There’s nothing more important to most people than protecting their family. The safety of your loved ones, your sweetheart or husband or wife or children, matters more than money, status, or the kind of car you drive. After all, if your loved ones aren’t safe, do material things really count for that much?
Many years ago, I lived in a brownstone in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. It was a neighborhood “in transition” in those years, and we were diligent about locking up. But one night I woke up at 3:00 a.m., startled to find a flashlight shining in my eyes. It was a police officer, and when my sweetheart and I sat up in bed, he whispered to us to be silent, then quickly told us what was going on.
A fireman at the firehouse across the street had happened to see someone climb through our first floor window and alerted the police, who had hurried over without sirens, entered the same way, and were now searching the house.Upstairs, they caught the man in the landlady’s bedroom – holding her at knifepoint while he prepared to rape her. The knife was from my kitchen.
The next year we moved to SoHo in lower Manhattan. The first thing we did was install a new, high-security cylinder lock and a police lock on the door to the second floor loft. Since there was no way to reach the windows, we felt much safer. One evening four or five years later, I came home from my job in midtown and couldn’t understand why my keys wouldn’t work. I turned the cylinder, felt the bolt move, unlocked the
police lock, but I couldn’t budge the door. Something was very strange. Finally, I realized that I was locking the door, not unlocking it! vWhen I walked in, I knew that my instinct that something was wrong had been right. I saw in an instant that my home had been burglarized. The thieves had climbed up and in through the back window (which faced an alley), using the skylight of the ground-floor apartment to reach the second floor. Somehow, they hadn’t broken a single pane of glass during their climb. Then they forced the window and, once inside, rifled our belongings at their leisure.I called the police, of course, and New York’s finest arrived quickly and set to work. One dusted for fingerprints while the other walked through the loft with me as we took inventory. Missing were two TVs, a $600 VCR, all my videotapes, some cash, and . . . a suitcase! The detectives recognized the signature style of a pair of burglars working the neighborhood: they always took things they could put in the suitcase and carry out without attracting attention, and they’d probably walked out with the loot in broad daylight, just as though it belonged to them.
We were unharmed and grateful, but it’s still devastating to know that strangers have been inside your home, poking through your drawers, rifling your papers as they look for cash, touching your belongings. Those two experiences made me feel – though I don’t pretend that it’s anything like the same thing – as though I had, somehow, been raped. Violated. Sullied.
Both times, I thought our home was well protected. I had put quality locks on the doors, and in Brooklyn we had three doors to protect: the main entrance at the top of the steps, the lower door to the “garden apartment,” which was part of our duplex, and, of course, the door to the garden in back. The ground floor windows were all barred, and nobody could – I believed – climb up to the second floor and get in. I believed the same thing about SoHo.
Both times, the locks worked exactly as they were meant to. Nobody got in through a locked door. But clearly, those locks weren’t enough. Like the proverbial barn without a horse, the brownstone duplex and the second-floor SoHo loft both needed window gates for real security.
My advice as a long-ago victim of burglary? Get top quality locks on all the doors to your house, but don’t stop there. Protect EVERY access point to your home.
In other words, think ahead, and plan ahead; imagine your loved ones at risk, and unlike me, lock the barn door before the horse escapes.