Last summer, about six weeks after moving from a quiet suburban home to a city apartment in Los Angeles, one of my biggest fears came true: An intruder broke into our home while my husband and I were sleeping.
It was a Friday evening after a particularly hectic week, and we decided to call it an early night. We turned out the lights and headed to bed around 9:30pm. Not 15 minutes later, thankfully before either of us had fallen into a deep sleep, I spotted the glow of a flashlight moving around our dining room from where I laid in bed. Fight-or-flight instincts kicked in, we shouted for the intruder to leave, and my husband chased him out via the sliding glass door where he had entered. He jumped from our second-floor balcony to the walkway below, where three accomplices were waiting in the wings, and the crew made a swift getaway.
We got lucky. Really lucky. No one was hurt, and nothing was actually stolen — except, of course, our sense of safety in our home. We spent the rest of that night with the lights on, wide-eyed and staring at the ceiling, wondering aloud if we could break our year-long lease after just six weeks. But the next morning, as a detective was dusting our place for fingerprints, we shifted into "fortress mode" and began methodically researching and ordering products to amp up our security.
Of course, it took time to regain a sense of safety — for months, our hearts raced at any little creak in the night — but eventually we started to feel at peace in our home again, thanks in no small part to the security measures we took in the aftermath of that terrifying night. These are the seven items that help us sleep soundly these days:
1. Smart Security Cameras
We installed two motion-detecting Arlo Pro 2 cameras on either side of our wrap-around balcony and aimed them so that the coverage extends from the railing to our sliding glass doors. When motion is detected, a notification is sent to our phones, and we have the option to set off a very loud alarm to scare away a would-be intruder via the Arlo app. We chose the Arlo cameras because they didn't require any special wiring, and their batteries hold a charge for months. The app could use a little improvement but all-in-all this is the biggest thing we've done to increase our sense of security. Now, if we hear a noise in the night, it's as easy as looking at our phones from bed to be reassured.
2. Motion-Detecting Flood Lights
Right next to the Arlo cameras, we installed a pair of these motion-sensor flood lights. We now leave our regular exterior lights on 24/7, as well, but the detective who worked on our case highly recommended installing motion-sensor lights to startle any potential burglars. We picked up this pair of solar-powered lights on Amazon for just $72 total.
3. Door Alarms
Another super affordable Amazon purchase that provides a lot of reassurance is this set of battery-operated magnetic door alarms. They attach to sliding glass doors (or windows) with super-strong two-sided tape and when the two pieces separate by more than half an inch, an alarm goes off. There are two settings — one for a slightly annoying chime sound that you can leave on all the time, and one for an ear-piercing 120-decibal siren that you'll definitely want to switch off before opening the door. We opted for the latter setting and just quickly turn them off before using our sliding doors.
4. Reinforcement Locks on Sliders
The old fashioned way of double-securing sliding glass doors is to have a wooden dowel cut to size at your local hardware store, which you can then keep in the door jamb to prevent anyone from opening it after picking or breaking the lock. Unfortunately, our sliding glass doors were installed backwards and the door jambs that would prevent the doors from opening are on the exterior side. So we requested our landlord install pin locks, which serve as a physical barrier from opening the door if the lock is broken or otherwise disengaged.
5. Privacy Fence
It's hard to know for certain, but we suspect that one of the reasons our apartment was targeted was because the burglars could easily see into our space from the side of our building. Our balcony railing is just a series of horizontal bars with four-inch gaps between them, allowing for easy visibility onto our patio, and into our apartment unless the curtains are drawn. We like to keep the curtains open during the day to give our houseplants (and ourselves) maximum light, so we ordered this faux ivy privacy screen to run along the railing. It comes in a wide variety of sizes, so we were able to get a near-perfect fit.
6. Baseball Bats
All politics aside, we do not feel comfortable keeping a gun in our home. But we did want to have a little something extra for protection, so we ordered a couple of aluminum baseball bats to keep under the bed in case of emergency.
7. Fireproof Safe
Nothing will make you take a mental inventory of your valuables faster than a home invasion. I don't have a lot of expensive jewelry to worry about, but we still opted to purchase a fireproof safe to store important documents like our birth certificates, passports, tax returns, and marriage certificate, which could be used for identity theft.
Gina is Director of Audience Development at Hunker. She was previously Digital Director at Sunset magazine and has written for numerous other lifestyle and travel sites. In her spare time, she likes to cook, drink wine, talk to her houseplants, and rearrange furniture for no good reason.