protect your home from burglary

Do you feel safe in your own home?

Many people don’t think about home security until after a burglary. Prevention is often common sense, but the methods are easily overlooked. According to FBI reports, only one in four burglaries involves forced entry; most intruders gain access through unlocked doors or open windows. Here are some tips to keep your family and belongings safe.

Take a look around your house from the viewpoint of someone who might like to commit a crime. If you have trouble thinking objectively, ask a friend or neighbor to search for ways a burglar might enter. Do you leave your front door or garage open while doing yard work in the back? Make sure no ladders are left out and that all ground floor windows have locks that work. Even if you’re only leaving home for a few minutes, close and lock windows that are easy to access.

Check your doors. If the doors aren’t solid metal or wood, a burglar could easily kick them in. Consider replacing a door that has a lot of glass in it. Deadbolt locks offer the best protection and come in two varieties: one that requires a key on both sides, and one that only requires a key on the outside. If your door has a pane of glass within arm’s reach of the lock, choose a deadbolt that requires a key to open from the inside as well.

Make sure that all windows have locks in good working order. If they’re left partially open on a regular basis, the windows should have locks that prevent them from being fully opened from the outside. If this isn’t an option, a simple solution is to install a peg in the window frame so that the window can’t be fully opened. This should be removable, however, so family members can open the window to escape in case of fire. A wooden dowel inserted in the track is also an easy method to secure a window or sliding door.

Having a burglar alarm is no guarantee, but since most intruders are amateurs and on the lookout for an easy target, they can be effective deterrents. Often simply having a sign or sticker on the window will discourage a burglar from attempting entry. If you do obtain an alarm system, make the effort to be familiar with its features and use it. Make sure the sensors cover all vulnerable areas and are in good working order; also, test the system regularly. Do not, however, use the alarm as a substitute for locks and other means of security.

Landscaping can play a part in crime prevention as well. Spiky or thorny plants in front of ground floor windows can discourage intruders. Trim bushes and trees that block the view from neighbors or from the street, and consider open fences rather than privacy fences so that it’s more difficult for a burglar to hide. Outdoor lighting is important as well. Make sure all potential points of entry are lit. Consider installing lights with photoelectric sensors that come on automatically when the sun sets or motion sensors that detect movement nearby.

Practice safe habits. Instruct children not to answer the door, especially if home alone, and to say, “My parents are busy,” instead of saying you’re not home, when answering the phone. Likewise, change your answering machine message to say you’re busy and can’t come to the phone instead of saying you’re not home. When strangers come to the door, ask for identification before allowing entry. If someone asks to use the phone, either bring your cordless phone outside to them or offer to place their call rather than letting them in. Always make sure doors and windows are locked at night or when not home.

When leaving your home for an extended period, make your home looks occupied. Keep a car parked in your driveway if possible. Instead of stopping your mail and newspaper delivery, have a trusted friend or neighbor pick them up for you. If needed, arrange for someone to mow your lawn or shovel snow.

Use automatic timers for inside lights, and close curtains and drapes. Turn off the ringers on phones and turn down the volume on answering machines. If your answering machine can be accessed remotely, check the messages regularly and clear the memory; many “beeps” after the message indicate that it been left unattended for a long time. Avoid discussing your travel plans with anyone who doesn’t need to know.

Observant neighbors may be your best defense against burglary. Ask neighbors to keep an eye out for your property, and offer to do the same. Organize a block watch, and ask people to call 911 when witnessing anything suspicious.

No matter how safe your neighborhood may seem, there’s always the potential for burglary or other residential crime. Be observant, practice common sense, and keep safe habits. For more information on how to keep your home and property safe from crime, contact your local police department.

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