Fighting the bad guy…and winning

If someone were to jump on you and start whacking away, what would you do? Would you fight back? Run? Curl up into a ball and beg for mercy?

1SDDo you have a plan? Have you even thought about what your reaction would be? When I ask my audiences these questions, most of them shake their heads and admit they are pretty much clueless as to what their response would be.

First off, running is perfectly fine. It’s the first thing a deer does when it sees the predatory human. Begging for mercy is fine too, as long as you are planning an escape at some point and not begging with the intention of giving your attacker control over your life.

Fighting is going from defensive to offensive. And this is a strategy one reserves when backed in a corner or facing a life-threatening assault—meaning if someone wants your stuff, hand it over. If an attacker wants to hurt you and running isn’t an option, then fighting your way to safety might be a better option.

NBC29 reports, “Charlottesville police say two men picked the wrong students to rob at gunpoint. The robbery suspects are behind bars, badly beaten by their victims. Both suspects have severe injuries to their faces, but the victims—we’re told—are doing just fine. The pair who allegedly attempted an armed robbery had the tables turned on them Tuesday night, becoming victims themselves, so to speak.”

They had guns. And the “victims” fought them. Crazy. I’d run…I think?

And WSMV reports, “A fencing instructor foiled a robbery this week, and he was even dressed to do battle as he chased down the suspected thieves. The instructor then jumped out of his car, grabbed his fencing sword (called an épée) and started charging toward the suspects.”

Dude has a sword!

The point of all this boils down to the fact that you, as a potential victim, have a lot more control over these situations than you think. The Charlottesville students had a certain mindset that they would not be victims. The fencing instructor had prepared his mind to deal with dangerous situations all his life.

Prepare your mind, your body and your home to deal with whatever situation may come up. Take self-defense courses and think about what your response would be. Invest in a home security system. Being prepared starts with making a decision that you will not be a victim.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

11 Easy and Simple Home Security Tips

Occasionally it’s good to be reminded of the fundamentals of home security. Print this out and stick it on your bulletin board at work or on your refrigerator as a reminder to everyone in your family.

  1. Daytime burglaries: Many burglaries happens during daylight hours; very few occur at night—which means even when you step out to go to the store at noon, set your home security system to alarm.
  2. Traveling: Have a neighbor keep an eye on your house and get your mail and newspapers and grab your barrels on trash day. During the winter, have someone clear the snow around your house to make it look like someone’s home.
  3. Trick the burglars: Do things like leaving a radio or TV on, and put the lights on timers. The idea is to always make your house looked lived in.
  4. Neighborhood watch: Get to know your neighbors, and note who is coming and going and what their vehicles look like.
  5. Call 911: If something seems wrong, it is wrong. Trust your gut. Don’t wait to call 911 if something does not seem right. React, respond, see something, say something.
  6. Exterior: Bushes and shrubs should be trimmed back from doors and windows.
  7. Home security systems and cameras: Wired or wireless, use a professional or do it yourself. Spend a little or spend a lot. Get it monitored or not. (I prefer monitored.) With some cameras, you can hear audio via video. Just get alarmed.
  8. Lighting: Use bright lighting around your home, including motion lights or lights on timers. I like timers better.
  9. Engraving: Engraving systems allow you to imprint your driver’s license number or address on valuable items. This helps police return recovered items when bad guys are busted.

10. Doors: Use strong, high-quality deadbolt locks. Consider door reinforcement technologies on the jambs and hinges and around the locks. Use solid-core doors. Beef up sliding doors, as older versions can be opened by an experienced burglar.

11. Windows: Bars on windows are an option, but a better option is locking them and using a shatter-resistant window film that helps prevent windows from being smashed in.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

During a Robbery: Fight or Comply?

Many of us are told that, when we’re attacked, we should let it happen so that the situation doesn’t get any worse. In some cases that may be your only option. But some studies have shown that fighting back is a better option. Showing resistance and making it difficult for your attacker to do their job often helps you get to safety. 

But what about when it’s a robbery? 

Robbery as defined in Wikipedia is the crime of seizing property through violence or intimidation. In common law, robbery is defined as taking the property of another, with the intent to permanently deprive the person of that property, by means of force or fear. Precise definitions of the offence may vary between jurisdictions. Robbery differs from simple theft because of its use of violence and intimidation.

The Washington Post reports “four intruders – two white men and two black men – entered the single-family home about 11 a.m. and used a weapon to hold the family against their will, authorities said. … No one was hurt during the robbery, Mills said, and no information was immediately available about what type of weapon was displayed.”

If violence begins during a robbery, responding to violence with violence might be necessary.

To help protect yourself against robbery, follow these simple tips:

  1. Make sure you have an acute awareness of your environment.
  2. Install outdoor lighting that may keep the bad guys away.
  3. Use your cell phone from a closet.
  4. Make sure your home has a lived-in look so that, from the outside, your home looks like a tougher target, and that help is close by.
  5. Install security cameras.
  6. Have a panic button for your home alarm that calls for help and sends a screaming alarm.
  7. The worst thing you can do is nothing. If violence is imminent, decide on an escape route or recognize your options for protecting and defending yourself.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

Beware of Slimy Alarm Sales Calls

Call them con men, grifters, scammers or thieves. Or simply call them liars, because lying is what they do best. They stare you in the eyes, do it via email or over the phone, and lie through their teeth. They do it casually and with such conviction that we have no reason not to believe them.

Sometimes they call you or knock on your door trying to scam you. Whatever you tell them can be used against you. They can steal your identity. If they find out you don’t have an alarm, they may break into your house. If you tell them the company your home alarm is with, they may call you at a later date posing as that alarm company and requesting “updated credit card numbers.” They can also sell you a bogus alarm system.

The Detroit Free Press reports that scammers “come door-to-door selling free alarm systems or systems for $99. Then, they lock you into a long-term contract for three to five years. The equipment is inferior. I’ve known people that have been burglarized with this equipment, and the burglars just yank the alarm off the wall and it doesn’t work.”

This issue is best resolved by not answering any questions at all, hanging up, deleting the email or telling the person at the front door (while you speak through the locked door) you are not interested. No matter what, never give the scammer your Social Security or credit card number or reveal whether you have an alarm.

Only purchase alarm systems from reputable installers, and do your research to make sure the company has been properly reviewed and vetted for a quality product.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

Setting off a False Alarm Can Cost You

If you have a home alarm system, you may be guilty of setting it off accidentally. Sometimes we open a door or window that sets it off, while other times we mess up the secret code. The result of this mishap is usually a very loud siren and the attention of your neighbors. If you don’t call to cancel in time, then it results in law enforcement showing up.

We’re all familiar with the boy who cried wolf. The protagonist of the fable is a bored shepherd boy who entertained himself by calling out “Wolf!” Nearby villagers who came to his rescue found that the alarms were false and that they had wasted their time. When the boy was actually confronted by a wolf, the villagers didn’t believe his cries for help, and the wolf ate the flock (and, in some versions, the boy).

Accidentally setting off an alarm can cost you in much the same manner.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that “The Santa Fe Police Department has netted nearly $500,000 from false-alarm fines and registration fees since the program began in 2010, a report says. At the same time, a business called CryWolf earned more than $271,000 from city residents and businesses for administering the program, a 32 percent fee it takes off the top of collections.”

I’m just as guilty as anyone of setting off a false alarm. But I’ve never had law enforcement show up to my home as a result.

To protect yourself against false alarms, follow these four simple tips:

  1. Have your service provider set up your alarm system to call your mobile phone first, then your home phone second. If you don’t answer the phone, then they will call the police.
  2. Program your mobile phone with your alarm service provider’s number and call them the second you falsely set off your alarm. Memorize your PIN so you aren’t fumbling for it.
  3. Don’t carry your PIN in your wallet. If your wallet is lost or stolen, your address and alarm PIN are in the hands of a stranger.
  4. Whenever setting up access for anyone to enter your home while you’re away, your risk for false alarms goes up dramatically. Provide specific hands-on instruction on how to disable and reset the alarm. Telling someone over the phone how to do it is often insufficient.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

Like Mom Said, “Don’t Open the Door for Strangers”

Someone successfully posing as a health inspector, police officer or even a Secret Service agent happens every single day. Posing as a water inspector, I once gained access to people’s homes by saying I needed to “check the colorization of their water,” as I demonstrated on The Montel Williams Show here. A fake badge and a uniform of any kind can do wonders.

The Baltimore Sun reports that Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. is warning customers about scams in which people pose as BGE employees in person or over the telephone to steal money, valuables or credit card information. The article states that according to BGE, “Impostors also might appear at a home or business wearing official-looking clothing and showing fake credentials. BGE workers usually only require entry into a home for a gas or electric emergency, to check equipment, read meters or start or stop service. All BGE employees and contractors carry company identification badges showing their name, photograph and identification number.”

People can easily pose as city officials, delivery or service people, or as someone whose car broke down and needs assistance. The moment you open that door, you are risking your family’s safety.

My family’s number-one rule is that we do not open doors to strangers. That’s it, end of story. My younger ones want to show how big they are by getting the door, but they now know better that they aren’t at all allowed to open it without a parent’s permission.

The rules apply to grown-ups, too.

  • Always have your screen door and your entry door locked at all times.
  • Install a surveillance system at each entrance that gives you a facial and full-body view of visitors.
  • If you order products to be delivered to your home, specify “No signature required.” This way, you can set up a place for the deliveries that allows delivery people to drop the package off.
  • Any time a city worker knocks on your door, call city hall to verify that the person should be there.
  • It’s not enough to check a badge, license or credentials. IDs can easily be faked.
  • Have your home alarm system on all day—even while you are home.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

A Predator Is Always a Predator

With the 750,000 registered sex offenders in the U.S., the thousands more unaccounted for, and even the thousands more who’ve never been caught, know that predators live amongst us.

The question always arises as to whether or not a sex offender can be rehabilitated. I’m sure that a handful of Level 1s and 2s can be, but once a predator, always a predator. It’s their nature. It’s their normal.

There are a bunch of free sites you can go to that will let you know the current living situations and general whereabouts of registered sex offenders in your town. Take advantage of every opportunity you can to learn where the bad guys are.

Know how to fight. Know how to defend yourself from a predator. Understand all the vulnerable points of the human body and what parts of your body can be used as weapons. Go for the eyes, nose, throat, groin, and instep of the foot. Know how to fight from the ground, if attacked from behind, or when a distraction is used in front.

Determine if you want to carry a weapon, but know that your brain is your best defensive weapon. Carry a weapon if you’re properly trained, and not a day before. Years ago, my childhood hero was a Chicago cop named J.J. Bittenbinder. He would say, “If all else fails, let them kiss you, then bite down on their lips until your teeth meet.”


Complacency can result in bad things happening. Install a home security system, be vigilant, be alert, be aware, and know your options.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

New Alarm Systems are Cost Effective and High Tech

Alarm systems used to be clunky and expensive to install, and all they did was set off a siren when a door or window was smashed in. Today, alarms are wireless and can even adjust your thermostat!

The Boston Globe reports, “The era of clunky black-and-white video monitors and recording devices crammed here and there, of blinking lights and keypads galore, has given way to slick, low-cost technology that homeowners control with just a few clicks—from wireless surveillance cameras that are monitored remotely, to door alarms that can be activated hundreds of miles away.”

Systems today have wireless cameras, remote-controlled thermostats, remote-controlled/timed light controls, flood sensors, full web access to the cameras, touchpad controls, and even iPhone/Android apps to control/monitor cameras/thermostat from anywhere. They often have a web dashboard that lets you control every single aspect of each control to inform you of activity or to set up a reaction to an incident.

New home alarm systems are very simple and easy to program. Once you dive into them, they give you a tremendous amount of awareness of the goings-on in and around your home—and they do it automatically.

Further, the article states, “For those who don’t want bells and whistles, there are still basic burglary alarm systems available, and indeed they remain quite popular. These usually include sensors and alarms attached to ground-floor doors and windows, wall-mounted keypads and remote-control devices that can be activated with key fobs.”

Don’t wait for a burglary to get a home alarm system. Be proactive and get one before something bad happens.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

Burglaries Often Happen When People Are Home

You might be sleeping, doing laundry in the basement, or simply watching TV, and you may accidentally walk into a burglar at work. The burglar may be just as surprised to see you as you are to see him.

The Associated Press reports that “Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies acting on a tip have arrested a 35-year-old Everett man in connection with a home burglary in which a 70-year-old woman was tied to a toilet.

“Snohomish County sheriff’s spokeswoman Shari Ireton said the woman interrupted the Tuesday afternoon burglary, leading the intruder to tie her up. The woman was able to free herself after about an hour and then called 911. She was not seriously injured and declined aid. The intruder stole the woman’s 2011 silver Ford Escape.”

The obvious problem with bumping into a burglar in your kitchen is that it can end violently—or, in this case, tied to a toilet.

Burglars case a home and look for activity. If they see none, they simply enter through unlocked doors or break in through a door or window. Many alarms are only installed after a home is broken into, and even then many people don’t turn them on when they’re at home during the day. Once a home is burgled, people lose their sense of security and try to gain it back through the installation of an alarm system. A home alarm system can certainly provide security, but people who are victimized in this way often face years of emotional aftershocks.

The key to security is thinking proactively and doing things to secure yourself and your family before something bad happens. Don’t think “It can’t happen to me”; instead, think “Yes, there is a chance this can happen and I’m going to set an example and do something about it.”

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

Church Burglar Busted, Held on $50K Bond

It doesn’t matter where, when or to whom—a burglar will go where there is easy access and easy money, or goods to be resold. One favorite target of criminals is houses of worship, which often have audio equipment and cash-filled collection boxes on hand. Case in point: The Bartlesville, Oklahoma Examiner-Enterprise reports that Daniel Walker Barnett, 22, is accused of stealing around $10,000 worth of audiovisual equipment from inside a church.

According to the article, “Guitars, amplifiers, keyboards, drums, a laptop computer and a projector were taken from the church as a result of the burglary, the police document states. Surveillance video shows Barnett taking the property from the church.”

The suspect looks like a regular guy, and this isn’t unheard of. Burglars look normal; they may be someone you know. Often it’s those on the inside—those with a close familiarity of the target—that have knowledge of how things work and where they are. For this reason, it’s important to beef up security to protect from the inside out and from the outside in. Even then, thieves often may enter through unlocked doors—or they may break windows or bust doors off their frames, resulting in vandalism along with the theft. Amazingly, the damage a burglar does to the premises often costs more to repair then the actual value of items stolen. “The affidavit claims Barnett caused damage inside the church by spraying a chemical fire extinguisher over a large area of one room and on a stage,” the article continues. “It also is alleged that the suspect urinated in several different locations at the church.”

Theft and vandalism happen. Protect against them.

  • Lock up. Even if it’s an “open access” environment, you don’t want to give access to the wrong people.

Have someone always watching the door. Install both visible and hidden motion-sensitive, DVD-recordable security cameras everywhere, along with “Monitored by Video Surveillance” signs.

  • Lock doors and windows always.
  • Install break-resistant film over windows and other glass portals.
  • Install a home security system at the building.

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.