Thieves take advantage of windows and doors open in warm months
I was hunkered way down in my car seat, doing my best to look like an unoccupied parked car. On this particular surveillance I did not have the “eye” — direct observation of the target’s door or car — but was waiting for the target to move. There is an old surveillance officer adage reflecting the endless hours of boredom, inactivity and confinement in a car followed by sheer excitement— “We do the time, until they do the crime.” Such was the case on this warm evening until the call came over the police radio.
File photo by: J. Kawula
Andy, a sharp, solid, second-generation cop volunteered and was the nearest patrol unit and given the call. He was only about a minute away. Backup units also were assigned.
The dispatcher gave the rest of the information, “Citizen reports a subject wearing dark pants and a dark hooded sweatshirt (they did not call them “hoodies” back then) just pulled off a screen and entered a beige house on the west side of Ingalls through a window near the front door.” A home invasion in progress is a big deal call. I was right on top of it, a block or two away.
I radioed, “One-0-five, I’m arrival on Ingalls, plainclothes (insert description of my clothing to avoid a “friendly fire” situation).”
“All units, emergency radio traffic only, we have a plainclothes officer out at a B & E,” the dispatcher responded.
“One-0-five confirming I have a screen off a front porch window and the front door is ajar at (the address which all these years later I cannot remember). I’ll be standing by,” I whispered into my portable radio.
The front door being ajar meant the thief entered the house, unlocked the front door and opened it slightly in case he had to make a swift retreat. That meant that this guy was a “professional.” It also gave us a way into the home.
Andy arrived on scene in seconds and we went in. For young officers reading this; we should have waited a minute more for backup, set up a perimeter — to block a suspect’s escape — and made sure only uniformed officers conducted the interior search. Further complicating matters was the fact that surveillance officers normally only need a puny penlight, not a large gazillion candlepower flashlight necessary for suspect searches in a crime scene.
Prior to entering the home, I broke the news to Andy about not having a flashlight. He just grinned as if to say, “Dipstick detective wannabe” nodded his head toward the door and we went in.
We entered and yelled, “POLICE. ANN ARBOR POLICE.” Andy shown his light around the living room, which was a big open area and we headed toward the hall where there was a closed bedroom door off to our right.
I was behind Andy still in the living room as he opened the door. He pointed his flashlight into the room and over a woman sleeping in her bed. I never verbalized it to Andy but I was surprised this young co-ed had not been awakened by our shouts of “POLICE.”
Then I saw a dark flash zip past me, off to my left. I was not even positive I saw anything, and I did not consciously hear anything, but I reacted by running back to the front door.
The suspect was at the door trying to pull it open to escape. I slammed the intruder with everything I had into the door, which opened inward. This shut the door and knocked the wind out of the suspect. I heard something clunk onto the floor off to the right of the door. I pulled the suspect off the door with one hand, because my gun was in the other and rode him down onto the living room floor. Andy came over and we handcuffed the guy.
Other officers arrived and the rest of the house was checked. No other suspects were inside and I do not think there were any other residents except the one woman, who was now wide awake and terrified.
The clunk on the floor had been a knife the suspect had in his hand. That predator also had a pair of women’s undergarments in his pocket so it was clear he was not just a thief.
This incident illustrates a problem we must address with the blessed arrival of spring and summer temperatures — windows and doors opened to catch a cool breeze.
The most vulnerable windows and doors are at ground level or below where anyone can climb in, if a screen is removed or cut and the opening is big enough for a human. Sliding doors on balconies above ground also are at risk is someone can climb up or over from another neighbor’s balcony or deck.
We had a guy on the west side of Ann Arbor who once went from balcony to balcony on the sixth floor of high-rise to burglarize his neighbor’s apartments. The neighbors had left their door walls open and screens unlocked because they were on the sixth floor and felt no one would be so crazy as to climb balcony to balcony that high up. In their defense, we cops did not think so either, but it happened.
If you have central air conditioning, security is a no-brainer — keep all your doors and windows locked at all times. If you are not so lucky and have to keep your home open to outside breezes you must try to keep the openings as small as possible to keep intruders out.
One answer is to close and lock all doors and “pin” windows. For windows that slide open, pins inserted into holes drilled in the window track or windows premade with spring-loaded latches can allow a breeze in and block the window from being opened all the way.
Sliding glass doors should be pinned at the top to prevent the whole sliding panel from being lifted out of the track and a dowel rod or “charlie bar” can be placed in the lower track to allow air in and keep intruders out.
Crank windows should be set so that they are not wide enough to allow someone in. The object on all windows and doors is to make a thief take time and have to “work” at getting in or cause them to make a lot of noise to gain entry.
Do not place valuables within arm’s length of a window even if it is pinned. If you must leave a ground level window open, place a number of your loud, inexpensive, tall, heavy — so the wind does not blow them over — knickknacks that will fall and make noise if someone tries to enter. Keep bushes trimmed low around windows and entryways.
Alarms, dogs, security lighting, private security and observant involved neighbors are also options to keep intruders out.
Lock it up, don’t leave it unattended, be aware and watch out for your neighbors.
Rich Kinsey is a retired Ann Arbor police detective sergeant who now blogs about crime and safety for AnnArbor.com.