Your Home: As Safe as You Think?

Traditionally, most of us have regarded our home as a place safe from intrusions of crime in the streets. If you are locked out of your house, would you still be able to get in? Maybe you keep an unlocked window in the back, or a hidden key in your mailbox or on top of a window ledge? You may think this is a good idea, but guess what? If you can break in, so can a burglar.

One out of ten homes will be burglarized this year. For a small amount of time and money, you can make your home more secure and reduce your chances of being a victim.

Many burglars will spend no longer than 60 seconds trying to break into a home. Good locks and good neighbors who watch out for each other can be big deterrents to burglars.

What You Can Do

Check the Locks

In almost half of all completed residential burglaries, thieves simply breezed in through unlocked doors or crawled through unlocked windows.

  1. Make sure every external door has a sturdy, well-installed deadbolt lock. Key-in-the-knob locks are not enough.
  2. Sliding glass doors can offer easy access if they are not properly secured. You can secure them by installing commercially available locks or putting a broomstick or dowel in the inside track to jam the door. To prevent the door being lifted off the track, drill a hole through the sliding door frame and the fixed frame. Then insert a pin in the hole.
  3. Lock double-hung windows with key locks or "pin" windows by drilling a small hole into a 45-degree angle between the inner and outer frames, then insert a nail that can be removed. Secure basement windows with grilles or grates.
  4. Instead of hiding keys around the outside of your home, give an extra key to a neighbor you trust.
  5. When you move into a new house or apartment, re-key the locks.

Check the Doors

A lock on a flimsy door is about as effective as locking your car door, but leaving the window down.

  1. All outside doors should be metal or solid wood.
  2. If your doors don’t fit tightly in their frames, install weather stripping around them.
  3. Install a peephole or wide-angle viewer in all entry doors so you can see who is outside without opening the door. Door chains break easily and don’t keep out intruders.

Check the Outside

Look at your house from the outside. Make sure you know the following tips:

  1. Thieves hate bright lights. Install outside lights and keep them on at night.
  2. Keep your yard clean. Prune back shrubbery so it doesn’t hide doors or windows. Cut back tree limbs that a thief could use to climb to an upper-level window.
  3. Clearly display your house number so police and other emergency vehicles can find your home quickly.
  4. If you travel, create the illusion that you’re at home by getting some timers that will turn on and off in different areas of your house throughout the evening. Lights burning 24 hours a day signal an empty house.
  5. Leave shades, blinds, and curtains in normal positions and don’t let your mail pile up. Call the post office to stop delivery or have a neighbor pick it up.
  6. Make a list of your valuables: DVD players, VCRs, stereos, computers, jewelry. Take photos of the items, list their serial numbers and descriptions.

Consider an Alarm

Alarms can be a good investment, especially if you have many valuables in your home, or live in an isolated area or one with a history of break-ins.

  1. Check with several companies before you buy so you can decide what level of security fits your needs. Do business with an established company and check references before signing a contract.
  2. Learn how to use your system properly! Don’t set off false alarms.

There's More You Can Do

  1. Join a neighborhood watch group.
  2. Never leave a message on your answering machine that indicates you may be away from home.
  3. Work with neighborhoods and local government to organize community clean-ups. The cleaner your neighborhood, the less attractive it is to crime.