Dec 192014

December is a wonderful time of year! Lots of different holidays are being celebrated, families move around the country so that they can get together, and the cash registers ring merrily with the sounds of all those booming sales. The downside of December? Well, that would be the increase in crime rates. From crimes of opportunity, to thieves targeting the increase of new goods in homes, December can be destroyed forever if you become a victim of crime at this time of year.

Females who are living alone, or who are moving around alone at night are more likely to be targeted by those criminals who are opportunitsts. But, if you live in one of the 42 states where a disguised stun gun is legal, then you can take a stand to fight back and protect yourself.

Disguised stun guns are not considered to be a firearm in 84% of the United States. You can purchase one as protection for yourself provided that you have no recorded felonies, you are over 18 years old, and you only intend to use it for self defense. Some states have legalized the use of stun guns, but they can only be kept in the home. Others regulate that you must obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon before you can take the stun gun out with you. Your first step before buying one is to find out exactly what your state requirements are.

A disguised stun gunOnce you know the legalities of purchasing this device for your protection, you need to decide on which design would suit you best. One of the best things about the disguised stun gun is that you can carry it on you, or in your handbag (provided your home state allows this), and it is not immediately obvious to a criminal that you have a weapon on you. Your design options include a replica smartphone, a pen, a small flashlight, a lipstick, or a perfume atomizer. Looking into your bag, none of these items are going to raise any suspicion at all.

If you’ve not seen a stun gun in action before, rest assured they provide quite the punch that can get you out of a sticky situation. Because it is so small, you can carry it safely in your hand while you are walking back to your car alone at night. Anyone who is silly enough to attack you? Well, slip the safety switches and press the gun against your attacker for up to five seconds.

The voltage that will then bite into the skin of the criminal will incapacitate them for up to ten minutes. While they will not be permanently harmed, they will experience confusion, disorientation, and a loss of muscle control. This gives you the opportunity to get away to safety, and then to ring for police help. Additionally, some stun guns come with an inbuilt flashlight which can be used to further upset your attacker as you use that to temporarily blind them.

In every self-defense class you are taught that if you can fight back using an element of surprise, it is possible to get away from your attacker unharmed. This stun gun will help to give you the element of surprise that you need, and you can feel confident that even when you are moving around on your own at night, that you will not become a victim of crime.

One final note of warning, if you do decide to keep this protection in your bag 24/7, do remember to remove it before you get on the plane for your next travel adventure. Otherwise, you could have some explaining to do with the TSA.

Dec 152014

While we hope it never happens, at some point in your life you may become the victim of a burglary. You come home from a long day at work and find your front door has been jimmied open. Your blood runs cold and a chill goes down your spine. As your heart thumps madly in your chest, you wonder, “What do I do?”

Fight the urge to immediately rush inside and see what’s been taken or damaged. If the burglar is still inside, he or she might become violent in their own panic to escape. Instead, get back in your vehicle and drive a bit up the road. It would be great if you are still within eyeshot of your home, so you can see if someone leaves.

Call 911 and provide the dispatcher with the following information.

–Your name
–Your address
–That you came home and discovered a possible break in.

Speak clearly and remain calm. The dispatcher may ask you for your description as well as a description of your vehicle. This is so the responding officer will hopefully recognize you as the caller, rather than a potential burglary suspect. Follow any instructions the dispatcher gives you and wait for the police to arrive.

Once the police are on site, they will want to walk through the home and search to ensure the burglars have left. You will remain outside until they give you the all clear. This is for your own safety, as well as the safety of the officers. If during their search they hear a noise or see an indication someone is in the home, you don’t want to be caught in the middle.

Upon entering your home, you will want to go into each room and try to determine what, if anything, is missing. Some things may be obvious, such as a TV. Others, though, you might not discover until later. You’re obviously going to be very upset and distressed and it is easy to overlook things when in that state of mind. Make a list of everything you find to be missing, with as much detail for each item as possible.

Something I’d encourage you to do today is to take photographs of your more valuable possessions – electronics, computers, jewelry, firearms, that sort of stuff. When there is one present, take a photo of the serial number of the item. Keep all of these photos on a flash drive so you can easily pull them up, even if your main computer was one of the items taken.

Submit the list of taken items, complete with photos if available, to the police and your insurance agent. I’m sorry to tell you this but the odds of recovering much or even any of the stolen property are probably going to be rather slim. Thieves don’t tend to hold on to stolen goods for very long. They typically don’’t want the TV, they want the cash from someone who will buy the TV from them. Hopefully, though, your insurance agent can process the claim quickly and you’ll be able to replace the goods soon.

Dec 102014

Remember those old movies you watched when you were growing up and how many times you saw those really hollow book safes? Man, it seems like they were seen in so many thrillers and mysteries back then. I wanted one so bad when I was a kid but had no clue where I’d find one. This was WAY before the Internet, of course, back when Google was the library card catalog.

Diversion Safes - The Book SafePerhaps not surprisingly, I later learned there was an actual term for these types of hidden security solutions – diversion safes. Diversion safes are, quite simply, safes that are disguised as something else.

They come in a wide range of options, from cans of beer and soda to household cleansers, clocks, and yes, even hollow books. The idea behind a diversion safe is that you can hide your goodies sort of in plain view, providing easy access to them as necessary.

The best disguised safes will not only look identical to their real-life counterparts, they’ll feel normal as well, such as having the same weight.

A possible downside to using hidden safes is if you have other people in your home. You’ll need to clue them in that the can of shaving foam at the back of the linen closet isn’t suitable for use in the shower.

Sink Cleanser Hidden SafeAs for what to store in one of these, you are really only limited by the space constraints of the safe itself. Obviously, you aren’t going to be able to squirrel away a loaded handgun and extra ammo in a can of hair spray. But, these safes work great for things like coins, paper money, ammo, and other small valuables.

While diversion safes aren’t exactly unknown to criminals, few burglars are going to root through your laundry room and make off with your sink cleansers and such. They want to get in and get out as quickly as possible. Therefore, they tend to concentrate on the visible valuables as well as what they might find in an unlocked gun cabinet.

Personally, I love diversion safes. They’re not only incredibly useful but they’re just pretty darn cool to have around.

Dec 022014

I’ve worked in the security and investigation fields for about two decades now. Time and again, one of the areas that I’ve seen given the least amount of attention in security planning is adequate lighting. Often, the problem isn’t that lights aren’t installed but rather they aren’t nearly powerful enough. Another common issue is lights that aren’t maintained properly.

Criminals and such avoid light like vampires avoid the sun. They don’t want to be seen when they’re engaging in their chosen profession. If they are working at jimmying open a window at 2AM, if a light comes on they scatter like the cockroaches they usually are.

Motion activated lights should be present on all sides of the home. You want these lights to be as bright as possible. The ideal would be bright enough that you could read a newspaper dozens of feet away from the spotlight. Position the motion sensor so movement at any entry point will be detected. If the range of your unit won’t extend far enough to reach all of the ground level windows and doors along the side of the house, consider adding another unit.

If money is tight and you can only afford one or two motion activated lights, install them over or very near the front and back doors of the home. These are the most common entry points, not only for you but for intruders as well.

While there have been great strides in bulb technology, as they last much longer today than they did years ago, you still need to check them regularly to ensure none are burnt out. Test them monthly by taking a walk around the perimeter of your home. Any lights that don’t operate as expected should be checked as soon as possible. Could be a bulb has burned out or perhaps the motion sensor is obstructed by something. Bear in mind that many motion activated lights on the market today only turn on at night, so as to conserve energy. So, your testing may need to be done after sundown.

Of course, while these lights may help with deterring crime, they only do so passively. It is up to you to get out of your chair, possibly missing part of Dancing with the Stars, and check to see what it was that activated the light. While it is most likely going to be a critter of some sort, the time you don’t look will be the time it turns out to be Joe Burglar.

Security lighting shouldn’t be limited to the perimeter of your home, either. Each and every room of your home should have at least one working flashlight in it. In a sudden power outage, those flashlights will help prevent you from stumbling over something and getting hurt. If you have small children, I suggest investing in a few dynamo (crank) powered flashlights for their rooms. Reason being, you know they are going to play with any flashlights you put in their rooms. Using the crank powered ones will prevent the possibility of learning, at the worst possible time, that the batteries are either dead or missing from the light.

Nov 282014

I will admit, the name threw me off a bit. What, is it something marketed to little green men who find themselves landing in shady parts of town?

The UFO Alarm is a Multi-Functional Security Device

The UFO Alarm is, simply put, a multi-function alarm device that can be used to secure doors, windows, drawers, and even yourself. It has a ton of features all wrapped up in a neat little package.

UFO Alarm

It has a 120 decibel alarm that sounds when the device is activated. How loud is 120 decibels? Think a running chainsaw or a loud rock concert. Plenty loud enough to not only startle an intruder into fleeing but it is certain to catch the attention of anyone else in the area. The alarm will sound for up to 50 full minutes if not turned off.

The alarm is activated either by pressing a panic button or by pulling out a strap from the side of the unit. The panic button is a wonderful addition, turning the UFO Alarm into a great personal security device to keep handy in your purse or pocket. Plus, it has a small flashlight built in, making it a multi-use addition to your every day carry (EDC) gear.

The UFO Alarm is Versatile

The flashlight also serves as a strobe when the alarm is activated, adding a visual cue to the auditory blast. Not only will this help to call attention to the alarm, it can serve to disorient an intruder.

For those who carry purses (this would include both the standard Mom purse as well as the “man purse” that has become increasingly common), you can loop the wrist strap on your arm and if the purse is taken from you, the alarm will let everyone in the area know something is amiss.

At home, the UFO Alarm is used to secure doors and windows, alerting you immediately if someone attempts entry. I could see these being rather popular with people who live alone as well as college students who tend to rent apartments in less than ideal parts of the city. It would be great for travelers as well, who would use the UFO Alarm to secure their hotel room doors.

If you are concerned about people sneaking into your desk when you’re not around, the UFO Alarm can even be used to secure your sensitive files (or snacks, whichever you feel is more important). Imagine the fun you could have the next time Phil from Human Resources tries to snatch some of your M&Ms!

The UFO Alarm is available in green, blue, or pink. These pastel colors are pleasing to the eye and will blend in with many decorative schemes in the home. If those colors all clash with your walls and such, just hide it behind a picture frame. At just a couple of inches across and an inch high, it will fit darn near anywhere!

Specs on the UFO Alarm

Nov 242014

Several months ago, my father spent a few weeks in the hospital as the result of varying health issues. He’s doing better now, thanks for asking. He’d taken in a roommate not too long after my mom passed away and while Dad was in the hospital, the roommate had to run all the errands and such so the house was empty more often than normal. I got a call one evening from the roommate, telling me that the house had been robbed while he’d been gone.

A Home Break In

Smashed Back Door Gained EntryThe entry point was the back door, which had been smashed in by the intruder. What he’d done was grab a bucket that had been sitting outside in the snow and used that as a battering ram. The bucket had been filled with frozen rainwater and worked rather nicely, I’ll have to admit. Upon entering the home, it appeared he’d gone immediately to the roommate’s bedroom and snatched a fair amount of cash he’d had on his dresser, as well as some prescription medications. Nothing else in the house looked to have been touched.

I and the responding officers were able to follow tracks in the snow to where the guy had parked his vehicle. It didn’t take long for us to piece together exactly how it had played out, though to this day, about 10 months later, no arrests have been made.

Surveillance Gear Would Have Helped Solve the Case

Just a single surveillance camera could have solved the entire case. The way the house is laid out, anyone entering or leaving through a door would have to walk through the main living room. A pinhole camera, hidden inside an alarm clock or some other innocuous item, would have easily shown the person’s face, a face that would no doubt be recognizable to law enforcement.

Fan Surveillance CameraHere’s another quick example. A husband and wife I know have a small vacation home located a few hours north. This is a home they built themselves, little by little on most weekends from spring through fall. Someday, it is going to be their permanent home, once they both decide to finally retire. One Saturday not too long ago, they arrived at the home to find it had been ransacked. While it didn’t look like anything had been stolen, many dishes and other items were smashed or otherwise vandalized. Walls were covered in spray paint, too. By all accounts, it was obviously the work of a group of kids. But, which kids? The house is fairly remote, so no neighbors would have easily seen what was going on. Had the homeowners purchased a motion-activated camera, one that would alert them remotely to something amiss, they could have responded much quicker, alerting local law enforcement and possibly even catching the kids right in the act.

It used to be that home surveillance cameras and other gear was so expensive, only the wealthy would consider it. Today, prices are reasonable and the quality of the footage is light years ahead of what it was even a few years ago. Technology has come a long way. You could have a motion-activated camera hidden inside darn near anything you can imagine. Couple it with a wi-fi router and it will not only record what it sees, you’ll get a text or call sent right to your phone. On top of that, you can even view the video live, wherever you are. Pretty darn cool.

While home surveillance gear won’t necessarily prevent a burglary, it will go a long way toward catching the people who did it. Burglars have a tendency to revisit successful scores. You’ll sleep better knowing they’ve been caught, maybe within mere minutes of the act.

Nov 102014

As we enter into the silly season, many of you will be venturing forth to do some holiday shopping. While online shopping is, of course, extremely popular, there is still a significant percentage of people who prefer visiting the stores in person. Whether that’s because they enjoy seeing the stores all decked out in holiday decorations or because they, for some twisted reason, love large crowds, the fact is that you need to take some common sense precautions when holiday shopping (as well as at any other time, of course).

How to Stay Safe Shopping During the Holidays

First, using credit cards is far safer than using cash. Cards can be canceled if lost. Cash, once it is gone, is gone forever. Plus, major credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, etc.) often offer purchase protection. They will fight on your behalf should a retailer do something less than honorable. There is a risk in using credit, though, because it can be all too easy to spend over your self-imposed limits. Plus, there’s interest that can accrue if you’re unable to pay that balance in full when the bill arrives. But, when it comes to safe shopping, credit cards are the way to go if that’s a viable option for you.

Always be sure to get your card back from the cashier. When things are hectic at the store, mistakes (accidental or intentional) can happen. Take a second to look at the card handed to you and make sure it is yours. By the way, writing CID or See ID on the back of the card in place of your signature is a boneheaded move and many retailers won’t accept it any more. Doing this provides you with absolutely no extra protection whatsoever.

Staying Safe During Holiday Shopping

If you decide to use cash, count your change carefully. Many cashiers today just don’t do this anymore so you’ll have to do it for them. If you are carrying a large sum of cash, say your entire holiday shopping budget, it is wise to spread this out among several pockets. There are many styles of “body safes” and other hidden wallets you could utilize if that appeals to you. If nothing else, keep the bulk of your money relatively inaccessible, such as in your sock. As needed, hit a bathroom and peel off a few bills to put in your pocket for the next round of purchases.

Purse Security

For those who carry a purse, always carry it with the strap going across your body, from one shoulder to the opposite hip. This helps prevent purse snatchers from grabbing it on the run. Related to this, don’t ever put your purse in a shopping cart and leave it unattended for even a second. Far better to just keep it on your body. Again, though, don’t keep all of your cash in the purse. An experienced thief could cut the purse strap and keep on running.

If you’re shopping at a mall or some other place where you’re likely to amass several bags or boxes, make periodic trips to your car to unload. Stash your goodies in the trunk, where they won’t be visible. What you want to avoid is walking out to your car, trying to juggle a bunch of packages as you dig for your keys. Keep your eyes open and be aware of your surroundings. Before leaving the store, arrange everything so you have your keys in your hand and ready to use. If anything seems amiss, if your Spidey Sense is tingling, so to speak, immediately turn around and go back into the store. Ask if you could have an employee walk out to your vehicle with you. If you’re at a mall, contact mall security for this.

Too Many Shopping Bags?

Shopping with a friend is typically far more fun, as well as safer. Some folks like to arrange for shopping parties, for lack of a better term, where a bunch of them get together and spend a day hitting a ton of stores. While this might not appeal to everyone, even just having one person with you can make for a much safer shopping trip. Criminals tend to target those who are alone.

Vehicle Safety while Holiday Shopping

When you get into your vehicle, buckle up and drive away as soon as possible. A somewhat common tactic for criminals is to approach a victim just after they’ve gotten into the vehicle, while they are fixing their hair, tuning the radio, or are otherwise distracted. If you simply must do these things before moving on to the next store, pull out of your parking space and drive to a different part of the parking lot, one that is free of obstructions like other cars so you can see all around you. Stop there and do what you need to do before moving on to your next destination.

Above all else, practice what we call situational awareness. Be aware of what’s around you, rather than wearing the proverbial blinders so many others keep on their heads. Pay attention to the world and you’ll not only be able to see possible threats but you’ll exude an air of confidence, which is something criminals want to avoid.

Jun 172014

Quick, how many flashlights do you have in your home? How many of them actually have charged batteries in them? How long would it take you to put your hands on a working flashlight right now?

Ideally, you should have a working flashlight in every room of your home and they should be tested regularly. The most common locations in the home for a flashlight are the master bedroom and perhaps the junk drawer of the kitchen. If you have any sort of workshop, there’s probably one or two floating around out there as well. In many homes, that’s about it. They have perhaps three or four flashlights, each in dubious working condition.

Flashlight Security Tool

Quite often, in fact, the flashlights weren’t all that great even when brand new. I mean, sure, you can run down to your local discount retailer and pick up a four-pack of cheap plastic lights, complete with batteries, for just a few bucks. There are a few problems with doing that, though. First, those cheap lights aren’t very well made and probably won’t last very long, particularly if you use them on any sort of regular basis. Second, they just aren’t bright enough. Yeah, they’ll cast enough light to see which circuit breaker switch was tripped but that’s about it.

There are two main options to consider with flashlights – LED or incandescent bulbs. If at all possible, go with LED. They are infinitely brighter than incandescent and because they use far less energy to operate, the batteries will last a lot longer.

I prefer the body of my flashlight to be made of metal, rather than plastic. In a pinch, if I need to smack someone with a flashlight, I don’t want it to fall apart in my hands.

How bright should the flashlight be? Light is measured in lumens. The higher the number of lumens, the brighter the light. Something in the 20-30 lumens range will help you find shoes in the back of a closet but that’s about it. 60-80 lumens will be enough to light up an average bedroom so you can see where you’re going without bumping into a night stand or something. Moving up from there, 200 lumens will light up a small backyard fairly well.

Me? I want as many lumens as possible. I have a Coast brand flashlight that puts out 1,000+ lumens. It is about the same size as a Maglite, so we’re not talking some sort of stationary Bat-signal floodlight. I’ll tell you right now, if someone were coming at me and I flashed 1,000 lumens into their face, it’ll be enough of a distraction for me to take further action.

Flashlights are important for security because, well, it is hard to see what’s going on in the dark. Not only do you want the ability to shine a light at an intruder, you want to be able to move around the house without knocking things over or getting hurt. There are many rather small, yet very powerful, flashlights on the market today. Look for brands like Maglite, Foursevens, and Fenix. They’re going to cost you a bit more but they will also last far longer than their cheap, plastic counterparts.

Jun 142014

Burglar Caught in the ActYou came home from work and surprised a burglar who was in the process of stuffing your family jewelry into a sack. Fortunately, when he rushed you to try and escape, you managed to use your stun gun, TASER, or a trusty billy club to take him down.

So You’ve Caught a Burglar – Now what?

Despite what you’ve undoubtedly seen in the movies or on TV, your immediate course of action should be to get out of the home. You cannot assume the intruder will be out of commission for any set length of time. Get out now and call the police. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, and for darn sure, don’t stop to take a selfie!

With the adrenaline that will be coursing through your veins, it might be difficult to think straight. Your hands will be trembling and you’ll probably feel more than a little queasy, again due to the adrenaline.

As a result, you cannot be reasonably certain you are capable of restraining the intruder by tying him up or through some other means. He could become mobile again at any moment and if that happens while you’re present, odds are pretty good that things aren’t going to end well for you.

In fact, in all the excitement, you could have been injured yourself and not realize it right away. More than one homeowner has been stabbed or cut during a scuffle with an intruder and didn’t know it until the responding officer brought it to their attention.

It’s Not the Time for Gloating!

Not the Time to Gloat!Save the gloating for later. Your first priority is to keep you and your family safe. That means getting out of the house and calling the police.

While you’re talking to the dispatcher, try and remember everything you can about the intruder’s appearance, including things like height, build, hair color, facial features, and clothing.

In the event the intruder rouses himself enough to make his way out of your home, your description will be valuable in tracking him down.

Jun 122014

The fact of the matter is that crime simply will never go away, regardless of the measures put in place to stop it. This means that any individual, statistically, could be a target for crime at any given time. Although figures given out by the FBI indicate that the violent crime rates have actually dropped somewhat over the last several years or so, these figures may not present the whole picture. In small towns, the murder rate has actually increased significantly rather than decreased, which means that the studies may have only covered large cities’ populations and the crime rates in those areas.

This is an additional worry for many people who live in smaller town, simply because there may be fewer people that can be called upon to help you during a personal attack. The FBI publishes its annual crime rate report at the end of each year, and sometimes these figures are hailed as an example of the safe environment around us. Unfortunately, that is not so. There are thousands of murders each year in the United States, and hundreds of thousands of rapes, robberies and physical assaults reported, in addition to those crimes that go unreported.

What to Choose for Defending Yourself

Given these statistics, it should be no mystery why so many people choose to arm themselves with various self defense weapons like stun guns, knives, pepper spray and guns. However, since each state law is different in its interpretation of the type of weapons it permits its citizens, everyone should carefully research the type of weapons they can have and when they can have them. For example, most states allow stun guns everywhere except places where guns are restricted also. But some states have banned them outright or have them legal only if you have an FOID card.

Depending on your state laws and your financial situation, you may be able to find items that can help you protect yourself in a time of need. Most places will allow pepper spray and self defense spray is one of the most effective non-lethal forms of defending yourself. Whatever form your self-defense takes, you need to stay prepared to use it, whether it is Karate or a stun gun. Carefully assess the situation, and if you live in a high risk area, you may wish to invest in martial arts training or one of the many self defense weapons.