Easy Prey Dies First

A crash startles you awake. Is it real? Are you dreaming?

Glass shatters.

Bolting upright in bed, all the muscles in your back and neck stiffen at once.

Crunch, crunch, crunch. Footsteps through broken glass.

Darkness swallows the bedroom. Even the moon doesn’t dare shine.

A little voice inside your head screams, “Run! Hide!” But you freeze, unsure of what to do or even if this is real. Your neck snaps toward the bedside table.

Through the blackness cherry-red digits blaze 2:00 a.m.

You slide your palm across the silk sheets. A lump. Your spouse is still beside you. You start to exhale but breath catches in your throat. If your spouse in bed, then who—

The bottom tread creaks, echoes off the walls. You reach to shake your spouse awake, but your hand never makes contact. Leaden footsteps grow closer…closer…

A gazillion questions careen through your mind. Why is this happening? You’ve always been so careful to lock the doors and windows at night. How did he get in? What does he want? To kill you? Rob you? Rape you? Or all the above?

Under the covers you kick your spouse, hush, “Wake up. Somebody’s in the house.”

Still groggy and out of it, s/he grapples to understand the situation.

Footfalls strike the hardwood. The stranger—probably armed, murderous—is in the hall with bad intentions. In a few more strides you’ll be face-to-face with this maniac.

An icy tongue licks up your spine. Move. Now!

Your toes sink into the carpet. A coolness prickles your bare legs. You take one step, praying to all that’s holy that you don’t step on the squeaky floorboard. A godawful stench wafts into the bedroom, and churns your stomach acids. Stale booze and cigarettes—like the serial predator who abducted you at five years old. Is he still in prison? Now’s not the time.

You summon your mind to clear. Concentrate. Focus.

The bedside clock flashes 2:01 a.m.

Another creak. This time closer, too close.

What do you do next? Jot down your answer before reading the rest of this post.

In my last post I mentioned I’d put a plan into a motion in case of a home invasion. Kay and Jeanne asked me to share that plan. While it’s not the best idea to share details of my personal plan (bad guys do read), I have no problem offering a few tips for you to create your own plan.

If a killer wants in your home, there isn’t much you can do about it. Nonetheless, there are ways to make your home safer.

According to FBI statistics, a burglar strikes every 30 seconds in the U.S., with almost 29% occurring with someone in the home. Technically, that would be a robbery, not a burglary.

If your house is broken into when no one’s home, it’s a burglary.

If your house is broken into while you’re there, it’s a robbery or home invasion.

Criminology reports don’t yet consider the most unique time in recent history.

Due to voluntary quarantines and more people working from home, the risk of coming face-to-face with a home invader has never been higher. Although burglaries can and do happen at any time, they’re most common during daytime hours. Those numbers spike during the summer months.

By learning how to properly secure and protect your home against invasions or burglaries at any time of the day or night, you can reduce your chances of becoming a victim. Evaluate your home, change your routine when you do leave, and implement other home security measures.

“Safeguarding your home is all about protecting the human asset which is why ensuring it is done efficiently is paramount. Remember, cheap is expensive so don’t gamble with your physical well-being.”

— Paul V. Viollis, Viollis Group International

It’s estimated 34% of all criminals enter a home through the front door. Shocking, right? Knowing this, all exterior doors should be solid core, not hollow. Consider reinforcing your door frames and hinges by installing dead bolts, three-inch screws in door jambs, and secure the sliders.

I watched an interview with an inmate who burglarized over 5,000 homes.

Guess which houses he targeted? The ones with sliding glass doors. Why? It’s one of the easiest entry points. That dowel rod or bar you put in the track is not enough. Nor is the flimsy lock on the handle. With a screwdriver pried under the door, a home invader can pop it open without any harm to the glass. Even with the security bar, a home invader can jerk the door right off the track—a slick move I used in my latest thriller. Thank you, Mr. Inmate. 😉

House alarms only secure the frame of the sliders, not the glass.

Let’s say the home invader has no burglary skills. He’s not interested in robbing you. He’s there to kill you, like in the scenario that began this post. By law, most sliders are made of tempered glass. Sounds like a good thing, right?

Yes and no.

If struck with a tire iron, tempered glass doesn’t shatter into a million pieces. All the shards stay intact as one big sheet. It’s a great safety feature to prevent injury to a child or an unsteady adult. But that same safety feature also protects the home invader.

“Once that glass shatters, I walk right through. Safety glass is not gonna cut you.” — Mr. Inmate

This video will show you how to secure your sliders, where to drill in the screws to prevent a home invader or burglar from lifting the door off the track, and demonstrates Glass Break sensors (more on that in a minute).

Another easy entry point for a robber, burglar, rapist, or killer is a garage door left wide-open. Remember, the majority of home invasions/burglaries occur during the day. How easy is it to pull out of the driveway and forget to lower the garage door? After all, you’re only running a quick errand.

The next time you drive away without lowering the garage door, remember this…

A home invader sneaks in while you’re out—hides—and waits for you to return. How safe are you now?

Believe it or not, residents of gated communities are often prime targets. Why? Because the front gates and/or guards offer them a false sense of security. Same is true for homeowners with an alarm system. Does that mean you shouldn’t install an alarm? No. Just don’t blindly trust that alarm without other safety measures in place.

If you let your guard down and forget to lock a window…

“If you leave one thing open, then leave it all open. Because the thief [or home invader] will find that one thing open.”

— Mr. Inmate

When asked how to safeguard one’s family, Mr. Inmate shared more wisdom.

“The only way to stop somebody is to deter ’em. Keep your doors locked. Keep your windows from opening up more than six inches. Glass Break sensors [are] the only way to deter somebody. Because when they see that Glass Break attached to that window [or sliding door] they know this is a well-secured home.”

Most alarm companies sell Glass Break sensors or detectors. They’re also available at online retailers. Incidentally, the anonymous Mr. Inmate didn’t go to jail for burglary. Police picked him up for loitering and prowling. Which means, he’ll be back on the streets.

Other safety measures…

  • Upgrade the locks on exterior doors and windows with high security locks.
  • Install a wide-angled peephole, cover when not in use.
  • Consider adding protective film to first-floor windows. For those who live in coastal communities, you’re all set. High-impact, high-wind hurricane glass is near impossible to break.
  • Install high intensity LED motion sensor lighting on all sides of your home.
  • Trim trees and shrubbery away from your windows—perfect hiding spots for home invaders. If you must have bushes, make sure they have thorny branches.
  • Add window stops to double hung windows.
  • Cement bases add stability to fencing. Although less attractive, open metal or chain link fences are the safest, as solid walls provide an easier foothold and privacy for the home invader.
  • Draw curtains and blinds in unoccupied rooms.
  • Try not to leave valuables in plain sight near windows.
  • Install smart locks. Many systems allow you to remotely check and lock your doors and windows.
  • Keep your keys and cell phone on the bedside table at night.

If you’ve taken every precaution and a home invader still gets inside, be sure to have a plan in place. Practice, like a fire drill.

The safest option is to flee.

Let a home invader take your valuables, not your life. Grab your cell phone and keys and climb out the nearest window, onto the roof. If you don’t have time to escape, hide and text 911. Text messages receive the same priority as phone calls. Even if the home invader finds you, you’ve already notified the authorities, which gives you a much better chance of survival.

Unless you have training, a weapon can and will be used against you. If you grab a gun, you better be able to pull the trigger without hesitation. A home invasion can turn deadly quick. Whose life is more important, yours or the scumbag who broke in?

Calculate. Every. Move.

How high is the roof? Will the fall kill you? If so, don’t jump. Stay put and wait for the police to arrive. Unless you’re dealing with a psychopath hellbent on murder, most home invaders won’t crawl on the roof to drag you back inside.

Easy prey dies first in the animal kingdom. Don’t be easy prey.

Think like a criminal—you’re a writer! Just because the bad guy broke into your home doesn’t mean you automatically play the victim role. Flip the script. He’ll wish he chose a different house. 🙂

Back to my original scenario. What did you jot down? Has your answer changed? How? Feel free to share any other home safety tips.


This entry was posted in #WritingCommunity, life lessons and tagged , , , , , , , by Sue Coletta. Bookmark the permalink.

About Sue Coletta

Sue Coletta is an award-winning crime writer and an active member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. Feedspot and Expertido.org named her Murder Blog as “Best 100 Crime Blogs on the Net.” She also blogs at the Kill Zone, Story Empire, and Writers Helping Writers. Sue lives with her husband in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. Her backlist includes psychological thrillers, the Mayhem Series (books 1-3) and Grafton County Series, and true crime/narrative nonfiction. Now, she exclusively writes eco-thrillers, Mayhem Series (books 4-9 and continuing). Sue's appeared on the Emmy award-winning true crime series, Storm of Suspicion, and three episodes of A Time to Kill on Investigation Discovery. Learn more about Sue and her books at https://suecoletta.com

55 thoughts on “Easy Prey Dies First

  1. Great insight, Sue. How about burglar-proof bars on windows? Very common here in Ghana. Not so much in the US and Europe, I’ve noticed. They’re not aesthetically pleasing but no one is getting in through the windows.

  2. Interesting scenario, Sue. I jotted down 1) retrieve my firearm (9mm pistol, loaded with hollow-point bullets) 2) call out and give the intruder the opportunity to identify themselves; and 3) take appropriate action if circumstances demonstrate that I am in immediate danger (Ohio is a castle doctrine state).

    Two stories: 1) A few decades ago I was living in a place that had a second-floor deck off of the master bedroom accessible by a sliding glass door. I was awakened thumping against the glass. I retrieved a revolver and started yelling “Who’s there?” as I advanced toward the door, which was curtained, but got no response. I stood to the side, pulled the curtain back, and found a very large raccoon trying like crazy to get through the door. He looked at me as if to say, “Whaddya want from me?” and slowly turned around. He climbed the guardrail and accessed an overhanging branch to make his slow-motion escape.

    2) J., my second wife, J. and her first husband had their home burglarized by an unarmed varlet. He walked into their bedroom and found himself facing a .357 that they had hanging holstered on the bedpost. They led him into the kitchen and made him sit down while they called the police. J’s hubby held him at gunpoint while J. tossed lit matches at the would-be burglar’s heavily Jheri-curled locks (Jheri curl activator is EXTREMELY flammable). The home invader was SOOOO happy to see the police. He begged them to arrest him and take him into custody. They said, “Ah, maybe we’ll just leave you here” (they didn’t) and he started crying. Hopefully he saw the error of his ways.

    Sorry. Too long. Have a great day, Sue!

    • Hahahaha! Both stories cracked me up, especially #2. Good stuff, Joe!

      I focused on those without a loaded gun in the house or have no idea how to use it. Like my 86-year-old father-in-law. He bought three firearms, carries one on his hip, and didn’t learn how to shoot till–oh, I dunno–three or four years later. Even after practicing at the range, he’s not comfortable. If he drew his Glock, he’d freeze and the home invader could easily take it away from him.

      Wishing you a great day, too, SJ!

      • My dad taught gun safety classes. One of his first questions was, “Are you sure you can pull the trigger and kill someone?” If the answer was no, he told them not to buy guns because they would be used to against them, and he released them from the class.

        • Exactly, Marilynn. I’ve told him time and time again, but he’s 86 and Italian. Need I say more? His father, God rest his soul, was the same way. Sweet as apple pie but bullheaded.

  3. Great post, Sue. Thanks for the information. I’m going to have my wife read this one. I didn’t make any notes during your first scenario. I froze like a sitting duck. But I have a list of additions I need to make to our plan.

    Thanks! And have a safe week!

  4. My plan: put Joe, J, and her first husband on speed-dial.

    Seriously, Sue, this is a great topic and you did a wonderful job of showing vulnerabilities (like the sliding door screwdriver pop) as well as avoidance measures.

    Years ago, a crew of determined daytime burglars posing as landscapers plagued the San Diego neighborhood where we used to live. When residents left, one guy on a motorcycle would follow them to make sure they weren’t coming back. Then the “landscaping” van would pull up. High fences didn’t stop them from getting into back yards where they could work unseen.

    They hit our house six different times w/o getting in. The various levels of security–door and screen sensors, interior motion sensors, floor mat sensors–appeared to challenge to them, as if they were playing a game. They’d figure out one level, come back another day, bypass that level, then would be caught by the next level of sensors that set the alarm off.

    The last straw was when one a-hole cornered our 100-pound German Shorthair in an enclosed patio and beat him with what we believe was a pole saw, while the other burglars tried to bypass the final level of security. The alarm went off and scared them away. We raced home, and found our dog injured, traumatized, and quivering in the patio.

    The gang must have realized, after hurting our dog, they better NEVER return. They were right.

    We guessed the weapon had been a long pole b/c, for months afterward, every time I’d use a broom or mop, the poor dog freaked out.

    Police eventually figured out their MO of using a motorcycle and landscape van but apparently they were never caught.

    I can only hope they moved operations to Joe’s neighborhood and received the welcome they deserved.

    • Your poor baby, Debbie! Hurting my fur/feathered babies would turn me into a home invader’s worst nightmare. Just the thought of it awakens my inner serial killer. 😉

      We ALL should keep Joe on speed dial. Lost miles from home? Call Joe. In a sticky situation? Call Joe. Home invasion? Call Joe. Hahahaha.

      Super impressed with your security, Debbie. Brava! It sucks we even have to think about the possibility, but that’s the world we live in. *sigh*

  5. Great information, Sue. Thanks for letting me know how insecure our home is! We have six sliding glass doors in our home. I always assumed those bars we put in the track would prevent anyone from getting in. uh-oh. And we live in a gated community. Double uh-oh. We need to do some serious planning.

    What would I do if I heard someone in the house? Close and lock the bedroom door, grab my phone and husband and exit the sliding glass door in the bedroom.

    Thanks for making us all aware. Stay safe out there.

    • Glad I could help, Kay. LOL Seriously, though, get those sliders secured ASAP. The video I included will show you (or the hubby) where to drill in the safety screws. They’re so important. When I watched how easily the door popped off, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Thankfully, my husband had removed our bedroom sliders when he re-angled the roofline. Snow used to slam onto our balcony. Now it slides right off.

      Good plan, but don’t waste time locking your bedroom door. Every second counts. Unless you have a deadbolt, a doorknob lock won’t delay anyone for long. Even I can break through in seconds (research for one of my Mayhem Series novels). Text 911 and get out as fast as you can.

  6. The answer I jotted down didn’t change. I’d add to make sure you and your spouse are on the same page with your plan. Don’t keep your plan to yourself, and don’t expect only your spouse to act. You each have roles when home together. You each have your individual plan when home alone.

    Crazy about Joe’s raccoon at the sliding door. We had one hanging off the front door after midnight making all sorts of break-in type noises!

    • Excellent point, Priscilla! Make sure you and your spouse know the plan. Yes, indeed. Never, never, never rely on the man to “take care of things” for you. I adore my husband, but I could kill a lot easier than he could, if it came down to that. 😉

      Hahahaha! What is with these raccoons? Our raccoons are so well-behaved.

  7. Plan A: Move in with the Gilstraps.

    Plan B: Magazine of Beretta stocked, no round in the chamber. An LAPD trainer told me once that the sound of the slide will make most intruders get the H out. Of course, one must be trained and ready to shoot.

    • Hahahaha! Now that the Gilstraps have that beautiful new home, maybe we all can move in. 😉

      Fantastic advice from the LAPD trainer. Once the home invader knows you’re armed, you’ve dismantled the “easy prey” scenario. If memory serves, Richard Ramirez learned that lesson the hard way.

    • I keep a round in the chamber of my 9mm. I don’t trust myself to remember, in the middle of the night, to rack the slide first.

      I also keep a .38 revolver handy. Don’t need to remember anything with that.

      • Interesting. The gun in my nightstand is the only one in the house that is NOT chambered. When I’m sleep addled and fumbling in the dark, I want one step between trigger and bang.

        • There is that, John. I guess it’s all in what you’re used to. I never carry or have one handy unless it’s ready to fire. So if I didn’t chamber the round, chances are I wouldn’t remember that I didn’t.

          Also, when my gigantic dog barks in my ear at night, sleep-addle goes out the window and adrenaline takes over. 🙂

          (I’m looking forward to your next post you alluded to…)

    • I once heard someone prowling through the shrubbery on the hillside below us, obviously up to no good. Standing in an closed patio behind the house, I never actually laid eyes on him, but he made a hell of a lot of noise leaving as soon as I fed a round into my Luger.

  8. I was sixteen, my dad was camping with the Scouts, and someone woke me by trying to come through my bedroom window in the middle of the night. I had a loaded pistol right beside me, and I’m an excellent shot.

    I could get the gun and run to the phone on the other end of our big house. I’d be safe. But my mom and my kid sister were asleep in other bedrooms, and I’d be leaving them to the burglar’s mercy if I ran.

    In that moment of decision, and with cold, certain clarity, I realized I was perfectly capable of shooting the burglar to protect my family. I also realized that he’d have to come through the window before I shot so I would know he was down, or he could come through another window anywhere in the house.

    I knew if I told him to stop, he’d keep coming because I’m female and so small he’d probably think I was nine or ten, and I’d have less of a chance of killing a charging target with a small caliber gun. I knelt behind the bed with the gun in my hand and waited for him to come through the window. I planned to put three shots in his heart and save three shots for just in case.

    Fortunately, the outside dogs scared him away before he made it through the window, but I’ll never forget that moment of cold certainty, and I know that I would do the same now.

    • What a frightening experience, Marilynn. Especially at sixteen! I always pegged you as a badass. #GirlPower 😉

      I’m the same way. If someone broke in to cause my family harm, he’s a dead man. I wouldn’t hesitate to take his life, and I’d be well within my right to do so. In my state, the only stipulation is the home invader must be inside the home, not fleeing out the door or halfway through the window.

      • Beware of mild looking hobbits. We have Orc-killing knives or guns. I admit my dad’s stories about break ins and having the perp dead inside did play a tiny bit into my decision to let him come through the window. Not that any jury in the South, back then, would convict a girl for shooting someone coming through her bedroom window.

  9. We have handguns accessible to us in the middle of the night…and we train regularly.

    But even better than that, we have a large German Shepherd who sleeps on her bed in our room. She has the best ears in dogdom…she can hear a cow walk across the grass a hundred yards away. If anyone even scratched a door or used a tool to get in, she would bark. And she wouldn’t go toward the noise; she would come to our bedside and bark.

    I wouldn’t trust her to attack the intruder, she’s too friendly. But she would wake us up, and we’d both be armed. She’s kind of like our secret weapon.

    Our house is all on one level, so if we had to, we could go out a window. We do keep phones next to us, but maybe we’ll add car keys. Didn’t think of that.

    Great post, Sue! Can’t be too careful in these crazy times. 🙁

    • Excellent plan, Deb! It also sounds like your dog knows exactly what to do. My brother trains police dogs as a side biz and has several world titles in obedience, tracking, biting, etc. etc. In some training sessions he has another guy shoot a gun (not at anyone, obviously) so the dogs can learn how to protect their humans even in the midst of total chaos. It’s amazing to witness.

  10. Phone and flashlight are on the nightstand. I guess my Out the front knife needs to join them. Then check on children.

  11. When I worked for the county attorney I recollect a crew of meth heads would drive around Mad County and roll up to isolated farmhouses during the day. If anyone answered they’d make up some excuse and move on. If nobody was home they’d clean the place out-guns, cash, jewelry, cameras. They did get caught and prosecuted and sent away, all except one guy who jumped bail. That was before my time.

    Nothing is as immortal as a bench warrant. They’re fresh as a daisy from the day they were signed no matter how long they sit out there.

    So this guy, he’s been working and swore off the dope, got a job as a steel cutter, working, paying his taxes, and likely had a permanent crick in his neck from looking over his shoulder. Failed to signal for a turn one day and that was all it took, four years later.

    As I was on deck that day, I threw the guy a few soft pitches and asked his boss if he’d still have a job when he got out. I
    really felt he’d rehabilitated himself.
    But, away he went.

    As far as the home invasion scenario goes, I own no firearms and have no intention of doing so. But if I did, my old friend Frank Haigh always said, a shotgun hanging on the inside of the bedroom door loaded with slugs is a sure corrector for bad behavior.

    • It sure is, Robert! Meth heads are no joke. When I lived in the city many years ago, they ran rampant…home invasions, burglaries, murder if the homeowners got too brave. Dust heads were even worse. Look at ’em the wrong way, and you’re as good as dead.

      As a petite female, I rarely left the house without a tough guy by my side, the bigger the better. One time, some drunken idiot grabbed me as I strolled to the ladies room. I barely had time to react when my boyfriend came out of nowhere and beat him so severely, the sound of his jawbone breaking has never left my memory. It taught me a valuable lesson to be aware of your surroundings at all times. He also taught me to fight dirty. If your life is on the line, there’s no such thing as a fair fight. 🙂

  12. When we moved to where we live now someone with access to the regional police database ran the address for us. Quite illegal now. But the system has not only crime locations, but address information for arrestees, addresses where police “look for things” prior to arrests and such. Where we live got the green light. As it happens a husband and wife police officer couple did the same thing. They lived about ten doors down. They also altered the patrol areas so a car checked on the Sargent’s house several times a night.

    About a month after we both moved in a serial rapist raped one of our neighbors. His favorite, basement windows.

    • Yikes, Alan! Basement windows can be one of the easiest entry points. Thanks for adding it to the list.

      In my state the public has access to names and addresses of sex offenders, but that’s about it. Shame we don’t have access to more. Although, I guess it didn’t matter in your case. Frightening story.

      • I run the sex offender registry for my home and work addresses about once a year. Pretty much I will never “look at a link” from any of my pizza customers.

        The downside to the sex offender registry. It is based on the assumption that someone who would rape a 10 year old wouldn’t lie about their address.

        • True. We have a sex offender living near us, and the State Police check in on him on at least once a month, unannounced. ‘Course, we live in a small country town. Larger towns/cities might be too busy to check in on every sex offender on the list. And then there’s the ones who haven’t been caught.

    • When I was looking for a room for rent in Ventura, one place seemed ideal, but it fronted on a good-sized park. I asked the roomie-in-charge if there was a lot of burglary in the neighborhood.* “There’s a cop lives right next door,” he said. That sounded great, until he finished his sentence with, “And he’s been broken into twice.”

      * Parks are a place where burglars can walk a dog and observe when people leave for work.

  13. Very important post, Sue! Thanks for all the great information. I don’t own a firearm, but if I did, I would indeed need to be prepared to use it. Instead, I’d be texting 911 ASAP, while we exited from the bedroom window.

  14. I have a .38 revolver by my bed and always my phone which I would use to dial 911 as I climbed out the window. But then, that isn’t exactly what I did the night I dreamed someone was trying to kill me. I woke up with my heart pounding and dream so real I thought it was. I grabbed the .38 and stuck my head out my bedroom door. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

    Now I rehearse the first scenario so that it becomes automatic. Of course it helps that I live in a small town with a good police force who comes when I forget I’ve activated my alarm system and then open the door to run to the store for something.

    • Great idea to practice, Patricia. The more we practice, the more it’ll become automatic. We live in a small town, too. The police chief doubles as the chief of a neighboring town, which makes no sense to me. Other than him, we have one police officer on patrol. One! Good luck finding him in an emergency. Our safest option is to call 911. They’ll dispatch State Police, EMS, and any patrol officer within a wide radius, including several neighboring towns.

  15. We move between Tallahassee and Michigan twice a year, so we have to secure both homes in our absences. The Michigan condo is third floor and easy. the Tally house, not so easy.

    We have an excellent alarm system for our Tally home. Very loud indoors and out if a window or door is breached. Cops come right away, which happened once when we were up north. No intruder found; maybe scared off. Neighbors not happy about being awakened but they understood. We have a small tight-knit neighborhood and we watch over each other’s homes. Nosy neighbors are a good thing.

    We also have outdoor motion detector lights. And when we are away, we have our lamps in various rooms on timers to go on and off at random times.

    I don’t own a gun. Maybe I should. Am surprised how many in our group here are armed. 🙂 Will definitely get one of those slider alarms for up north, even though we’re on the third floor!

    • Good thinking, Kris! My fictional killer climbed support beams to the balcony with tree spurs. Scaled right up in seconds. And I got that information from the tree climbers in our area. I’m sure you’re safer on a third floor, but I’d still secure the sliders. 🙂

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