Drive throughout the shore and you will see lawns decorated with all sorts of decorations, from nautical to whimsical, but could your favorite lawn ornament be also used to help a criminal enter into your home?

An incident in Toms River over the weekend on Vincenzo Drive is the latest in Toms River. Early in March involved an intruder using an ornamental boat anchor to break into a home North Bay Avenue, smashing the rear glass door. The home was ransacked and the robber walked away with some sports memorabilia and jewelry, but should this worry any home owners wanting to put some flair on their lawn come spring?

Dr. Robert Louden, criminal justice professor at Georgian Court University believes that the “smash and grab” style of robbery could be motivated by either the convenience of the criminal or through shrewd forethought.

“One thing is it could have been a crime of convenience, they were walking by and say ‘hmm this place looks worthwhile.’ The other is that it was thought out and they don’t want to be caught carrying what we used to call “burglar’s tools’.” Says Louden.

He explains that if a burglar is caught with additional tools, even household items there is a charge possible.

Louden, a 25 year resident of the shore area, believes that this could be an element of the urbanization of the area.

“We’ve gone a long way from not locking doors to having all kinds of different locks and alarm systems, and motion detector lights and timing lights, and what have you.”

Louden cites the work of James Q Wilson, one of the originators of the “Broken Window Theory” which states that by keep a location aesthetically appealing and preventing petty crime, it detract the more serious offenses that might be drawn to an area that appears to be unkempt.

Noting that while residents at the shore are very traditionally very careful about keeping their property attractive and decorated, something which Louden notes is their right. He adds that with more information about these crimes occurring, more people now are becoming more careful with their decorations.

“But I guess more and more, the reality of life is, it (decorating) has to be done in such a way that it’s not as portable as we might like it so people can’t take advantage of us.”

One of the things that bears considering is the age of the homes throughout the shore. Many of the residences were built over twenty-five years ago, when the area was less populated and crime rates were lower. That meant homes with less emphasis on deadbolt locks and solid double paned windows and more emphases on open airy designs to let the ocean breeze in.

Louden says a study called crime prevention through environmental design, he notes that even something like how your lawn is decorated makes a difference when it comes to home defense.

”You want your landscaping to look nice but you don’t want it to be giving somebody to be hidden, either to attack a person or break into a house undetected.” explains Louden.