Welcome to November! This time of year I usually find myself writing about the holidays, parties, dinners and family time. The theme is usually upbeat and jolly. I am going to deviate from that a little bit so be forewarned. Almost 5 years ago our house was robbed and with the increase in criminal activity and burglaries I’ve read about this year, I just cannot get it out of my mind. Five years ago in December, I came home from the gym after only being gone from the house for an hour, short gym day, I know. I burst through our unlocked front door and went directly into the shower. A family member arrived shortly after for a preplanned shopping trip, and before we left we spent a good half an hour looking for my wedding and engagement rings. I chalked it up to being in a rush and vowed to look for them after we went shopping. I arrived home and as I walked into the living room, I realized all the wrapped gifts from under our tree were missing. I immediately tried to call the police and in my haste, shock and revelation that my missing rings were probably with the missing gifts, I actually opened my calculator app on my phone and typed the number in while staring blankly waiting for it to ring.  I realize that sounds very odd but it is a testament to how shocking and violating it is to realize someone has been in your house, perhaps while you were showering or doing other various things when you thought you were alone. Now no time is a good time to get robbed but this particular time in my life was pretty much the worst timing. My husband and I just bought a house and had used every single penny we had on a down payment, we lived for months with empty rooms because we couldn’t afford to furnish them. I’d recently left my secure state job and started this magazine and anyone who’s started a business knows that in the beginning it can be rough, stressful and those ends don’t always meet. My husband had been laid off from his prior job and was months into a new one that didn’t pay as much and the final blow, he’d just had knee surgery the month before and we were paying off medical bills. We were in debt, like use-the-giftcards-from-your-wedding-to-buy-peoples-christmas-presents type of debt. I finished up my phone call to JPD and started to make my way around the house. I discovered that every single room had been sifted through. Odd doors were left open, an iPad that had been under a bed was gone, my professional camera and lenses were missing… Tools, purses, keys, were gone. Now, the moral of my gloomy article.

We prepared our house and ourselves after this incident and you should too with these relatively inexpensive and easy tips.

Home security cameras: We have security cameras that were fairly inexpensive, both inside and outside our house. They upload footage to the cloud that can be watched on a smart phone. They are motion censored and will alert the homeowner to any suspicious activity and as a bonus, they monitor air quality so they can alert you to unhealthy environmental changes.

Deadbolts and door locks: We have automatic locks on the doors including deadbolts that can be set with our phones in case we forgot or need to let someone in who has been locked out.

Lights: We have motion sensor lights on the front of our house that can be set off by vehicles, people or animals.

Dogs: We don’t have dogs but luckily we have neighborhood dogs that alert us to any suspicious activity, bear or otherwise. This isn’t always a blessing when a bear decides to stroll around at 4am but at least you know something is going on.

Awareness: An unfortunate part of this burglary is that it has changed me in ways I cannot revert. I watch every car that drives down our street from my home office window, sometimes getting up, grabbing my camera and watching them to the end of our cul-de-sac. If I get spooked, I look around for the nearest object I can use to project myself and the most efficient escape route. On the rare occasion that my husband is out of town, I will check the house over before bed even if the doors have been locked for hours and when I am in my room I will lock the door and wedge a chair under the door handle to insure I am safe while asleep. I realize most of the paragraph seems like overkill, and it is but that’s personally how I think after this incident.

Again, I apologize for this window into the not so glamorous parts of life and the holidays but it’s smart to be safe, and it’s a perspective into what a nonviolent “materialistic” crime can do, burglaries do create victims, not only with a monetary or material loss but also a loss in the feeling of being safe. Be safe out there Juneau and Southeast Alaska!

Anna Hoke is the graphic designer and owner of Southeast Living Magazine. She can be reached at anna@seakliving.com.