Sunday, March 29, 2020

Early Release? COVID Scare Putting Criminals on the Streets

The Utah State Prison system released Joshua J. Haskell to a halfway house and then released him from the halfway house on March 17, 2020 due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19. Two days later police arrested Haskell and charged him with breaking into a random home, tying up a woman at knife-point, and threatening to kill her.

The victim told police that she was sleeping when she woke up to the sound of creaking stairs and discovered a man she had never seen before standing in her room holding a knife.

The woman told police that she began screaming and yelling, at which point Haskell told her to be quiet or he was going to cut her head off. He then tied the woman wrists and ankles with shoelaces. Haskell told the victim he was taking her bank cards and her PIN numbers, cash, her car, and that if she gave him the wrong numbers he would return and kill her.

The victim’s son who was also in the home heard his mother screaming and called 911. Police officers arrived at the house and found Haskell still in the bedroom with the woman--they arrested him at gunpoint.

Haskell, who police say has a lengthy criminal history, had drugs and drug paraphernalia on him at the time of the incident. Haskell has previously been convicted of multiple felony charges, including possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, assault, and burglary.

On 23 March 2020, prosecutors charged Haskell with five felonies including aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery, aggravated kidnapping, possession of a weapon by a restricted person, and illegal drug possession.

Police reportedly found no signs of forced entry and the victim apparently didn’t hear anything until the creaking of her stairs. Although it is unclear just how Haskell entered the home, the victim told police that her back door could be wiggled and pushed open, even when latched.

So how do you prevent someone from entering your home, or failing that, at least force the intruder to make enough noise that you do not find them standing over your bed with a large knife?

LOCK YOUR DOORS! Get into the habit of checking every exterior door (including the one to the garage) every evening before you go to bed. I do this every night and occasionally discover a door that someone in my household left unlocked.

If you don’t have an alarm, get one. Wireless alarms are relatively inexpensive and require little technical expertise to install. If you have an alarm, set the alarm--it only works if it's on.

If your doors do not lock, get them repaired. A key step in home security is to make it as difficult as possible for someone to enter your home. Most pre-hung doors are not very sturdy and therefore it is relatively easy for a burglar to kick them open as shown in this video: Home Burglary

One solution to ensure that no one can simply kick in your exterior doors is to install heavy metal doors and frames. These are very decorative and somewhat costly; however, no human can kick them in.

For exterior wooden doors (make sure they are solid wood at least 1-3/4 to 2 inches thick), you can install the Strikemaster II Pro or similar products such as the Door Armor Max (formerly EZ Armor), or Door Security Pro to reinforce the door jams and hinges. I did this as the house was being built so it was relatively painless; however, they are not that difficult to install.

You should also be able to lock your bedroom door. A wood bedroom door made from at least 1-1/2 solid wood, with a deadbolt, and reinforced frame and hinges will make it impossible to enter the bedroom without power tools to breach the door.

If you cannot afford to make these modifications or do not own the property, consider purchasing a door security bar. These come in various configurations with the best being the heavy duty variety. Once in place, they are easily removed from the inside yet can withstand a considerable amount of force when someone tries to open the door. At the least, someone forcing the door should make enough noise to alert the room’s occupants.

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