FBI statistics reveal that about six robberies take place in U.S. homes every hour of every day. The crimes can be frightening, terrorizing residents where they feel the safest — in their own homes.
Perhaps the most recent and disturbing example was in Connecticut, where a family was murdered Monday at 3 a.m. in its Cheshire home.
Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, and her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela, died during the invasion. William A. Petit Jr. was beaten badly but survived. He escaped after being held for hours as the home was consumed by fire. Two suspects face charges tied to the killings.
The state medical examiner's office said Tuesday evening that Hawke-Petit was strangled and that her daughters died of smoke inhalation. All three deaths were ruled homicides.
It is a scary reminder that home break-ins can be dangerous, but there are smart ways to fight back.
One Boulder County, Colo., woman decided to do so. Though her family keeps no weapons in its house, Becci Starr fought off a knife-wielding intruder with a baseball bat. Her incident was captured in an emergency call to 911:
Operator: So the knife was his, the bad guy's?
Starr: Oh, yeah.
Starr: I mean, we don't have weapons, except I have this baseball bat. Thank God I have a metal baseball bat.
"Good Morning America" safety contributor Bob Stuber said there are easy steps people can take to protect their homes. He said the bushes and trees around the house should be cut low. High shrubbery and grass may give criminals a hiding place, Stuber said.
"They're constantly looking for us to give them opportunities to come into the house," Stuber said. "When you give them the opportunity, they're coming in."
He also said darkness attracts criminals, so lighting up the house with motion sensor lighting may be a good idea.
Other safety tips include:
A peephole in your front door isn't enough. It's important to have one peephole up high for adults and another lower for kids. People, especially children, are less likely to open the door if they can see who is on the other side.
You can get a home alarm, but know that they are not that hard to bypass, especially by more experienced criminals. Still, security signs have been known to put off burglars.
The main thing in an alarm is to make sure it makes a loud noise. You need a noise that will wake everybody up. Then the burglar has no option but to run.
Secure your windows. Even if each window isn't alarmed, there are some other common sense things you can do that really work. When home invaders break into windows, it is usually because they are unlocked, especially bathroom windows.
Also, hang chimes in the window area. You want the intruder to knock things down, make noise and alert you. Put plants that have thorns on them outside the house.
And finally, if you are not in a safe place, they can get to you in a heartbeat. So turn a closet into a safe room. You can do that by putting a deadbolt lock on the closet door, put a light source inside the closet and keep a cell phone inside. Also, write a list of emergency numbers on the back of the door, so you've got them in case of panic. And you should always call 911.