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Protect What's Yours | Spring 2005 Out Here Magazine

Deter intruders with these tips

By Renee Elder

John Morgan's two Labrador retrievers are friendly family pets, but that's not how it would look to a burglar sizing up his home. From a distance, these large and loud canines would cause anyone to think twice before trespassing on Morgan's 10 acres.

"For its deterrent effect, it's hard to beat a large dog," says Morgan, a project specialist for the Criminal Justice Institute at the University of Arkansas. "Dogs cause people to hesitate. Even a friendly dog, seeing it from a distance, would prompt most burglars to look elsewhere."

Rural residents whose home may be 100 yards off the highway or a half-mile from their nearest neighbor can avoid becoming crime victims by taking a few precautions special to their situation, says Morgan, who lives near Little Rock, Ark.

For example, alarm systems linked to law enforcement may work well in urban settings, but response time may make them less effective in the country.

"The best advice for someone who has neighbors within hearing distance is to install a security system with an outside alarm," Morgan says. "Even in areas where the neighbors can't hear, it can still have a deterrent effect."

Morgan's other suggestions include: Install one-inch or longer dead bolt locks on doors and reinforced latches on windows both in your home and in barns and outbuildings containing tools, equipment, and livestock; install driveway gates; and post "no trespassing" signs around your property's perimeter, which implies that you're keeping a close eye out.

Good outside lighting around the house and any outbuildings is a must, but Morgan cautions rural residents against motion-detector lights so popular in suburbia. "A person has to get up close to the house to set off a motion detector light," he says. That may allow the intruder to get close enough to figure out whether someone is home and to spot valuables.

That's why, if you're away for a few hours or on a vacation, it's a good idea to use timers for lights, radios, and the television; it keeps would-be burglars guessing about who's around.

Electronics, tools, and firearms are among the items most often targeted by burglars in rural communities, says Morgan, a former police chief who now instructs other law enforcement officers. Keep those and other valuables out of sight and under lock and key while you're away.

And try to refrain from spreading the good news too widely about that expensive new stereo or upcoming vacation, Morgan says. "It's likely that the burglars who strike in rural areas are people who live somewhere nearby."

Renee Elder is a freelance writer in Raleigh, N.C.