Under Lock and Key: Your Guide to Burglary Prevention

Inside Your Home Install and Use an Alarm System
Homes with an alarm system are much less likely to be broken into. However, a substantial number of houses robbed have state-of-the-art alarm systems, the owners just didn't turn them on. The bottom line is, turn on your alarm--your home security system won't do a lot of good if it isn't activated. Timed Lighting
Having your lights on at all times makes your absence just as obvious as having no lights on at all. Put your lights on a timer to give the impression that someone is at home. But make sure to get a timer with random-pattern options because a burglar will usually clue in if timers are set to turn on at the same time every day. Get a Small Dog
These "yappers" make a lot of noise, which burglars try to avoid at all costs. A lot of people think their 100-pound watchdog will scare off an intruder, but larger dogs tend not to bark as much as say a chihuahua. Deadbolt your Doors
All exterior doors should have a deadbolt with a minimum throw of one inch and screws that are at least three inches long. Anything less than this is easily breakable. And double doors should have flush bolts installed at the top and bottom. Re-Key
When moving into a new home, have all of the locks and keys changed--you never know who the previous owner gave spare keys to. The Garage
Burglars don't even have to go inside your house to steal your stuff if you leave the garage door wide open. Always keep it closed, and lock your car doors, even when they're in the garage. Also, if you get a key pad, change the code. New openers come with factory-set codes that owners are supposed to reset, but a lot of people don't. It's not uncommon for burglars to search neighborhoods with common brands of garage key pads, looking for garage doors that will open. Sliding Glass Doors
A sliding glass door is an easy entryway for a thief because the door can simply be lifted off their tracks. Use vertical bolts and place a metal or wooden rod in the inside track to prevent it from being easily opened. Secure Windows
Make sure all of your windows have an alarm sensor on them, even second-story windows. Burglars know that the majority of second-story windows are not secured, and will climb a ladder or tree to break into an "alarmed" house through the second floor. Also, put locks on your windows and apply window film to make your glass shatterproof for maximum security. Outside Your Home Landscaping and Lawn Care
A well-manicured lawn can send a strong message that you pay close attention to your home. An overgrown lawn may catch a burglar's eye since it can suggest the house is vacant. Overgrown or extremely large trees or shrubs may look beautiful, but they can also provide convenient cover for burglary activity--especially around your home's entry points. For security's sake have them trimmed or moved. Also, trim all tree limbs. Limbs that grow close to your house can serve as ladders. And although more experienced burglars tend to carry thick gloves and wire cutters, planting bushes with thorns or prickly leaves under windows and along fences can make your property less accessible and may help deter the amateur criminal who is just looking for an easy target. Lock Up Tools
A lot of burglars don't even have to bring tools for the break-in--they'll just use yours. Don't provide an intruder with the means to rob you, so lock up ladders, tools, garbage cans, and anything else a burglar can use to break into your house. No Hide-a-Keys
Never, never, never leave a spare key "hidden" someone near the door. All of those places you think are so sneaky, a thief will most likely know about them too. Instead, leave a spare key with a trusted neighbor in case you ever get locked out. Alarm System Sign
By posting a sign in your yard that says you are protected by a home security system, burglars are more likely to skip your house. Even if you don't have an alarm system, there's no harm in still staking a security sign in the lawn. You can even buy general ones that say, "This home is protected by an alarm system." Keep Entries Well-Lit
Make sure there is ample lighting at all points of entry to your home. Consider installing motion-sensor lighting on parts of the house that aren't used as often (like the sides or back of the house). Make sure they are high enough up that the light bulbs can't be easily unscrewed. Newspaper and Mail
Have a neighbor pick up your mail and newspaper everyday so that they don't pile up, making it obvious you're out of town. Protecting Your Valuables Hiding Valuables
So, you think you have a clever hiding place for your valuables? If you are storing precious belongings under the mattress, in the night stand, in the bathroom or vanity area, or the closet of your master bedroom, you may want to find a new spot. Burglars know where people most often keep their valuables, and that usually means the master bedroom. ID Your Stuff
To make valuables more difficult for burglars to sell, engrave your driver's license number on them. You can even borrow an engraving pen free of charge from many police stations. TVs, DVD players, computers, bicycles, gas grills, lawn mowers, musical instruments, stereo equipment, and power tools are all things you want to engrave. Many pawn shops aren't allowed to buy goods with ID engravings, and are required to report it to the police. Decoy Jewelry Box
Keep a jewelry box on your vanity with inexpensive jewelry in it while keeping your more valuable pieces locked up. A burglar is more likely to swipe the decoy and not keep looking for more. Don't Advertise Expensive Goods
Don't alert everyone of the fact that you have a new big screen TV by leaving the box on the side of the curb. Burglars will target your house if your trash is full of boxes of new goods. Cut up boxes before throwing them out. Also, try to keep your expensive items away from windows, where burglars can look in and see you have stuff worth stealing. Vacation Checklist By doing these simple things, you can go ahead and relax while on vacation with the peace of mind your home is safe and sound. Ask a Neighbor to Keep Watch
Enlist someone to take in the mail and newspapers, go inside and check up on things, and just make it look like there is some activity in the home. Hire a Yard Service
If you're going to be gone for a couple of weeks, hire someone to mow the lawn or shovel the walks. An unkempt yard is a dead giveaway to your absence. Leave Your Car in the Driveway
If you usually park a car in the driveway when you're home, it's good to keep one there while you're gone to give the appearance that you're still around. You can even ask a neighbor to park there. Don't Record a New Phone Message
Don't let people know you're leaving and how long you'll be gone by recording it on your home phone message. Informing everyone who calls your house that you're out of town is an open invitation for burglars. Leave Curtains Open
If your shades, curtains, or blinds are closed during the middle of the day, it's a big clue to burglars that no one is home. Keep the shades in their regular spots. If You Are Burglarized If you discover a door or window ajar, do not enter your home--go to a neighbor's house and call the police. If you encounter a burglar in your home, try to flee; if you aren't able to get our, remain still and allow the intruder to leave and then call the police immediately. The sooner the police are involved, the greater your chances are for recovering your possessions. Finally, don't touch anything! You may inadvertently destroy important evidence.
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