No one wants to think about his or her house being broken into by a criminal; our homes are supposed to be havens where we feel safe and comfortable. While no measures can guarantee with 100% certainty that you will not be the victim of a crime, here are the top 10 home security tips and tricks you might want to consider to minimize your risk.
Install a home security system
Again, no security measures are invincible, but a comprehensive system of alarms and cameras can go a long way to deter break-ins and other criminal activity. Alarm systems will alert the homeowner of the breach and quickly bring the police to your location, mitigating the damage that may be done by an intruder. A whole-house security system that is monitored by an outside service is one of the most effective deterrents to criminal activity around your home.
Obviously, an alarm system needs to be consistently engaged to be of use, and you should only work with a company that is reputable and responsive to all your questions or concerns. Many insurance companies will lower premiums when homes have an alarm system as an added incentive.
Use security lighting
Install motion-detector lights to illuminate your entry way, the sides of your house, and any other vulnerable areas surrounding your house. Does your house back up to open or wooded areas? Be sure to place lights along your property lines even though these areas may not be well-traveled as burglars tend to use those areas to hide.
Make sure doors and windows are secure
Install deadbolt locks on your doors, and consistently use them. Nearly 40% of burglars gain access through unlocked front doors, believe it or not, so even the most heavy-duty, elaborate deadbolt will not be helpful if it’s not used. Make it a habit to lock your doors, even when you are just going out quickly to walk the dog or pick up the mail.
Sliding glass doors typically have flimsy locks that can be easily popped open. Install a security bar or pin lock to the bottom of the sliding glass door to prevent forceful entry.
Keep garage doors closed at all times, and ensure that remote control openers are also safe from thieves. Doors that lead into your house from the garage should also be securely locked with a deadbolt in the event that the garage door is somehow opened.
Windows are often overlooked as an important part of securing your home against intruders. Nearly a third of criminals gain entry through an unlocked window, so it is wise to pay special attention to windows being as impenetrable as possible. Make sure locks are intact and set every night and whenever leaving the house.
Consider installing shatterproof glass or adding security film to panes. Bars or scrolled steel cages can be added to windows, skylights, or portals that are particularly vulnerable. Finally, alarms that notify homeowners in the event of a window being opened or broken are both affordable and effective in reducing the likelihood of break-ins.
Don’t advertise your absence
It’s tempting to post on social media as soon as you are at the airport, ready to go on a fabulous vacation, but when you alert your friends that you are leaving you are also telling the rest of the world. Wait to post those photos when you return.
Other things to do when you leave town to minimize chance that your home will be attacked:
- Stop mail and papers; an overflowing mailbox is a sure sign to burglars that you have not been home for a while
- Set up a timer for lights, both inside and out to give the appearance that someone is at home. You can even put the television or radio on a timer to create the illusion that someone is home
- Have your lawn mown or driveway plowed while you are away
- Ask a neighbor to park in your driveway; a car present signifies that someone is home
Get a dog
Houses with barking dogs are often all it takes to deter a break-in. You don’t have to have a trained attack dog to fend off a burglar. Often, if a burglar hears a dog barking inside, they will elect to target a house without a dog.
Replace locks on doors
Immediately replace all the locks when you move in to a new place, if your keys are lost or stolen, or if you have been the victim of a break-in.
If you are having duplicate keys made, be present for the cutting process, and keep track of all the copies that exist. When hiding an extra key outside your house, don’t leave it under your front mat or a flower pot. Wrap the key in foil and hide it in an obscure location that is unknown to anyone but your immediate family members.
Landscape for safety
Thickly entwined hedges around your home can be an obstruction for break-ins, and bushes with thorns are even better. Be diligent about trimming trees, plants and bushes to reduce hiding places for potential intruders.
Know who is entering your home
An astonishing number of break-ins are committed by people who know their victims, at least secondarily. Thieves often pose as service or sales people; ask for ID when service workers from utilities (gas, electric, water) enter your house—if you have not requested service you should be skeptical, and alert the company immediately.
When hiring people to work in and around your home, you are completely within your rights to check both references and criminal records. Take a photo of people who will be working in your home, as well as a copy of their ID.
Never allow someone into your home who you don’t know, or who has not properly identified themselves. If someone is asking to use the phone, offer to make the call for them, and keep the door firmly shut and locked while doing so. You don’t need to be rude or unkind, but do be aware.
Seasoned criminals often study the behavior of homeowners to determine their routines, when they will be home and when they won’t, and when houses may be left vulnerable to invasion. Change your routine from time to time to thwart burglars from effectively “casing” your house.
Most people keep easily stolen valuables like cash, jewelry and firearms in the master bedroom, so be creative about where your possessions are kept. Make your belongings difficult to steal.
Keep an up-to-date inventory of your property, down to the make, model and serial number of each item, and appraised values of antiques and other irreplaceable items. This will be very useful if you ever need to file a police report or assess losses for insurance purposes.
Have a plan
If your home is burglarized, don’t panic. The most important thing to do is ensure the safety of the people in the home, so have a conversation with your family about what your plan will be in the event a crime occurs. Make sure each person knows their role, and where to reconvene if you need to evacuate the premises. Alert law enforcement as soon as possible to report any wrongdoing, and provide as much detail as possible.
Finally, enlist the help of your friends and neighbors to protect one another’s homes and property. Join a neighborhood watch group or create a cooperative information sharing system. It not only protects your property, but also fosters a sense of community goodwill.