Protecting your property is a challenge, especially if you live in a rural area. If there’s an intruder the police can take a long time to respond – and, if the prowler is intent on theft not violence, they might not even bother. You can sort of understand that, because their manpower is limited and they need to prioritize, but it isn’t a lot of comfort if your valuable possessions are being stolen.
Being vigilant and prepared to defend yourself is the best way to deter intruders, but it’s not foolproof. You can’t be awake all the time, and while you might wake up if someone breaks into your home, there’s a good chance they could roam around outside without being noticed. That gives them free access to anything that’s on your property but outside your house. A dog can give you some warning, but there are ways to silence a dog. So what options does that leave you?
You can increase your security more economically by placing some warning devices – basically, non-lethal booby traps – around your property. The non-lethal part is vital; if you set up devices that can injure or kill an intruder you’re likely to be in trouble. However, a device that gives you a warning is fine. So is something that makes things difficult for any unwelcome guests without being designed to actually harm them. An assortment of carefully placed traps around your property will let you know there’s mischief going on, and at the same time persuade the bad guys to go somewhere else.
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Making a Noise
One of the simplest ways to set up a very loud booby trap is to get a few cheap keychain personal alarms. These cost less than $5 each, but they can put out around 120 decibels of sound. Look for the type that goes off when you pull a pin out if the body – we have a tutorial on how to turn one of those into an alarm trap.
Personal alarms are battery operated, so they won’t work well in all weather conditions. Very cold weather will quickly drain their batteries, and humidity can damage their electronics, which are cheap and not well sealed (for the same reason, make sure they’re set up somewhere rain or snow can’t get at them). If you’re not sure about how well an electronic alarm will stand up to the weather, go for mechanical ones instead.
A simple option is to pick up some alarm mines. These are a spring-loaded mechanism with a metal stake at one end. All you have to do is push it into the ground, attach a tripwire then load it with a blank round. They usually take a .22 blank, but 12-gauge ones can be found – either will go off with an impressive crack when tripped. If you can get hold of used fuses from old smoke grenades – these sometimes turn up at gun shows – you can make your own very cheaply.
Other simple noisemakers can be made with tin cans. A bunch of them at one end of a tripwire will make a nice clatter when someone snags it, or rig a single can or other object to fall into an old metal pail or tub.
Let There Be Light
Security lights with an infrared sensor can deter intruders, but they’re usually easy to see. A smart thief will walk past your home in daylight a few times looking for obstacles, and they’ll probably see a security light. What they won’t see is an array of small, well concealed traps that can activate a light source.
The standard military non-lethal trap is the trip flare, but you don’t necessarily want these going off on your property – they’re pretty good at starting fires. A safer alternative is a cyalume trip flare. These are new, but already in military use – they have a NATO stock number. Instead of an actual flare they’re armed with a light stick; when the tripwire is triggered a hammer bends the stick and activates it. With a 5-minute ultra-high intensity stick it’s extremely bright, and your intruder probably won’t be too happy at suddenly being lit up. That’s likely to give him second thoughts about sneaking around your place. They do cost about $25, but you can improvise a similar one using a rat trap.
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Another military defense is a nasty thing called a low wire entanglement. This is made by sinking a load of stakes into the ground and running a web of barbed wire between them. Setting one up with barbed wire might get you into trouble, because it’s potentially a lot more destructive than barbed topping on a fence or wall, but plain old fence wire will be an effective intruder deterrent.
Wire entanglements work best in long grass, but if you put one in an area that’s shadowed it will still be effective at night – just make sure potential intruders won’t see it if they scout your property in daylight. To set one up, knock in a load of stakes across the area you want to cover. Angle iron stakes with notches cut at the top are best. Leave between six and 18 inches of each one projecting – vary it between stakes. Place them three to four feet apart, scattered randomly through the area. Now string fencing wire between the stakes. Don’t pull it too tight – leave an inch or two of play in each run of wire.
By the time you’re done each stake should be connected to each of its neighbors and you’ll have a cat’s cradle of wire at different heights. If you’ve set it up in long grass, tidy it up as best you can to hide the wire; if bare earth, scatter some grass seed across it and let it grow up through the tangles. With the wire concealed anyone who tries to walk through that area is going to quickly trip. Once that’s happened a few times they’ll either back out or have to proceed very slowly. Just to add to the fun you can string tin cans with a couple of rocks or old bolts in them from some of the wires – or add some tripwired traps.
Have a Good Trip
When you’re setting up tripwires the most important thing is to make them as inconspicuous as possible. You can find military tripwire online, or use fishing line. Strong black thread is also good; it’s not reflective. Where you can, set tripwires in long grass. Don’t put them too high; between six inches and a foot off the ground is good. If you want the actual trap to be higher you can knock a U staple in below it and run the wire through the staple and up to the trap. Don’t make tripwires as tight as you can, either; temperature changes can make steel wire contract enough to set off the trap. You should be able to move the center of it an inch or two from side to side without the trap going off.
When you’re setting your non-lethal booby traps think about the routes intruders might use to get into your property, and cover them with your tripwires and entanglements. Areas that are out of sight of your windows, patches that have deep shadows at night – anywhere that lends itself to stealthy movement. If you can give anyone sneaking into those areas a nasty surprise they’ll probably back off, and if they don’t you’ll be forewarned and ready to deal with them.
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