Saturday, March 31, 2007


Security of the Home

An Un-gated Townhouse Neighborhood

This community is in the heart of Richmond, Virginia, and it prides itself on its quality of living and the well-appointed homes that line the streets. Most of the homes are in the upscale brackets, from $600 thousand to over $1 million. They are targets for break-ins and opportunistic thieves that find an open back door.

Of the thousand or so homes in the area, at least a third are owned by those who do not keep guns, another third are multi-floor rental units that turn over rapidly, and the remaining third are defensive-minded owners who are well armed, the houses are alarmed, and they have dogs. There used to be a Neighborhood Watch patrol that operated from about 11 pm until 3 am, the period of greatest threat for robbery and assault. The Watch died a natural death as the statistics for crime in the area went down considerably over 2003-2006, from over 3,000 police reports in 03, to just under 1,000 reports in 06. (No one seems to notice that this still amounts to a crime per household per year!)

Last Saturday, two black men jumped out of their car, beat up two students of a group of three, robbed them, and sped away. This was right in front of my home. The students had to be hospitalized for brain injuries. Many years ago, my Mother was mugged in front of the house. My cars have been stolen twice in the seven years we have lived here. The window glass was maliciously broken out several times in my wife’s car. Some nut had it in for SUVs and walked down the street with a hammer breaking glass as he went. We dare not leave anything of value on the seat of our car; that is an invitation for thieves to break in. We have had our share of rapes, a murder, and break-ins on our block.

A few of us have increased our alarm capabilities, and purchased weapons to defend our families and homes from intruders. The problem is, weapons are useless when you are inside your home and are witnessing a crime on the street. You have no right to open fire on robbers that are not on your property and are not threatening you directly. So you call 911, and the expected happens. The police arrive 12 to 15 minutes later, after the criminals have left the scene. (In one case, however, they did arrive in force within a few minutes, and that was when my wife accidentally set off a vacationing neighbor’s alarm when she went to feed the cat at three in the afternoon!)

Our ground floor windows have attractive iron grillwork covering them. All of our windows have storms installed, and alarm sensors as well. Our main doors are double dead-bolted steel to prevent their being kicked down too rapidly for us to react. We have all-night lighting for the front and back of the house, and motion detectors to warn of intruders in the back yard, and inside the house too. So we live in a city in a fortress of sorts, with weapons at hand wherever we are, and two very loud yapping dogs to give the alarm. We do not stay out late at night without setting up additional lighting for the walk to our gate.

All of these steps are merely prudent, as far as I am concerned, as is the loaded 9mm under my pillow. You ask me to trust my fellow man, and I will, but I will also verify that he is trustworthy, prevent him from “accidentally” coming into my home, and take appropriate action if he does.



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