Home security

posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 17, 2014, 8:23 PM | comments: 0

When I came home one day in grade 6, to our house on the near west side in Cleveland, I arrived to see that the back door was wide open. My parents both worked, and Jason got home after me, so I was usually the first one home. My 11-year-old brain was reasonably naive, so it took me awhile to process what had happened when I came in and saw the microwave oven was gone. (Yes, kids, there was a time when these were not inexpensive.) I also noticed the TV was missing. I called one of my parents, and maybe the police, then went a couple of houses down to a neighbor's house. The dad, who was a bit of a drunk and did auto body work in his garage, walked me back to our house and walked through it with me.

I have no idea what all they took, because honestly we didn't have a ton of valuables beyond the TV and microwave. They went through my mom's jewelry and such, so I assume there were things they took there. They didn't go into the basement, where we kept our toys (and our Atari 2600!), but they did go through my dresser, and that was the thing that really upset me.

That episode definitely had a long-term effect on me, because coupled with my selective OCD tendencies, I'm always obsessive about locking doors and windows. It's not an issue of safety or worrying about people taking stuff, it's more the personal act of strangers being in your space in a familiar way that makes me uneasy.

All of that said, as an adult, I understand that bad people do bad things, and I don't know that there are any real deterrents that can prevent it. I'd like to think that this is a rational position, but Florida is security crazy in ways that I don't understand.

The first thing is the walls. Gated communities are everywhere. They're even out in very rural areas. I don't understand why people want that. Is it to keep things out? It seems like it's closing yourself off from the world. My father-in-law used to live in a Florida gated community, complete with golf course, and he still got robbed. I'm not saying that there isn't less crime, because I'm sure there is, but I wonder at what cost.

The other weird thing is that security systems in Florida are very nearly standard in every house. In the Cleveland 'burbs, there weren't a lot of security systems, in the new or old neighborhoods. Ditto in the Seattle far east side where we lived. Here, they're standard issue. A guy I worked with in my last gig, in a gated community no less, left work when his alarm went off and the police were called. They broke in and apparently grabbed the Xbox, despite the audible alarm. I'm not saying they're useless by way of a single anecdote, but I am questioning the value.

Apparently yesterday, in my neighborhood, a kid did a grab and dash of a box delivered to the owner's porch. He's got cameras all around the house, and got some vague pixilated images of the kid and the getaway truck. After posting it on Facebook, a bunch of people chimed in and said they needed to get a video system as well. So I called them out and asked... what value does that have if it was not in fact a deterrent? It was a random crime of opportunity committed by a kid doing something stupid.

At the end of the day, the thing that deters crime the most is people looking out for each other. We're lucky to have a lot of people who are stay-at-home parents, telecommuters and retired folks. I mean, they post on Facebook every time they hear a siren, so to that extent it's a positive of having nosey neighbors. But the walls, alarms and video systems? There's a fine line between being proactive and paranoid.


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