I grew up in a Magical time in Maine, when they still played cartoons on Saturday mornings, and candy bars were a quarter. Classic Rock was just called Rock, and when you visited a relative’s house, you knocked once and just went on in. We never locked our doors, until the day our house was burglarized.
Having spent 20 years living in Boston, locking the door is a strong habit for me. I like keeping my stuff, and I don’t like having scalawags and interlopers in my home. So, it was a bit weird to me when I moved back to Maine and found that people would question, even make fun of me for locking my house and car doors … until someone tried to burglarize my house.
Do you sense a pattern yet?
I’m not about the scare tactics, and I recognize that Maine is one of the safest places in the country to live. However, locking your doors is the simplest, cheapest, and most effective ways of deterring crime in your home.
But locking your door only keeps out the honest people.
If I had a nickel for every time I heard this one, I could buy a whole lot of frozen custard and whoopee pies. It’s one of those “truthy” things that is actually completely wrong. Think about it for a second – honest people don’t break into your house or car or steal your stuff.
Looking at real crime data instead of relying on folksy expressions, most home break-ins happen in the afternoon (around 2PM actually). And most of them happen through unlocked doors and windows. Let me repeat that in case you’re skimming: Most break-ins happen through unlocked doors or windows.
Why is this?
Criminals don’t want to get caught or shot. Forceful break-ins require effort, make noise, leave evidence, and can injure the crook. They significantly increase the criminal’s chances of alert someone nearby. They aren’t an easy score.
Locks can’t keep out a criminal who really wants to get in.
True enough. Unless you live in the vault at Fort Knox, if somebody is dedicated enough, they’ll be able to get in. Heck, we even had a fence jumper get into The White House recently – though the door wasn’t locked.
This doesn’t mean that locks are completely useless. Once again’ they will stop most criminals who will simply give up to look for an easier score. Most importantly, forcing somebody who is dedicated to entering your home, to do it the hard way, delays them. It forces them to make noise; it increases the chance they might be injured.
Home invasions are a horrible situation. Most break ins when somebody is home result in injury. If you’re home the noise from a forcible break in might give you time to get your family to safety, call 911, and grab something to protect yourself.
Lock your car too.
A police officer friend of mine, on the force for over 15 years, tells me that every single vehicle burglary she’s investigated in all that time involved an unlocked car.
Just last year, two Auburn teens were arrested for allegedly breaking into as many as 80 cars, and there was a string of car break-ins in Fryeburg. The #1 tip from police: lock your car doors.
I also don’t recommend leaving valuables in plain site in your car.
Why we don’t lock our doors
When I think about it, it boggles my mind. It takes less than a second to lock a door, so inconvenience is not an issue. The most common answer I get when I ask why someone doesn’t lock their doors, “It’s Maine.”
I think there’s something deep in our psychology going on here. For many people, they aren’t comfortable holding the idea that they may be victimized by crime some day. It’s a type of denial, and I get it. I weigh that against the sense of violation and fear that comes with a break in-that extends beyond the loss of physical “stuff”.
After somebody tried to break into our house, the kids had nightmares for a few weeks despite our efforts to assuage their fears, Having a martial arts and self-defense teacher for a dad doesn’t hold a lot of weight with my skeptical kids.
Another excuse I sometimes get is, “If somebody wants to break in and steal our stuff, I don’t want him to break down my door and cause a lot of damage.” Well then, you should probably just put all your valuables out on the porch. Seriously though, this is bad risk analysis.
Since locking your door is a proven way to stop most burglaries, it is a far less risky proposition than forcing someone to break in the hard way.
So lock your doors.