Crime prevention hints to keep burglars at bay

TOKYO —

According to the National Police Agency’s 110 Hotline, Japan in 2012 had a total of 60,938 reported home burglaries involving thefts of money or other items. These are typically categorized as entry while the householder is away, while the householder is present (but in another part of the house) or those that take place at night while the householder is sleeping. The number of such crimes averages 166 break-ins per day.

What should people do to protect their prized possessions from predatory prowlers? Nikkan Gendai (Jan 17) asks the experts for some professional advice.

First to respond is Mika Kyoshi, a “bijin adobaizaa” (beauty adviser) who often appears on radio and television and in magazine articles. She’s also the author of several books, including “35 Rules for Self-Defense to Create Safer Living” (from a publisher called “Sweet Thick Omlette” [sic], 780 yen).

“The main point of entry for burglars, both in the case of single-unit houses and multi-unit dwellings, is from a window,” says Kyoshi. “They’ll thrust in a screwdriver between the frame and the glass or force entry using a crowbar or hammer. Others might use a high-temperature gas burner that will melt the glass.”

The next common point of entry is the front door. This might sound like a deterrent, but Kyoshi says for burglars front doors are a piece of cake.

“It’s widely known that they carry sets of picks that are inserted into the lock, or a special tool called a “thumb-turn rotator” that can flip open the thumb turn setting on the inner lock.

More recently, thieves have adopted a technique called “bumping.” This involves use of a bump key, which is similar to the master keys used by hotels or rental apartments. Unlike picks or thumb-turn rotators, the bump keys leave no scratches or other traces of tampering, leading police investigators to conclude that the violated householder simply forgot to properly lock his or her door.

According to Kyoshi, the key to discouraging a break-in is “to find ways to make the crooks expend more time trying to get in.”

“The National Police Agency found that in 70% of cases, burglars will give up if they can’t get inside a house within five minutes,” she relates. “To slow them down, doors should have two locks at a minimum. The most practical way to do this is to put a second lock on the door or window.

“Alarms, sensor-activated lights and stickers are effective, as are dummy cameras,” she adds. “They can be purchased inexpensively at hardware stores or ‘home centers.’”

Nikkan Gendai is convinced that for as small an outlay as 3,975 yen, you can acquire five items that will greatly work toward thwarting burglaries. First is a lock that can be fixed to the window sash that sells for as little as 105 yen; second is a thumb-turn prevention guard (546 yen); third is a sensor light that flashes when movement of a body is detected (1,980 yen); fourth is dummy camera (840 yen) and fifth is a sticker, posted in a prominent place, that reads “Bohan kamera sado-chuu” (security camera in operation). A set of three stickers sells for 504 yen.

“If you have an extra budget, you might want to spend a little more and go with an door interphone with a built-in camera, for around 18,000 yen, or changing your door lock to a type with a cylinder mechanism that’s been designed to thwart bumping, for around 18,000 yen,” Kyoshi also suggests.

  • 1

    Frungy

    Here are some real tips:

    1. Got a webcam? Some of them can be set for "motion activated", and to email the file on completion. When you leave in the morning set it up and anyone entering during the day will be recorded and you'll get a file of the burglar sent to your phone while the criminal is still in the area.

    2. No webcam? Then invest in one of the newer baby monitors. They look like toys (teddy bears, dolls, etc.) and can be set to motion activated and mail the file (if you have wifi).

    Of course these methods will just help the police identify the burglar, and won't actually discourage burglars. With burglars there is ALWAYS a way for them to get in, all that you're looking to do is make your place more difficult than the guy next door (sad, but true).

    Rule 1 is therefore to make it CLEAR to the burglar at a glance that you are not a soft target. This can be as simple as one of those little automatic doorbells they have in shops. The burglar walks towards your front door and ... "ding dong!". He's startled, he knows that people could have heard him, and he knows the home owner has invested in a little extra security. How much? He doesn't know, but if the guy next door doesn't have it....

    Rule 2 is to make it LOUD. Put magnetic contacts on any accessible windows and doors. If any of them are opened then a simple siren goes off. Chances are that in Japan no-one will come for quite some time (and then they'll come to complain to you about the noise, not to check on your property), but it'll spook the robber who just can't afford to risk that nosy obaa-chan next door coming to see what's happening.

    Rule 3 is to have good INSURANCE. At the end of the day all of these precautions only really help when the burglar has broken in. It wouldn't take them 2 minutes to smash the window, grab a few light-weight but valuable items, and then run. The good news for you is that they've left lots of evidence to prove your apartment was broken into. The bad news is that this does you no good unless you have insurance.

    Rule 4 is COMMUNITY. Those old retired folk may seem a pain at times when they glare reproachfully at you for staying up past 8pm and playing anything other than, "The best of Japanese folk songs", but just one of them can make your whole area burglar proof. They've got all day and very little to do, keep irregular hours (so burglars don't know when the area is being watched), and would love a little excitement. Meet with other householders/apartment owners, ask the old folks to please keep an eye on things and call the cops if necessary, and then organise a rota to bake them a cake or something every few weeks as a "thank you". Its the cheapest private security you'll ever find, plus it makes everyone happier.

  • 1

    GalapagosnoGairaishu

    Large, aggressive dogs have been known to work wonders at discouraging unwelcome visitors.

  • 4

    Graham DeShazo

    I agree, get a dog. Not one of those yappy chihuahuas (rats that bark), but a real dog. I have a Kai-ken. Very friendly w kids and dogs, loves people, a total wimp, but looks and sounds ferocious. Nobody in thier right mind will come in once he starts barking.

  • 2

    Badge213

    Except not all places allow you to have pets, and some people just don't want pets.

  • 1

    FightingViking

    My dog (ex-police-dog) scared off a couple of guys trying to "buy any old - even broken - gold jewellery" I might want to sell... They never came back. He also scared off a "would-be intruder" at 03.30am one morning (his barking woke me up...)

  • 0

    kaimycahl

    Thanks Mika Kyoshi,

  • 0

    James Dean Jnr.

    Sell all your belongings and leave your door open. If you have nothing, you have nothing to lose.

  • -1

    avigator

    The problem with the dog is how to get rid of it. Frungy provided some excellent advices. My wife made me buy a 100 pound safe, so try carrying that.

  • 0

    cleo

    The problem with the dog is how to get rid of it.

    Why on earth would you want to get rid of a dog?

    A dog doesn't need to be large and aggressive to be a good guard dog. Even a yappy chihuahua can be a guard dog; it won't eat the burglar, but its yappy barking will make enough noise for the burglar to decide to try somewhere else. Even a 'Beware of the Dog' notice on the door has some effect.

  • 2

    Bondsan

    GalapagosnoGairaishu

    small aggressive wives also work!

  • 0

    Khaya

    Take precautionary action against this kind of incidents. Protect your home and properties from burglars. You might want to use this very useful and helpful app called safekidzone on your phone as well as your family. At the press of the panic button, you can send simultaneous alert to your family member. The call can even be routed to the nearest 911 if badly needed.

  • -1

    ex-japan-visitor

    166 per day? That probably happens in Detroit each day, alone.

  • 1

    Novenachama

    While there are no guarantees a tough glass alarm and installation of a dead bolt lock is a first step to prevent having a home burglary. If you're using a dog to help protect your home there is a difference between a watch dog and a guard dog. Watch dogs serve mainly to alert others to the presence of an intruder in your home and guard dogs however, will move to incapacitate or subdue an intruder and tend to be more aggressive than a watch dog. Therefore if you're looking for a dog to alert you of an impending intruder, a watch dog may be the way to go. If you are ever leaving on vacation soon then rent a fake police car and leave it parked outside your home the entire time.

  • 1

    FightingViking

    As well as the dog, we also have "burglar alarm protection" from a well known security company.

  • 2

    Lowly

    I will share my burglar-prevention habits, in an attempt to help others maintain a safe lifestyle.

    I live in an old Japanese house, and the windows on the street I keep in a studied state of filth, such that it doesn't look to me like there is anything valuable in my house (which there really isn't).

    In addition to that, I have a second line of defense, which is my cats. They will just run from anything, and at really astonishing speeds, too. Any burglar fool enough to enter my pad, is sure to be nervous already, and once an explosion of fur shoots from from the sofa to the kotatsu, making strange cries as it goes, they are sure to be startled, jump out of their skins, and turn tail, so to speak, and flee.

  • 0

    jpntdytmrow

    Great advice here. A safe is a good bet. Lots of those washed up in the Tsunami of 2011. Living in a rural area, I agree that the elderly are a great source of mutual security. I have have two larger dogs who go on rounds to make sure the elderly are safe. The people appreciate the dogs and say they feel secure having the dogs watch the neighborhood. The dogs know all the sounds of cars and delivery trucks and do not bark unless something is strange. One dog kept an eye on the home of a man who lived alone. The dogs also feel secure because the neighbors talk to them if they are outside. In return, the elderly watch all of our homes. As was suggested, we exchange food and drive them to the station or take them on errands. We also have cats, one of whom growls when strangers approach. I had a friend in Japan who had a dog and a DUCK. The duck was the meanest thing and would chase and actually bite any unannounced visitor.

  • 0

    Himajin

    a couple of guys trying to "buy any old - even broken - gold jewellery"

    Those people are suspect....they came around our neighborhood, and after the initial spiel they start asking if you have a ring or something that you especially love, and if you'd show it to them...'design no benkyou ni narimasu ('to help me learn about design'). Eh? 'But your neighbors A-san, B-san and C-san already showed me their jewelry, why not show me yours?' Really??

    We have a dog, and he's good about only barking when something's up. However he's getting on in years, and I don't plan to have another pet after this one. If I'm in the US, he's in a kennel anyway, so not a deterrent when I need one most. Security system installation can be expensive but it's well worth it.

    Barring that, multiple locks on doors and double windows make it harder to get in, the houses in our old neighborhood that were broken into all had single pane windows. Another factor is not having hedges or walls so high that no one can see into your yard. This was the other category of houses that were broken into. The only risk to a burglar if the house is hidden is exposure when entering and leaving, which takes seconds...once inside the walls they can take their time. For the last break in they wore suits so when they were leaving they looked like salesmen coming out from a call.

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