statefarm.com®   |   privacy
Interview with a Burglar

Ever wonder what thieves look for before breaking into a home? Well, we asked one…

[[MORE]]

Two teen boys speed up to a quiet house on their bikes. They look just like what they are: two young teens from middle-class backgrounds. But they also look nothing like what they are: repeat criminals intent to break into this house. 



Charlie London* was one of those boys. Despite his relatively stable upbringing, he’d been shoplifting from local stores for a few years. Now, he was scoping out bigger game. His paper route let him pick likely targets; he and his friend would come back later to rob them. They were successful often enough to keep doing it, again and again, until the police officer showed up on London’s doorstep. Soon after, he found himself heading into the juvenile detention system.
The good news—for London most of all—is that he is now a grown-up in every sense of the word: a happily married father to two young kids, and a teacher of adolescents. He turned his life around.

So we asked London to share what would have deterred him back in the day. The following actions may reduce your risk of a home burglary.
*not his real name


Keep the Lights On



“We have our house well lit all the time—24 hours a day,” says London. It won’t slow down a daytime break-in, but if a burglar has to choose between a brightly lit home and a darkened one, guess which one he’s more likely to go for? The Department of Justice classifies outdoor lighting as a security device—it’s that important. If you’d like to keep the electric bill down, motion sensors turn them on only when someone is stirring.

Trim the Hedges



Weed your garden and shovel your walk. If you don’t maintain your yard, it looks like you’re not home—and that’s very inviting. Also tall, overgrown shrubs make it easy for a thief to break in without someone noticing them. “You have to harden your target,” said London. Not only does an overgrown landscape provide cover to an intruder, but it can make it easier for thieves to climb in, so keep your lawn and garden tidy. 

 Fake a Daily Presence




You might be surprised at who is paying attention. “I was a paperboy back when I was breaking and entering,” explains London, “so I was familiar with all the households and their routines.” He knew when their occupants were home and when they weren’t—and if someone went out of town, he picked up on subtle cues. Foil similar burglars—have someone pick up your mail and packages. You can also leave a radio or TV on inside, giving the impression that someone’s at home—and awake. Or invest in a remote switch on system so you can control your lights or TV throughout the day. Also, when you do leave on vacation, minimize the amount of time your bags are visible on the curb.

Give Thieves a Sign




“If I saw a sticker for a home security system, that would have been enough of a deterrent recalls London. “Once, we broke into a house and an alarm went off. We immediately turned around and just ran.” Stickers for a home security system are one trick; another is a trusty BEWARE OF DOGS posting. “Dogs certainly would have discouraged me from breaking in, even though I knew my way around dogs,” points out London. If you happen to love dogs and can afford a home surveillance system, by all means go for it! But if you’re allergic or cash is tight, fake it with signs. Dummy surveillance cameras enhance the illusion and are not difficult to put up.

Invest In Double-Glazed Windows 



There’s a reason you see barred windows in high-crime areas, after all—glass is vulnerable. Anyone can break it. “Once we made sure no one was home and no one was in visual range,” explains London, “our methods were very unsophisticated. We simply cracked a window.” If your windows are uncrackable small-time burglars, like London, are thwarted. Double-glazed windows are an expense, but they also help to insulate your home more effectively and cut down on street noise. Can’t afford it? At least keep your windows locked.



Use Technology to Your Advantage



While many robbery deterrents from London’s day remain unchanged, there’s a lot of new technology out there, ”home security was less sophisticated back then, and in our neighborhood it was also less prevalent,” he says. Today, home monitoring systems can make it far easier to keep your property secure even when you’re out of town. Systems like ADT Pulse and the Iris Smart Kit from Lowe’s allow you to keep an eye on your home remotely through a smartphone or tablet. Discourage intruders by using home automation features that allow you to lock doors remotely or sound an alarm and record video if your front door opens unexpectedly. With all the recent advancement in technology, a home monitoring system is a great way to deter intruders and keep an eye on your home while away.

…But Not Your Disadvantage




It’s all well and good to be wired and connected, but consider who might be connected to your connections. Never advertise your comings and goings on social media—78 percent of burglars in a British poll said they’ve used Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and other social media platforms to target likely properties. More than half said online status updates clued them in to who was home—and who wasn’t. First things first—turn off location services on your phone, which bad guys can (and do) use to figure out where you are. If you’re on a fabulous vacation, wait till you’re home to post the photos to Instagram.

Store Things in Less Obvious Places




Even if you do everything right, a burglar still can make it in, so keep your stuff out of harm’s way. Don’t keep jewelry in the master bedroom—don’t keep prescription drugs in the medicine cabinet. Burglars want to get out quick, so if they don’t find what they’re looking for in the first 10 minutes, they’ll leave rather than search. And for heaven’s sake, don’t leave your house keys near the doorway! According to the British poll, more than half of those surveyed said homeowners practically invited them inside, leaving their keys easily accessible.

Interview with a Burglar

Ever wonder what thieves look for before breaking into a home? Well, we asked one…

Read More

Local Organization Helps Students Achieve Their Dreams

Guadalupe Rogel knows the meaning of determination and hard work. As a first generation Mexican American, she is preparing to enter her first year of college at Columbia University in New York. With an unwavering determination and a little bit of help, Guadalupe is ready to make her mark.

[[MORE]]

If you ask Guadalupe, she will tell you that her future could have been very different if it were not for her experience in Esperanza’s Hispanic Youth Leadership Program (HYLP). At 15, she and a friend joined HYLP when they attended a meeting as ‘an innocent way to pass the time’.

“Beyond the great academic opportunities they offer, including Saturday Academy and tutoring, Esperanza has helped me believe in myself and aspire to dream big despite my humble upbringing,” says Guadalupe. “Today, I find myself faced with many blessings, many of which could not have been possible without Esperanza and its programs. They have nurtured me since I began high school, introduced me to other great community organizations I am now a part of, and impacted my educational and personal aspirations.”

Jesus Sanchez, Director of Programs at Esperanza, was an Esperanza scholarship recipient in 2000. Esperanza was able to help him earn a college degree, including a Masters in Biology. Now, he is working and raising his family in the Cleveland area. Esperanza was a life changing experience for Jesus. “It helped me afford the opportunity to go to college and get a higher education. Just going through the process at Esperanza, because it is targeted at Latinos, helped me be more aware and fit in as an individual as well as into the larger Ethnic group,” he said.

Victor Ruiz, Executive Director of Esperanza is dedicated to the success of Hispanic youth in their educational pursuits. “I’m passionate about education and how education is a way out of poverty for people. This organization focuses on education and ensuring that inner city students have access to a quality education,” says Ruiz.



Guadalupe received several acceptance letters from Ivy League institutions, but ultimately decided to pursue a degree at Columbia. As the first to attend college and the oldest of four siblings, her family has been an inspiration for her education goals. “My parents immigrated to the United States when they were very young, and consequently, didn’t finish high school,” she begins, “They came here with the desire to work and provide us with the opportunity to achieve the American Dream unattainable to them. I am committed to take full advantage of the opportunity they, like many other Hispanic families, sacrificed for.”

After college, Guadalupe plans to pursue a career in the nonprofit sector; an inspiration from Esperanza. Guadalupe understands the lack of encouragement and incentive given to low income first generation students to follow their dreams and hopes to use her experience and education to positively impact students’ futures in underserved communities the way Esperanza has done for so many students.

Local Organization Helps Students Achieve Their Dreams

Guadalupe Rogel knows the meaning of determination and hard work. As a first generation Mexican American, she is preparing to enter her first year of college at Columbia University in New York. With an unwavering determination and a little bit of help, Guadalupe is ready to make her mark.

Read More

An Ordinary Day That Changed a Family Forever

It was a day that started like any other day. School was out. Summer was just getting underway. Seventeen year-old Brian Garlock awoke early in the morning and went to his summer job of cleaning rental properties with his friend in Pineville, North Carolina. 

[[MORE]] 

Just before noon on this ordinary Thursday, following behind his friends car, Brian turned left - not realizing there was a truck driving towards him. The truck hit Brian’s car on the driver’s side door with an impact so great his car spun 180 degrees. He was then struck by another pick-up truck. After being rushed by ambulance to the nearest hospital and flown by medical helicopter to the main trauma center in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina, Brian’s surgeon notified his family he did not survive the accident. 



Tammy’s Devastating Discovery

Nine days after an accident that changed Brian’s family forever, his parents had the unimaginable responsibility of dealing with what remained of Brian’s car; a car they had given him one week prior to the accident that claimed his young life. As his mother, Tammy, was diligently searching to get everything from the car that had to do with her child, she spotted something wedged behind what used to be the driver’s-side area. Crawling through twisted metal and over broken glass, Tammy was determined to retrieve the item. What she found was Brian’s cell phone, still intact.

 

She took the phone home and plugged it in to charge. What she discovered after turning on the phone was a devastating truth. At the time Brian was making a left-hand turn behind his friend’s car, he was also attempting to call his girlfriend to let her know he was running late for their lunch. He never saw the pick-up trucks barreling down on him. Brian Garlock was fatally distracted in an instant by his cell phone. His family will never be the same. The grief of losing him continues daily.



An Instant Message Reminder


Tammy Garlock is now on a mission to save others from experiencing the type of tragedy her family went through. She is a strong advocate for teen driver safety, collaborating with safety partners, including State Farm’s Celebrate My Drive.  She also speaks at schools and driver’s education classes, hoping the pink and black “Remember Brian” bracelets created in her son’s memory will serve as an instant message of a different kind. Tammy encourages drivers to remember how quickly things can go wrong when reaching for, or using a phone, while driving. “Make a better choice than my son did that day. The life you end up saving could very well be your own.”

You can learn more about Tammy’s efforts and make a pledge to stop using your phone while driving on her website,  DyingChangesEverything.org.




The State of Distracted Driving Infographic

An Ordinary Day That Changed a Family Forever

It was a day that started like any other day. School was out. Summer was just getting underway. Seventeen year-old Brian Garlock awoke early in the morning and went to his summer job of cleaning rental properties with his friend in Pineville, North Carolina.

Read More

Puppets Preach Dog Safety

With Who Let the Dogs Out blaring in the gymnasium and the friendly Neigh Bear dancing to the music, State Farm Fire Claim Representative Carolyn Pitre and her band of puppeteers take the stage at LaSalle Elementary in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in hopes of preventing dog bite injuries with children.

[[MORE]]

For nearly 15 years, this dog bite program has taught thousands of children dog safety. It all started with an old refrigerator box and the handy State Farm educational booklet “Fido – Friend or Foe?”  Over the years, with the help of Carolyn’s dad, the puppets have earned a real stage and continue to develop their program. As a former school teacher, Carolyn feels right at home in front of 200 pre-K to first graders and loves carrying on this message year after year.

“It’s all about education and prevention. I’ve worked some really bad dog bite claims over the years, and we want to do our part to educate little ones on safety with dogs,” states Carolyn.



Careful Clara (Karen Hope), Safety Sam (Troy Alfred) and Watchful Willy (Barry Hunter) teach the kids all types of dog etiquette and safety. The kids learn how to let the dog smell their fist first like a “hand shake,” and how to roll up into a ball in case a dog does attack. With help from Cassandra Whitty and Marvin Snyder, the practice session helps to ensure that all the kids are prepared to interact safely with dogs. Karen, Troy, Barry, Cassandra and Marvin all know the facts about dog safety and share the knowledge they’ve learned on the job at State Farm.



Whether a dog is a family friend or a stray on the street, the kids of LaSalle Elementary leave the State Farm puppet show each year with knowledge that could save their life.

Puppets Preach Dog Safety

With Who Let the Dogs Out blaring in the gymnasium and the friendly Neigh Bear dancing to the music, State Farm Fire Claim Representative Carolyn Pitre and her band of puppeteers take the stage at LaSalle Elementary in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in hopes of preventing dog bite injuries with children.

Read More

When Love Rains, It Hails

A hail research field study isn’t exactly anyone’s idea of romantic. Swapping candle lit dinners for life on the road chasing storms in vans full of research equipment probably wouldn’t work for most couples.  But Dr. Tanya Brown and Dr. Ian Giammanco are anything but conventional.

[[MORE]]

Dr. Tanya Brown is the lead research engineer and director of hail research for the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS). She is conducting a major field study on hailstorms with a team that includes lead research meteorologist Dr. Ian Giammanco.

In addition to their research, the pair also happens to be dating.

Giammanco and Brown met while attending graduate school at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX, where they worked on several thunderstorm and hurricane field research projects. Since then, amid week-long beef jerky binges and of course the storms, Giammanco and Brown found some common ground. 



The Research

IBHS  develops safety research that can be translated into real world solutions, and the hail study is no exception. Giammanco and Brown seek to improve weather forecasts and influence the design of roofing products to be better prepared for hail damage. Their hope is to leverage this study to decrease property losses caused by hail. The research conducted occurs in the central plain region of the United States. They study hail characteristics such as size, shape, density and hardness, so they can come as close as possible to Mother nature when they produce hailstones at the IBHS Research Center.

Love at First Hail



According to Brown, “We definitely did not have a love at first site kind of relationship. We had known each other for at least a year before we really ever had a conversation more than just saying hi while passing in the hallway.” At the time they met, years before the hail field study had begun, they realized they both had a passion for field research.

It takes a special kind of love not only to be research partners, but also life partners. Brown explains, “I’d say our dedication to field work is what really ties us together.”

Bonded by a common goal that will eventually benefit the common good , their relationship is the perfect blend of uniqueness. “There’s not a lot of people out there that will basically give up their whole life for weeks or even months at a time to live in crummy hotels and eat fast food every meal of every day, not to mention braving the wind, hail, rain and storm surge, and actually enjoy doing it and get to do it with their significant other,” says Brown.

 2013 IBHS Hail Field Project Highlights from IBHS on Vimeo.

Benefits of the Study

The pair remains motivated; they believe in the good that this study will be able to produce. According to IBHS, as the population increases and the spacing between buildings decrease, there has been a significant uptick in damage due to hailstorms. In fact, from 1999 to 2011 hail was the number one cause of losses for Texas homeowners coming in at $10.4 billion according to The Texas Department of Insurance.

State Farm supports the work of Dr. Brown and Dr. Giammanco and believes in the good that can come from this kind of research. Besides studying hail, researchers also test hail resistant roofing material in the hopes of preventing damage. The field study also seeks to improve weather forecast models and hail detection.

Ups and Downs



But working with a loved one isn’t always easy, “we do disagree sometimes about the project, but ultimately we will arrive at what is best for the project, and that is a big reason that we’ve been so successful,” Giammanco says.

Ultimately their differences complement each other, Giammanco explains, “Tanya makes sure that I let things go when I need to so that I don’t obsess about things like a missed forecast or not enough data.”

Brown explains further, “We have worked together for so long that we really have a natural rhythm, and each take advantage of each other’s strengths. There are a lot of things I don’t have to worry about taking care of because I know he’s got my back and vice-versa.  It makes us really efficient and successful.”

The most difficult part of their nomadic relationship is having them both away from home at the same time, “there’s no one there to check the mail, water and cut the grass, and most importantly, take care of my beagles,” Brown says.

But they know they are meant to be together. “Tanya is the only girl I know who would swim and wade through storm surge water to retrieve instrumentation during a field project, so she is the girl for me!” Giammanco says. 

The Impact

With all the good Brown and Giammanco hoped would come out of their mutual interest in studying the impact of severe weather, love was not what they expected, but they’re glad it did. Even still, they remain dedicated and focused on their work, Brown says, “We definitely push each other to achieve success and fill in each other’s gaps, which makes us well-suited to tackling such a complex issue such as hail.  We’re definitely looking forward to continuing our research partnership both in the field and in the lab, and look forward to making a huge impact in the coming years.” 

The more successful the study is the better educated homeowners, insurance companies, and roofing manufacturers can be. With this knowledge and combined power, hailstorm damage can hopefully fall significantly.

When Love Rains, It Hails

A hail research field study isn’t exactly anyone’s idea of romantic. Swapping candle lit dinners for life on the road chasing storms in vans full of research equipment probably wouldn’t work for most couples. But Dr. Tanya Brown and Dr. Ian Giammanco are anything but conventional.

Read More