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Residential burglary prevention

Updated November 23, 2020

Residential burglary is one of the most predominant forms of property crime, along with auto theft and vehicle burglary. To help residents prevent residential burglary, the Cerritos Sheriff’s Station/Community Safety Center offers the following tips.

Keep your doors and windows closed and locked

Most residential burglaries in Cerritos are directly attributed to residents leaving doors or windows open or unlocked. This "open invitation" provides a quiet and effortless means of entry to a burglar.

A significant percentage of our residential burglaries occur in open garages where people are home but are either in the house or in the back yard. Residents should not be afraid to leave their garage doors open when they can clearly see the garage, but it would be a good habit to keep the garage door closed as much as possible.

Often, a burglar breaks in at the side garage door behind the gate. Such doors are frequently unlocked, and usually not very strong. Another common point of entry is unlocked rear bedroom or bathroom windows. If the windows are locked, many burglars carry tools and will pry open sliding windows or even large sliding doors. The only way to stop these determined burglars is to use some type of pin locking device that prevents the burglar from removing the sliding door or window from its track. For homes with an alarm system connected to an alarm company, attempted or successful burglaries are very rare.

Consider purchasing double-pane windows, which are a proven burglar deterrent.

Secure the perimeter of your home

If you are not in the house, make sure that all windows and doors are secured before you leave. Use locking pins in sliding glass doors and windows as a means of keeping them from being pried from their tracks. These pins increase the stability of these portals, and are relatively inexpensive.

Install solid core doors, which are much stronger in their construction than those that are not. Generally, the side garage door is not visible from the street, and offers burglars concealment to pry and subsequently penetrate it. This door should be solid, without any glass, and equipped with a strong deadbolt lock. Also secure your service porch door.

Visually inspect your rear yard. If a burglar slips undetected into your back yard, anticipate how he will try to break into your home, and reinforce those areas.

Protect target number one: the bedroom

Once inside, almost all burglars go straight to the master bedroom. They know that many residents keep large amounts of cash in their homes, and that they are likely to find jewelry or cash on or in bedroom dressers. These items are easily concealed and yield more of a profit for thieves. If there is no alarm system and burglars feel they have plenty of time, the rest of the house will be ransacked, and easy to carry valuables will be stolen. Few televisions or VCRs are taken, but after jewelry and cash, laptops, cameras, cell phones and credit cards are a common loss.

We strongly recommend that residents find hiding places for any type of valuable keepsakes that cannot be replaced, such as grandma’s wedding ring or other similar heirlooms. Although a rare occurrence, burglars have even been known to steal the special videos of a resident’s children growing up. You may want to keep such items at the bank in a safety deposit box.

Be creative in the manner that you store your expensive items. Laundry rooms, refrigerators, lower bathroom cabinets or garage are places rarely scrutinized in a burglary, and can be used to make it more difficult to find your cash and priceless valuables. A non-distinct container such as a box or even shoes may be worth looking into for storage purposes. Burglars have to work fast, and if they are forced to look in many different places, their frustration level and their chances of detection increase dramatically.

Engrave a personal identification number on electronic items (and other valuables if possible). Engravers are available for loan in our Community Safety Division office. Take close-up, detailed photos of expensive jewelry. Prepare and keep safe a list of valuable items and their serial or personal identification numbers.

Install an alarm system

Installing an alarm system in your home is a wise investment. If there is any indication that your home contains a dog or an alarm system, a burglar will almost always bypass it and look for another.

Most systems emit a high-pitched tone that can be heard as soon as a contact on a door or window is broken, or a motion detector picks up movement inside the home. If you have pets, consider purchasing a perimeter contact alarm, as it will not activate when a pet moves from one room to the next.

Alarm systems are not expensive to install or maintain. In addition, you may be eligible for a reduction of insurance rates after a system is installed.

A well-informed public, equipped with the knowledge of how to take away a thief’s opportunity to commit a crime, is a valuable tool for crime prevention. Alert neighbors are responsible for the majority of arrests made in residential burglary incidents.

If something appears out of the ordinary to you, immediately contact the Cerritos Sheriff’s Station at (562) 860-0044, or dial 911 to report a crime in progress.

Be aware of "casing"

Residents are advised to be aware of a common method of reconnaissance, or “casing,” used by suspects in residential burglaries. Lengthy door knocking and doorbell ringing are utilized in an attempt to determine if anyone is home. This method has been used on several occasions in many jurisdictions and is known to precede a burglary. When the door is answered by a resident, the suspect will claim to be lost, solicit some type of service or product, or ask for someone that does not live there. If this happens to you, call the Cerritos Sheriff’s Station at once at (562) 860-0044 to report a suspicious person.

If you do not want to answer the door, you can always tell the person from behind the closed door that you cannot open it right now, or make a sufficient amount of noise inside to alert the person to your presence. Should someone attempt to break into your home, call 911 immediately and flee the residence via an exit that is the farthest away from where the suspect is breaking in. Cell phones can be carried with you as you leave. Remember to program your cell phones with the seven-digit number of the Cerritos Sheriff's Station (562-860-0044) or your local law enforcement agency, because any 911 call on a cell phone will go directly to the California Highway Patrol (CHP). This will cause a substantial delay in response while waiting for the CHP to route the call back to your city.

If you observe a person going door-to-door or loitering in your neighborhood, call the Cerritos Sheriff’s Station immediately at (562) 860-0044.

When you are on vacation

Ask a trusted neighbor to pick up your mail and newspaper (or have them temporarily stopped), and check on your house periodically while you are away. Create the illusion that you are home by installing timers that will turn lights (and perhaps a television or radio) on and off in different parts of your home throughout the day and evening hours. Lights burning 24 hours a day are an indicator of an empty house. Leave shades, blinds and curtains in normal positions. Never leave a message on your answering machine that indicates that you may not be at home. Instead, say, "We're not available right now."

You can also arrange for a Vacation Security Check by the Cerritos Sheriff's Station/Community Safety Center Volunteers on Patrol by calling (562) 860-0044.

One final thought to keep in mind: most residential burglaries are never solved and stolen property is rarely recovered and returned to the owner. It is far more effective for you to take appropriate steps to reduce the likelihood your residence will be burglarized than to hope our Sheriff’s deputies will catch the burglar who chooses to break into your house and find your stolen valuables.


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