Months ago a friend invited me to a special forum that the Sullivan High School's Parents Association conducted for the community. The panel featured a half dozen convicted burglars, each of whom discussed their trade in complete detail: how they canvass neighborhoods to decide which homes or apartments to hit; their favorite means of ingress and egress; the types of valuables that they try to steal; and, due to the fact that they served real time for their offenses, they voiced genuine regret about their prior criminal acts, and they explained the steps that each of them took to turn their lives around.

As fascinated as I was with the forum, I regret that I didn't take full heed of their advice about being fully vigilant in guarding my home and investment property. As a result, in the past month I have personally experienced the loss and gut wrenching sense of violation of being a victim of such criminal acts.

Yet, as a victim, I have learned some lessons about what one needs to do guard against these types of actions - advice that I pass on here.

If you own your own single family home, remain mindful that your doors and windows are locked when you are not at home. From time to time, evaluate your entrances and make sure that they are properly secured with a functional deadbolt lock.

The same applies if you live in a multifamily setting. Work with your landlord or your condo association to be sure that you and your staff are mindful of proper procedures.

Be sure that you and your neighbors are vigilant about who is allowed into your building, and that neighbors keep an eye out for each other.

Be careful about who knows about your vacation schedule. Be especially careful if you hire new contractors or maintenance staff who you might not know very well. If you let someone like this into your home, know that they could be secretly assessing your home, considering points of entry and locations within your home that they would like to “hit" when you are gone.

Modern technology provides us with excellent means of placing cameras in our homes and buildings – including infrared cameras that can display video on your cell phone. Depending on the scope of the set up, such camera systems can be affordable, easy to use, and remarkably effective. Consider mixing a combination of visible and hidden cameras – though a visible camera might serve as a deterrent, I have learned that a hidden camera can effectively recover video that will help the police apprehend and prosecute the criminal.

Be sure to work with the police. Call 911 (not 311) as soon as you learn of a crime if you want a police officer to assess the situation. The responding officers with whom I dealt with were professional, extraordinarily helpful and an investigation underway.
Again: if you want police to come to the scene, call 911.

Though the CAPS program has been substantially altered in recent months, the local CAPS Office remains willing to offer solid advice about securing your home. Attend a meeting (brochures available) or call 312.744-5907.

Perhaps one unfortunate consequence of the poor economy is that it has caused some people who typically don't have a criminal tendency to compromise their integrity and take foolish risks. Their economic desperation prevents them from considering the full consequences of their actions, and the toll that such acts impose on their victims, let alone the personal risk that the criminal faces if and when he or she is caught.

Such individuals should feel ashamed of themselves. Once caught, they will have time to consider regret - just as do the career burglars who now, voluntarily, serve on panels to discuss their regret.

One ought not be a victim of a burglary or a theft to be reminded that we always need to carefully consider that we are doing all that we can to assure the safety and security of our homes.