Letter Re: Lessons Learned by the Victim of a Home Burglary

I’m writing you today after our rural home/retreat was broken into while we were at work. I thought it would never happen to me, Oh, was I so very wrong. First things first, thank you for convincing me to purchase a safe and after reading the suggestion many times in you blog I eventually bolted it down. This is the only thing that saved me from losing the safe and all of its contents. The Sheriff told me of another burglary where the didn’t have his very large (“they can’t move it–its too heavy”) safe bolted down and they took the whole thing. After much thinking, online research and discussions with the local locksmith/safe dealer with 40 years of experience, I have some suggestions that may be of use to my fellow SurvivalBlog readers:

ANCHOR YOUR SAFE!!! I cannot stress this enough. I had a fairly low end safe and they were not able to get into it (they almost did) nor were they able get it out of the house. The Sheriff’s deputy estimated they worked on it for two to three hours to no avail. These thieves tore a wall out to try to gain more access to it.

I have decided that a safe is my final line of defense from a burglar.

First thing, put gates at the entrance to your retreat and lock them as I now have. Put all tools out of sight as the thieves used my hammers, pry bars to work on the safe. Reinforce the door jambs in your home. I have added 3-inch screws to the door hinges and a steel plate behind the striker plates with 3 inch screws. If your budget permits add an alarm with an outside strobe light. This may or may not help depending on where your home is located. We are on a paved county road with our retired neighbor who has a line of sight to our home a quarter mile away. If it would happen again our neighbor would be there in short order. As for dogs, I don’t know, I have three and they did not stop them. From what I have gathered unless you have a trained security dog they don’t help much, they just kick them out the door and go about their business. Don’t leave keys/combinations in your home while away. They opened every cabinet door, drawer, trunk, dresser, night stand, picture frames and closet in the house and emptied them. There was only one cabinet door they didn’t open which was the one with my truck keys in it which was in the driveway.

Don’t put anything in or under the beds, ours were all flipped upside down. Don’t leave any firearms out and loaded while away, you don’t want to come home and be confronted by your own weapon in the hands of a criminal. Do what you can now before a burglary to make your home less inviting to a thief. If they want in they will get in given enough time. I feel bad saying this but if your neighbors’ home is less secure than yours they will go visit your neighbor. My worry now is they have been in my home, will they be back since they know I may have something worth getting.

After a lengthy discussion with the locksmith/safe technician. The strongest way to secure to concrete is the Powers/Rawl brand wedge bolt +. Don’t use the lead “bullets” or drive in anchors. He told me a story of removing 16 safes for a chain of stores that were bolted down with these style anchors. If you can get a pry bar started under one corner you can pull them right out. The wedge bolts cut threads in the concrete with no inserts. He stated you will pull the floor out of the safe before the anchors pull out. If you’re anchoring to a wood floor and you have an unfinished basement you should use a steel plate. Use 1/8” or 3/16” [thick] flat steel plate large enough to catch at least three floor joists. Screw the plate to the bottom of the floor joist. Use an extra-long drill bit to drill down from the safe thru the steel plate. Get hardened bolts long enough to be installed from the bottom, cut a piece of pipe slightly larger than the bolt but shorter than the floor joist is tall and slide it over the bolt as you are installing it. This will make it very difficult to cut the bolts as the pipe will spin freely on the bolt. Be sure to “double nut” them inside the safe. The last step is to weld the bolt heads to the steel plate.

Thanks for all the good information on your blog. I hope maybe someone reading your blog my find some of this info useful and maybe prevent someone from entering their home. I didn’t sleep well for a week, the wife and I are still a little on edge and everyone who drives by is suspect! This makes you feel very insecure knowing someone has been in your home and went thru all your things. I wish I would have made our place more secure before and maybe this would never have happened! The Sheriff told me this is getting much more frequent and I agree it will get worse. God Bless, – Jason in Missouri.

JWR Replies: Thanks for that letter, Jason! Hopefully it will motivate folks to up their level of home security and vigilance. I agree that the home gun safe should be the last line of defense. One intermediate line of defense is concealment. Burglars cannot attack a safe if they don’t know it exists. See the SurvivalBlog archives for a variety of articles and letters that discuss hidden rooms, such as this one, or this one, both from 2007.