SafeWise recently interviewed Senior Lead Officer Leonid A. Tsap from the Los Angeles Police Department. We asked him about what burglars look for, the effectiveness of guard dogs, and common home security mistakes. Read his interview for the latest smart safety advice.

What is the worst/least accurate home security tip or myth that you’ve heard?

Myth: “Don’t tell anyone you won’t be home.”

Burglars prefer unoccupied homes to break in. If you do not have anyone trusted to watch the house, indicators of empty homes will show up and will be detectable to burglars.

What is the number one mistake that homeowners make when it comes to home security?

One of the biggest mistakes is the false sense of security that homeowners experience. “It will not happen to me” and “it cannot happen in my neighborhood” are just a few examples.

What are some common 9-1-1 emergency false alarms related to home security? (ex: people calling 9-1-1 for a burglary scare)

Weather (i.e. wind, rain) could trigger the alarm activation. In some instances, homeowners accidently set off their alarm system and forget their password. Thus, they are unable to provide the password to the security company personnel in order to disarm the system and prevent the response of the police officers.

What is your take on neighborhood watch organizations? How can they benefit a community? What is your advice on how to initiate one within a community?

Neighborhood Watch is a great tool and resource for the homeowners to organize and play an active part in their community’s safekeeping. In order to obtain more information on Neighborhood Watch and how to get involved, contact your local law enforcement agency.

Are you able to give an example of the most common type of home burglary and the best way it could be prevented? Was it a common entry point? Unlocked doors? A simple mistake?

There have been a lot of homeowners leaving doors/windows open or unlocked for pets, ventilation, and other reasons. Secure your home and think, if you were a burglar, what would be the easiest way into the house. Find it and block it, making it difficult for a suspect to access your residence. Most burglars are opportunists and look for an easy target.

What is the best way to secure ground level windows or doors, especially if you don’t have an alarm system where sensors can detect any suspicious behavior?

There is no one method that will for sure proof your house from a burglar. However, deadbolt locks, motion sensor lighting, and dogs can all possibly deter the potential burglars. Remember, the harder you make it for anyone to enter your residence, the chances are higher that the potential burglar will move on to a different location.

How can you leverage relationships with your neighbors to protect your home and family?

Get involved. Contact your local law enforcement agency and start a Neighborhood Watch. Knowing your neighbors and developing a trusting relationship with them is of utmost importance.

What are tips for securing your valuables? Are safes recommended and if so, are there any “safe” safety tips that you have?

Safes can be a secure and convenient way to keep your valuables. Keep the combination/keys with only trusted people and have the safe secured in a manner that makes it difficult for the thief to break into it. One of the best methods would be a floor safe inset in the concrete floor with only access to the opening/combination. The thief cannot carry out the safe and if they wanted to get into it, they would have to break the front where it is usually more fortified than the sides or the back of the safe.

How should someone react in the event of a home invasion? What should the victim do after they dial 9-1-1 and how do you get the victim to remain calm while they wait for help?

Call 9-1-1 immediately. If your house is equipped with an alarm system, use its panic button as well. If you have an avenue of escape, exit the house and go to your neighbor’s. If you are inside the location with no way out, lock yourself in a secure area (i.e. bedroom, bathroom) and wait for the arrival of the police. If confronted by the suspect, comply with his/her demands.

What types of neighborhoods do burglars tend to target?

The crime of burglary can occur in any neighborhood.

Based on your experiences, what are burglars looking for most? Cash? Electronics? Jewelry?

Burglars are looking for any valuables that could be easily exchanged for cash or other products that the burglar is interested in (i.e. drugs).

What is the perfect target for a burglar? How do they choose their targets? What are the signs that they are looking for?

The burglars are looking for an easy target. Easy, unsecured access (i.e. unlocked doors or windows). In addition, things of value that are left unsecured and in the open could attract the attention of criminals.

Some signs that burglars look for are piled up mail and newspapers. This could be an indicator that the residents are out of the house (i.e. vacation, business trip). Thus, if you are out of town, put a vacation hold on your mail or have a trusted family member, friend, or neighbor pick it up.

What is your opinion on having a dog for home security purposes? How effective are dogs in preventing burglaries?

Dogs pose a risk of loud noise or injury to the burglar and thus are a good deterrent when it comes to burglars. Thus, dogs could be effective in preventing burglaries.

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What other questions would you ask Officer Tsap? Let us know and we’ll get in touch with him!

Special thanks to Leonid A. Tsap and the LAPD for taking the time to answer our questions!

Images courtesy of Storebukkebruse and Alan Cleaver.

Written by Hillary Johnston

A proud mother of four, Hillary is passionate about safety education. She holds a degree in Public Health and Disaster Management. Learn more

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