Booby Trapping for Thieves – What’s Legal, What Will Send You to Prison

We’ve all heard about a robbery on the news or maybe from a friend or neighbor who had his home burglarized. You want to protect your own place, but maybe a professional home security system isn’t for you. Perhaps the cost is a detractor, or maybe the idea of some stranger invading your privacy in the name of protection doesn’t make you feel any more at ease. So what do you do? Some people opt for homemade booby traps that are designed to harm or kill an intruder. The problem with such traps is that, if they work, you could go to jail. Here are some legal options to try and some options you will want to avoid.

Booby Traps

What To Do

DIY Home Security – You can find fairly inexpensive DIY kits online, or you can come up with your own. Turn your computer and a web camera into a surveillance station. Install motion lights outside. Rig your home with lights, security cameras, or alarms. If you like animals, find a good guard dog that will dissuade burglars. (Even if you don’t have a dog, an alarm such as the “Electronic Watchdog” that sounds like a dog’s angry bark could work as well.)

Pepper Sprays – Unlike alarms that sound a siren or some other loud noise, when triggered, these alarms will spray the would-be thief in the face with pepper spray, which affects their eyes, nose, and throat. They’ll think twice about robbing you as they run away screaming. And because it is non-lethal, it is perfectly safe and legal to use. “The Terminator” and the “OC Intruder Buster” are two alarms that can be activated by either voltage or a trip wire.

Silent Alarm – This alarm will call you on your cell phone when it detects body heat or motion and allows you to hear what is going on inside your home. This alerts you, not the burglar, and you can call for the police without the thief knowing (hopefully) until it’s too late.

What Not To Do

Shotguns – Whatever you do, don’t rig a trap involving guns. In 1990, a guy in Colorado got tired of break-ins to his warehouse and attached shotguns to trip wires as a precaution. However, the trap ended up killing a would-be thief and the business owner was charged and found guilty of manslaughter and later forced to compensate the dead burglar’s family. In 2006, another warehouse owner, this time in England, had a friend build him an alarm with shotguns that wounded a young kid who broke in and tried to steal the alarm device.

Knives – Then there was the guy from New York who taped a kitchen knife to a crutch and rigged it above a doorway to swing down when the door opened. He left it up, even when a Verizon technician was scheduled to come.

Nominate yourself for a Darwin Award – A 79-year-old man from Belgium won a Darwin Award when he booby trapped his entire house with shotguns and an exploding crate of beer. He wanted to kill off his family but ended up killing himself instead while he was trying to set up yet another trap.

Though the old “Home Alone” movies make it seem like using booby traps can be a good way to catch crooks, in real life it’s generally better (and more legal) to forgo trying to “MacGyver” things and rather use safe, non-lethal and less dangerous methods to deter burglars.

References: 1, 2, 3, 4

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