First, they scare you into reading the whole article by opening with almost a full page on the brutal assault and murder of TV anchorwomen Anne Pressly in Arkansas last fall. Pressly lived alone in what Cosmo describes as "one of the most affluent and low-crime areas of Little Rock", not "a divey place in a borderline neighborhood". So the message is clear: read the rest of this article right now or it could happen to you too. (Of course, we're not at all trying to make light of what happened to Anne Pressly, just saying that between that opening and the giant headline over bright red-lit imagery of houses on the facing page, Cosmo was just a bit heavy-handed here.)
Now, the article does have some helpful advice and tips. For example, the section on checking out your neighborhood says that some police precincts have officers who will come to your home and give you a free security consultation, and that some research indicates that the chances of your home being burgled (love that word) are reduced if your neighbors have home security system signs or stickers displayed, even if you don't have one yourself. (Although I'll go out on a limb and say that it's probably a better safety move to actually have your own security system instead of relying on the ADT sign in the lawn across the street, but I get their point.) Good stuff to know. There are also some pretty standard safety and privacy tips about keeping doors and windows locked, having lights on a timer that will turn on during the day if you're not home, not revealing too much info about where you live on places like facebook, varying your routine so you're not always getting home at the same time, keeping curtains closed at night, etc.
Then there's the stuff that's a little more...Cosmo. There's a section on "elements of a safe bedroom", which lists stuff like securely locked windows and a landline phone with 911 on speed dial, because a landline call automatically gives the dispatcher your address. But also on the list is a watchdog, because burglars hate dealing with barking dogs. This strikes me as a little unfair to the dog, considering that dogs are living creatures and not objects to acquire and check off a list like phones and panic button alarms. Taking care of a dog is a big responsibility (setting aside the fact that many apartment buildings don't allow pets), so I don't get treating a dog like a safety accessory. I don't think it's horrible to suggest a watchdog, but to me it seems a little silly to include it in a special section on elements of a safe bedroom like it's a requirement. I'll also admit that my anti-dog bias might be influencing my opinion on this one. Maybe I can compromise and nickname my alarm system Rex or Fluffy or Sparky or something.
There's another separate section called "Dead Giveaways That You Live By Yourself", which covers the stuff about lights on timers, varying your routine, not putting your full name on a doorbell or mailbox, etc. Then there's this item:
Your voice on your answering machine. Never say "I" or give your first name. ("You've reached Sue. I can't come to the phone right now...") Just repeat your phone number - or get a male friend to record your message.Okay, I see the logic behind this and I agree that it's not a good idea to reveal too much info in an answering machine message. Actually I've never recorded any greeting at all on my voicemail, so people just get the automated recorded voice thingy that just gives my phone number, but that's more out of laziness than a dedication to phone safety. But, I'm not ever going to ask some random guy friend to record my answering machine message for me. To me that seems like overkill, and I think it would also be confusing for anyone trying to call and talk to the people who actually do live in the house. Although it does sound like a great setup for sitcom style misunderstandings and wacky hijinks. Wait, I've got it! I'll record my own message, but have my watchdog barking in the background.
But I think this one is my favorite. This is a standalone tip, titled "Repel A Peeping Tom", in its own special red box:
Plant something thorny, like a small cactus or rosebush, in front of your windows to keep Peeping Toms or potential thieves at a distance.A cactus. Who knew? Screw spending money on a home security system, because apparently all you have to do is embrace your inner gardener or Southwestern style landscape designer to keep potential peeping Toms or burglars away. There's an FAQ on this security system site that mentions a survey done a few years ago by the National Burglar and Fire Association which found that 90% of convicted burglars said they would avoid a home that had an alarm system. Sounds like pretty good odds to me. I wonder what the numbers were for cacti as a deterrent?
After you take care of your door locks, window rods, your doorbell and mailbox, your answering machine message, your curtains, the phone, the panic alarm, the security system, your facebook profile, the watchdog, the security consultation, the timed lights inside and motion detector lights outside, the moat and drawbridge, extra thorny roses, and the cactus, Cosmo has one last tip for you. "Don't drive yourself crazy." After all, you don't want to become paranoid or anything.