Confront A Burglar? Officials Say Don’t

Published 6:00 am Friday, January 30, 2004

The man slept easily in his bed, swamped in a comforter to driveaway the chill of the brisk evening air seeping through his openwindow.

His eyes fluttered open and he lay there quietly, unsure of whatdisturbed his sleep. Then he heard it again — the soft sounds ofsomething grating on something else. He was supposed to be alone inthe house.

He listened carefully to the intermittent soft sounds as hecontemplated his options. He could grab the baseball bat from thecloset and investigate the noises, stay there and hope it was thefamily pet, or call 911. What would you do?

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“It would be best, if they believe it to be an intruder, to dial911,” said Nolan Jones, assistant chief of the Brookhaven PoliceDepartment. “That’s what we’re here for.”

Police Chief Pap Henderson agreed.

“If at all possible,” he said, “don’t try to take down orconfront a burglar. It’s dangerous and, most of the time,unnecessary.”

The chief said it didn’t make good sense for someone to putthemselves at risk by confronting a burglar when they can call 911and let trained police officers, equipped to confront criminals,handle the situation. The officers are only a few minutes away atany time, he added.

People who would challenge a burglar are unnecessarily puttingthemselves at risk by intruding into a situation they have noknowledge of, Henderson said. They don’t know how many are in thehouse, if they’re armed, or where they are.

“They may not even have a weapon, but you could provide themwith one by confronting them if they can take it from you,” hesaid.

Instead, Henderson said, he recommends people make use of thepolice department if they suspect they have an intruder in theirhome.

“Stay in an isolated room, lock the door and call 911,” he said.”It won’t be long before we’ll be there.”

It’s important for people to remain calm and enunciate when onthe phone with the dispatcher. People get scared and often jumbletheir information, Henderson said.

“It would also be best to stay on the phone until officersarrive,” he said. “We may not be talking, but we’ll be listening,and we can tell if the burglar confronts them or we can tell themwhen the officers arrive.”

The chief also recommended that every home have a telephone inthe bedroom. Most exterior doors lead into a living room, which iswhere most one-telephone families keep theirs, he said.

“One of the most important places for a phone is the bedroom,”he said. “That way if you get cut off from the living room, you canstill call 911.”

Homeowners in one-telephone homes who get cut off in the bedroomput themselves in a tough spot, Henderson said. In such a case, thebest recommendation he had was to try to sneak past the intruder,exit the house and go to a neighbor’s house to place the emergencycall.

Fortunately, Jones said, it is very rare for situations to occurthat lead to burglar and homeowner confrontations.

“That’s something that doesn’t happen very often,” he said.”Usually, if someone is there they won’t come in.”

Henderson agreed.

“We hope that never happens,” he said. “We’re not trying tofrighten people. We just feel this is good information for peopleto know and may help them to avoid a possibly dangerous situationat some point in the future.”