1. Making your pretty home ugly to burglars
According to FBI statistics, burglaries are down approximately 10% nationwide. But according to the Chicago-based Burglary Prevention Council, a burglary still happened somewhere in the United States every 11 seconds last year, and the typical burglarized house lost $1,350, not counting the cost of repairs to broken windows and the like.
So if you want to help the downward trend in burglaries continue, there are a few steps you can take to make your house less attractive to thieves, particularly when you're on vacation.
- Contact the local police department at least one week before you leave on vacation. Some departments offer free crime-prevention inspections. Most police departments tell patrolling officers to keep an eye on a house when they know it is going to be temporarily vacant.
- Visit your neighborhood post office to have mail delivery stopped if you're going to be out of town. Also stop your newspaper delivery. If you are going to be gone for more than a week, have someone cut your grass.
- Close and lock all doors when leaving home for even short periods. More than a quarter of all burglary is without forced entry. Make sure you check the doors of the attached garage and breezeway in addition to all windows, including basement windows.
- Install deadbolt locks on all entry doors. A deadbolt lock is hard to force and doubles your resistance to intrusion. If there are no breakable windows within 40 inches of the lock, you can use a lock with a thumb latch that will let you open the door from the inside without a key. In doors with glass panels use a key lock with a keyhole on both sides.
- Secure all windows. You can lock a double-hung window securely and inexpensively by drilling a hole at a downward angle through the front sash where the sashes overlap. A wooden peg in the hole will keep the window from rising. Check home-improvement, hardware or variety stores for other window-locking ideas and devices.
- Use automatic timers. Some timers can be set to turn on lights, radios and other appliances at the same time each day. Others that are slightly more expensive vary the on and off patterns from day to day to enhance the illusion that someone is home. Setting a timer on a radio tuned to talk-show station might fool burglars into thinking a live conversation is going on if they listen at the window.
- Illuminate the yard. Outdoor lighting is an effective deterrent to burglars. Energy-efficient low-voltage outdoor lights can eliminate the dark spots where a burglar could hide, and a light with a motion sensor is great way to scare off a potential thief.
- Lock up ladders, tools and lawn furniture. Don't invite burglary by providing aids to breaking into your house. A sturdy lawn chair that can be pulled under a window makes getting through that window easier.
- Trim trees and shrubs growing close to the house. To enter your house without making a lot of noise, a burglar needs time to work. Tall bushes and hanging branches can provide shelter while the burglar cases the house or tries to pry open a door or window.
- Start a neighborhood watch program. Your local police department can help organize a neighborhood watch group that encourages neighbors to watch out for one another. But even without a formal watch group, you should get to know your close neighbors so each of you can help keep the other's house safe.
- Use window and floor alarms. Look around discount and home-improvement stores for inexpensive audible alarms that go off when a window or door is forced. Also available are professionally installed systems that automatically call emergency crews when they sense trouble. Before investing in such a system, however, check with police to find out what is legal in your community.
- Inventory your valuables. Place small valuables and important documents in a safety-deposit box.
Some of these tips are from the Burglary Prevention Council, and you can get more information from the organization by visiting its Web site at http://www.burglaryprevention.org/. Or send $1 for handling and a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Burglary Prevention Council, 221 N. LaSalle St., Suite 3500, Chicago, Ill. 60601-1520. Ask for the booklet “Keep Your Home Safe and Secure.”