By APRIL GUILMET
Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- With home invasions and residential burglaries on the rise in the Granite State, members of the Londonderry Police Department are urging residents to make smart choices when it comes to ensuring the safety of their homes.
During Monday’s Town Council meeting, Chief Bill Hart and Lt. Chris Gandia shared a detailed presentation on the topic.
“We want folks to be aware of what to do in these situations,” Hart said on Monday night. “The safest thing you can do is become aware of the situation in your home.”
With that in mind, residents are encouraged to keep their eyes open to subtle changes in their homes, things like unlocked doors and open windows. And while some may opt to exercise their right to defend their homes, Hart urged them to tread carefully.
“It’s certainly a choice, but should you decide to do this, you shouldhavethepropertraining,” he emphasized.
According to Gandia, the state defines burglary as any instance where an unoccupied building is illegally entered, since New Hampshire currently has no statute for home invasions.
“A burglary is an illegal entry to an unoccupied structure to commit a crime,” Gandia said, noting most burglaries are considered class B felonies, though in some instances they’re upgraded to class A, including nighttime burglaries.
Gandia recommended several methods homeowners may exercise to prevent home burglaries.
“Dogs are a great deterrent, as are layered security measures like locks, deadbolts, night lighting and signage,” he said. “Even if you don’t have a dog, get a ‘Beware of Dog’ sign.”
For residents who have the misfortune of finding themselves at home when a break-in is in process, Gandia encouraged them to call 911.
“The benefit of calling 911 is you are able to trace upon disconnection with a landline,” he said. “ If there’s a disconnect on a cell phone, a call is made to Concord and the name associated with cell phone account is revealed, though it takes longer.”
Under state RSA, a person is justified in using deadly force in certain instances, though in many cases, escaping the scene is a much wiser (and safer) choice.
“Sometimes we get a sense of bravado. But sometimes it’s more prudent to escape, if that’s the better course of action,” Gandia said. “This comes down to a personal decision as to whether or not you wish to have a weapon in your house.”
Statistically, 60 percent of suspects breaking into a home are unarmed, Gandia noted.
“You need to be proficient. Under stress bad things happen, weapons jam or you don’t have the knowledge or capability to handle your weapon. That can go bad for you,” he said. “You also have to have the will to use it if necessary. A firearm is no good if you don’t have a will to use it: it’s going to end up being used against you.”
Both Gandia and Hart recommended residents give serious thought to all the “what ifs” and prepare a detailed plan of action in the event of the worst.
“We recommend environmental awareness, taking layered security measures and making a plan of action,” Gandia said.
Councilor Mike Brown noted that several residents have expressed concern over suspicious door-to-door salespersons. Brown further noted that people might tend to hesitate calling the police, not wanting to bother them with seemingly trivial concerns.
“Go with your gut reaction. If the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, something is probably wrong,” Gandia advised. “A call to the police should definitely be made.”
Still, Hart stressed that Londonderry remains one of the safest communities in the state.