During an hour-long talk about home security and theft prevention, Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Chief Criminal Deputy Charlie Rosenzweig shared his own strategy in the case of a home invasion.
“Me personally, and for my family, we’re going to fight to the death,” Rosenzweig said. “And we’re going to win.”
But, the 40-year Sheriff’s office veteran said, there are many other ways for homeowners and renters to ward off or stay safe during a burglary or robbery.
His first tip: Don’t be a stranger.
Tips from the public (especially license plate numbers) can be the most important parts of solving cases for law enforcement, he said, and even if they don’t help in a specific case, they help officers learn more about trends in an area.
“Please call us, even if you think it’s minor or minuscule,” Rosenzweig said.
He mentioned that those concerned about privacy when calling 911 can tell dispatch “do not disclose” when asked for their name.
And being in touch with neighbors, such as through neighborhood watch groups, means having an extra pairs of eyes looking out for you. But he cautioned attendees to be “eyes and ears” and not “hands and feet” for law enforcement.
“Don’t try to do something by yourself, unless you have to,” Rosenzweig said.
Tip 2: Invest in security, and keep valuables hidden.
Nationally, Rosenzweig pointed out, violent crime rates have been on the decline for decades.
A 2019 study by the Pew Research Center found that while Americans have regularly believed crime is up nationally since 1993, violent and property crime rates have generally trended downwards in that time. The Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office had four reported robberies, 168 burglaries, and 189 larceny-thefts in 2017, according to data from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs. Longview police took reports of 20 robberies, 256 burglaries and 960 larceny-thefts that year.
Nonetheless, Rosenzweig laid out some strategies that can help in the uncommon event of a home invasion.
Keeping doors locked at night, “especially deadbolts,” might be the easiest of Rosenzweig’s advice to implement. He suggested locking doors from the dinner hour on.
The average burglar is lazy, Rosenzweig said. In “99 percent of cases,” they’ll stick around the first floor for about 10 to 15 minutes, targeting bedrooms and bathrooms, for drugs, money, guns and jewelry, then leave. A “minimum” of 70 percent of burglaries take place during the day, he said.
Most thieves won’t use advanced techniques to get past security unless they know something of great value is inside, Rosenzweig said, such as if the owner of a safe talks openly about its contents to others.
While it won’t help prevent a theft, engraving valuable items with a personally identifiable code, such as a driver’s license number, can help prove ownership after the fact, he said.
Finally: “You need to have a plan” in case of a home invasion, Rosenzweig said.
Burglars are opportunistic, and 99 percent of would-be thieves will leave if they see a homeowner and hear the sound of an alarm or dog barking, he said.
Having a dog with a “meaningful bark” helps alert him of any trouble, but “I’m not telling you to go out and get a 120-pound rottweiler,” Rosenzweig said.
Alarms which automatically notify dispatchers can provide safety of mind, but he added that “we know 99.99 percent of all alarms are false.”
“We maybe get one good alarm per year,” Rosenzweig said. “If you have it, great. (But) it’s not the end-all solution.”
Whether it’s going for a firearm, calling 911, or running out the back door, he suggested having some kind of immediate response prepared. He and his wife are trained and ready to use firearms if need be, he said.
“Bottom line, in order to use force, you have to justify, and so do we, that what you’re doing is for your safety and the safety of others.”