MADISON, Wis. - It isn't a crime that happens often, but the home invasion on Madison's east side on Feb. 23 has raised concerns in the community.
"Statistically they are very rare, even in inner cities," said Brian Landers, a veteran police officer of 18 years and criminal justice instructor at Madison College. "Madison and the greater Madison area is still a very safe community overall for people to live in."
Still, Landers said residents should take the same approach to home invasions they do with another rare home event: fires.
"Every family and any homeowner or apartment owner should have a plan in case something does happen. We've done a pretty good job as a society to try to get the word out about having a plan if there's a fire in the home, but what happens if you have an intruder in the home?"
He said any plan should start with trying to keep your home from being an easy target. Trimming shrubs near windows to avoid giving an intruder the opportunity to break in without being seen is important. He also recommends good outdoor lighting as a deterrent to night break-ins. Pets, especially dogs, are also effective.
"A lot of criminals are lazy. They don't like to work to do things. That's one reason why they steal. So they are not going to target a home that looks like it is going to take some work," Landers said.
Keeping a close eye on your neighborhood for suspicious behavior can also prevent problems.
"A lot of home invasions are planned invasions. They are not spur-of-the-moment attacks. If you see something suspicious, report it to the police. A lot of people figure, "Well you know, I don't want to bother my local police department.' That's what the police are there for and trust me, they want to hear about those suspicious actions, so report those things," Landers said.
If an intruder does get into your home, Landers said, the best plan of action is to escape the home, if possible, or get to a safe place in the home where the intruder can't get to you.
"Some people think that a safe room is only for the rich, but you can find an interior room like a bedroom or a bathroom in which you can put a stronger door on and a deadbolt and have some sort of phone accessible in there so that you can implement the plan. People can go to the safe room and call the police," Landers said.
He said if you are unable to escape or get to a safe room and find yourself face-to-face with an intruder, it is important to remain calm and try to defuse the situation. He recommends avoiding eye contact with the intruder and to let them know they can take what they want so long as they do not harm anyone.
Landers said the one thing you don't want to do is cooperate if the intruder tries to get you to leave the home with them.
"Statistically you do not want to leave your home with an intruder. That statistically does not end well. If an intruder were to ask you to leave the home with them, to accompany them to a bank or to get into a vehicle, do not go. Take that opportunity to escape or fight," Landers said.