete solution.

MrsPete

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Re: Feeling safe in my new house (partly practical, partly psychological)
« Reply #10 on: July 01, 2017, 05:21:36 PM »
I'd recommend:

- Get a Dog
- Alarm System
- Make sure the outside of your home is well lit


Generally speaking, thieves want to rob a house that will give them minimal hassles.  If they know there is a dog and alarm system, they pick a less secure home.
I was going to say, Get a dog.  I've read multiple times /multiple places that a dog is the #1 deterrent to thieves.  If you're home, a dog will know someone's coming to your door before you do -- and will let you know.  My dog, though he's a little guy, barks up a storm when anyone -- even the UPS man -- comes to the door.  Might be that my husband gives him meat /praises him every time that happens.  He only weighs 30 pounds, but he sounds like more through the door, and he definitely considers protection of the house as "his responsibility". 

I also agree with the idea of lighting up your exterior -- love motion-lights.  And putting in good locks.  And trimming back bushes.  In short, make your home unattractive to burglars.  You don't have to make your house 100% unaccessable, which is impossible; rather, you just have to make it harder to break into than the other houses.  Convince the burglars that it's better to go elsewhere. 

I don't really see much point in alarm system.  It's not going to keep the burglar from breaking in, and an experienced burglar is going to stay in your house only 5-10 minutes, which means that the police won't make it in time to arrest him.  Put that money into better locks, which actually keep people out. 

bobechs

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Re: Feeling safe in my new house (partly practical, partly psychological)
« Reply #11 on: July 01, 2017, 05:50:07 PM »
Get a good scalping knife and keep it on your belt or at bedside.

After you have taken a couple of scalps,you will calm down a lot.

shelivesthedream

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Re: Feeling safe in my new house (partly practical, partly psychological)
« Reply #12 on: July 02, 2017, 12:23:47 AM »
Thanks for taking me seriously, guys. I was a bit embarrassed writing my post! I think I'm going to get motion sensitive lights for the front and back and look into getting a cheap camera. One you can check from your phone sounds brilliant! I might also get an alarm sign. A dog might be overkill :)

Does anyone have any particular brand or feature recommendations?

It's funny because objectively the house ticks most of the "burglar-proof your house" boxes. Doors and windows lock fine, everything is very visible at the front, we're home a lot... And the area isn't that different from where we last lived. We didn't have the gang stuff there but we were constantly being warned about thefts and we had squatters move into the building next door. I just *felt* safer.

The other thing I've considered is buying a small bolt and locking us into our bedroom at night. Is this a stupid idea? Will we burn to death? Not a massive lock, just so that if a burglar tried the door they'd go "Huh, this one's locked" and move on.

dreams_and_discoveries

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Re: Feeling safe in my new house (partly practical, partly psychological)
« Reply #13 on: July 02, 2017, 10:29:51 AM »
I once lived in a very shady part of Glasgow, and my flat had an alarm. I didn't feel I needed an alarm, but it was very handy, in particular the door chime was very reassuring - it chimed every time the door opened. The alarm itself was a nuisance, it drove my neighbours mad by going off all the time.

If you are mostly worried about people entering, I'd get yourself some loud door chimes on all external doors, and get some motion sensor outdoor lights.

Overall, not sure exactly where you are, but London is quite safe nowadays; as you said it's petty crime like thefts you need to prepare against; these sort of criminals are after easy money only.  Depending on how you present yourself, criminals, like lots of the population will make assumptions about how much money you have by how you dress and what you flaunt. If you have a top of the range car parked outside,  loads of boxes in the recycling for consumer toys, and are seen with bling you could be a high value target. I often think if a burglar comes to my house, they'll see my car (in serious banger territory, paint is flaking off), my home decor is very functional etc, and there is nothing worth stealing....no TV, bottom of the range laptop, cheap phone...I'm pretty sure the burglar will believe me when I say I don't have any cash, and I can offer my purse which usually has less than a tenner to them.

It might work to prepare yourself for the worst; even if the unthinkable happens and you get burgled, you will get through it. Sure you'll feel horrendously violated, and the bureaucracy of dealing with the police will grate, but you are strong enough to get over it - they will only take physical objects, which can all be replaced.

But do what makes you feel better and sleep at night, get an alarm, chimes, cameras, lights etc.

Lepetitange3

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Re: Feeling safe in my new house (partly practical, partly psychological)
« Reply #14 on: July 02, 2017, 12:03:13 PM »
I'm not sure my camera recommendation would work for you being in the UK.  You can get a lot of information and reviews by giving a simple google search for U.K. Wireless security camera.

adizb

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Re: Feeling safe in my new house (partly practical, partly psychological)
« Reply #15 on: July 02, 2017, 02:13:43 PM »
idk the bolt on your bedroom seems like overkill. If you are that concerned add locks on outside doors. Other than that buy a baseball bat or something keep it next to your bed. Sign up for gym or some self defense class that might help you feel safer.

Also face your fears! if you hear something "suspicious" make yourself go out and confirm there is no intruder in your home. You will gain confidence and maybe help you sleep better at night; after few of those strange noises turn out to be nothing.

cchrissyy

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Re: Feeling safe in my new house (partly practical, partly psychological)
« Reply #16 on: July 02, 2017, 03:03:54 PM »
Well, besides thinking about cameras or dogs, do stop and ask yourself if this is an anxiety problem, the kind where if you weren't so worried about the burglary idea, your mind would be worried just as much about some other topic.  Are you under a lot of other stress, or do you have a personality that tends to worry out of proportion to the risks?


The reason I wonder is just, the fear sounds too high for the actual risk.  I'm a single person who lives alone with my kids and we've actually experienced home robbery twice (at different houses) and yet I don't have any of this anxiety. If somebody breaks a window and takes your laptops and passports... well, you call the police to report it and you file an insurance claim and you go buy new laptops and passports with the insurance check, you know? it's a bummer but it's not an emergency. 


For what it's worth I did have a dog, he was no help!  I think motion sensor lights are good, unless having those lights would just alarm you every time they turn on. Alarm company signs, or "beware of dog" signs, may help, at much lower cost than having actual alarm company services or a dog.   The only actual tip I have for you that would have prevented each of my break-ins is :
- leave some light son inside when you go out at night, or put lights on a timer so it looks like somebody is home. (some people use a TV for sound as well).
- never have your laptop in view from the windows. consider what people could see in the windows from the back or side yard.

shelivesthedream

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Re: Feeling safe in my new house (partly practical, partly psychological)
« Reply #17 on: July 02, 2017, 05:08:03 PM »
I can be a pretty anxious person, and we've had a lot change lately: new city, new job for husband, new house that's different from our old flat. But when I get anxious about stuff I find it helps if I can give myself a good talking to about the fact that I've done something to address the problem. For example, I get anxious about needing the loo on long journeys so I go twice before I leave and don't drink anything so when I start worrying about it I can remind myself that I've done something and I can't possibly need the loo and its just my mind playing tricks.

It's not that I'm worried about losing possessions. We're insured and have little a casual burglar would be interested in. I worry that the potential burglary would somehow escalate - like they might be armed and lash out if they think we're a threat. Yes, this is way OTT, but when I'm lying in bed at night listening to the floorboards creak or the boiler switch on or someone walk past outside I want to be able to tell myself, "There is no need to worry about burglars because you've locked all the doors and windows and done XYZ. Now go back to sleep."

Melody

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Re: Feeling safe in my new house (partly practical, partly psychological)
« Reply #18 on: July 02, 2017, 06:30:50 PM »
I've had similar problems in my rental (so permanent solutions like security grills on windows are out). (That being said I live in a rough neighbourhood in a country town, there is no gang crime, but plenty of drug houses and meth heads, as well as teenagers who do B&Es, usually looking for cash or booze... it's not the worst area imaginable, but far worse than any others I have lived in before). I found the following helped me a lot:
- general focus on good sleep hygiene - reading in bed before bed, cut back on caffeine etc - being relaxed before bed really helped me to sleep, and better sleep reduced my anxiety so it was a virtuous circle.
- facing the beast head on! I started walking around my neighbourhood in the day with friends at first, and later flying solo. The first few times I was jumpy every time I saw another pedestrian (this is the town where no one walks) but after a little while (maybe 5 hours of walking the neighbourhood) it became familiar. I never had a negative altercation with another pedestrian and could see the "criminals" for what they were (bored teenagers from low socio economic backgrounds). The more familiar my neighbourhood felt, the more I felt ok with living here. It went from being scary to mundane. (I don't walk at night tho, that really is not recommended, but I've never heard of someone having problems in the day... just seeing it in all it's mundaneness in the day really helped.)
-During the day I stuff my laptop in the pantry and ensure all handbags/purses are kept in the wardrobe. I then leave my windows open... I figure once people see my tiny 2nd hand TV, 15 year old vehicle and (cute) vintage furniture they'll go elsewhere. This is the exact opposite the usual mentality of closing all the blinds.
- had a housewarming party with my co workers (many of who live in this neighbourhood) and they bought their partners (many of whom are stay at home parents). Knowing there are extra eyes looking out for me and my house helped put my mind at ease. (This also had massive professional benefits!)
-goes without saying but making sure I use the available security features and check doors/windows before bed.
-befriended my neighbour (invited her to said housewarming).
Hope this helps! Over time it will get better. I've been here 4.5 months, no issues, so feeling more confident.

JAYSLOL

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Re: Feeling safe in my new house (partly practical, partly psychological)
« Reply #19 on: July 02, 2017, 10:13:58 PM »
Lots of good advice on here already, but here are my 2 cents on staying safe in a problem area of town

Outside security - there are a few things you can do landscaping-wise to deter crime.  Remove any shrubs or features that provide a hiding space, especially near doors and windows around the house.  There should be a clear line of sight from the street to all front doors and windows as well as good motion activated lighting all around.  Planting thorny shrubs like blackberries or roses directly under windows will make it a lot harder to break in through one.  Pathways around the house can be done in gravel, preferably really crunchy-sounding gravel when walked on, this will spook people who are trying to sneak around your place without making noise.  Alarm system and guard dog signs can go a long way, even if they are backed up with nothing.  Get a lock for the side gate and see what you can do to make the gate/fence harder to climb over.  Exterior doors should all have good deadbolts and a door jam reenforcement plate installed, as well as avoid any glass windows built into the door for easy access burglary.  Also (and I very much doubt you need to hear this) but don't leave anything lying around outside. 

Inside security - those wifi cameras are getting pretty affordable, having one pointing out a window to the front door, and one looking at the inside main Level, should help reduce your fears of bumps in the night.  Get a solid door that you can lock for your bedroom, which combined with not having anything worth stealing downstairs, means even IF you get broken into, you are in an as ideal as possible situation to observe what's going on, call the police and safely wait it out. 

To be fair, this is definitely a case of "do what I say, not as I do", as I just got home to discover I've left the shop door open all day, a lawnmower out in the yard and I keep a couple very nice bikes (as well as a Honda outboard motor I'm working on) unlocked on the back deck.  At least I'm in a pretty safe area though

Dollar Slice

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Re: Feeling safe in my new house (partly practical, partly psychological)
« Reply #20 on: July 02, 2017, 10:28:55 PM »
10+ years ago I started having anxiety from noises at night. I was having very bad anxiety/upsetness in general about some life stuff, and I guess this was how it manifested. It was pretty bad, like heart-pounding terror-anxiety sometimes. And I lived in a place with lots of noises (100-year-old building in an urban area, bedroom on the ground floor).

I found that sleeping in earplugs eliminated most of my nighttime anxiety. I'm not sure this would help you, as you might just think "now I can't hear the people who are undoubtedly breaking in right now," but in my case not being able to hear the noises made the problem go away at least 90%. I knew it was irrational and getting rid of the noise trigger pretty much did the trick.

kei te pai

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Re: Feeling safe in my new house (partly practical, partly psychological)
« Reply #21 on: July 02, 2017, 10:44:06 PM »
I think the extent of your fears is related to anxiety. By all means take some sensible practical steps, but be realistic about how much is due to being unsettled. Maybe check with your local police about the incidence of random burglary in your area?
Practice a good routine for yourself. For example, before bed, and before going upstairs to work, go around and check your doors are locked, and windows secure. Then when you hear a noise you can remind yourself that you have checked and all is safe. Lockable screen doors and safety catches for windows that remain partially open are good for summer.
I know that at times I have left keys in the outside of the door overnight, left a laundry door unlocked for months (not normally used so I hadnt checked it), left the garage and car unlocked etc etc, and actually that makes me feel safer because nothing bad happened. Although if I had known at the time I would have worried!
I also have uncovered windows during the day, and leave a radio on quietly. Anyone checking the place out would soon realise that there is little of resale value.


yachi

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Re: Feeling safe in my new house (partly practical, partly psychological)
« Reply #22 on: July 03, 2017, 08:44:02 AM »
Since you mentioned it's party psychological, I recommend the following book:
When Panic Attacks: The New, Drug-Free Anxiety Therapy That Can Change Your Life by David D. Burns M.D.

It's helped me to realize I can change my attitudes to make my situations less anxiety-inducing, rather than having to change jobs or houses.

Rural

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Re: Feeling safe in my new house (partly practical, partly psychological)
« Reply #23 on: July 03, 2017, 03:14:54 PM »
Here in the US, little battery-powered door (and window). chimes are available inexpensively - would having something that you know will alert you if something is opened help you rest better?