I will never forget the time my family was awakened in the middle of the night by a would-be burglar trying to kick a window in. We spent many a sleepless night hyper-alert, listening for unusual noises with pounding hearts. And with good reason, too – over 2 million burglaries occur every year in the United States, with an average of $2,230 loss per incident.
So every homeowner naturally wants to know how to avoid becoming part of the statistics. It’s surprisingly easier – and less expensive – than you’d expect. Here are our top 10 tips on protecting your home from uninvited guests.
1. Invest in a home security system. It doesn’t have to be the most high-tech or sophisticated, but a loud alarm and a sign informing would-be intruders that your home is protected is a deterrent in itself. Cameras – even dummy ones – are effective, and add-ons like motion sensors and glass-shatter sensors are extra prudent.
Most importantly: check your system regularly to make sure it’s still working and up-to-date.
2. Buy a dog. A loud one. Even a beware-of-dog sign or a motion-activated recording of fearsome barking can do the trick. No burglar wants to alert homeowners of his presence, and he really doesn’t want to run into a snarling, teeth-baring German shepherd.
3. Light up your home. This one is a must. Brightly lit exteriors are much less inviting to thieves than shadowed ones.
And on a similar note…
4. Trim your shrubbery. You don’t want to provide anyone with hiding places. Keep bushes and trees well-manicured, and take a good look around your yard – at night – to scout out good spots to hide. Think like a burglar!
5. Take extra caution before a vacation. An empty house is just begging to be robbed.
Before you leave, arrange for garbage and flier pickup, have the post office hold your mail, leave lights and even TVs on timers… make sure your home looks lived in, especially when it’s not. Ask a friend to clear off notes from your front door, open and close shades, or even park a car in the driveway (or move yours between the driveway and the curb).
Or you can always pull a Kevin McCallister. Hey, it worked on the Wet Bandits. (Bonus points for anyone who can find that clip on YouTube.)
6. Get to know your neighbors. If you’re on good terms, they’re more likely to do something if they see something suspicious. Plus, thwarting a burglary in your house means the burglar won’t move on to their house afterwards. If you can join or form a neighborhood watch group, that’s even better; everyone will have each other’s backs, and a thief will be less likely to strike on a well-patrolled block.
7. Never hide a key outside. That’s the first thing a potential intruder will look for, and there’s a good chance that someone’s seen you take your key out from underneath that rock or shrub. Give your spare key to a friend or neighbor instead.
8. Contact the cops. Many precincts offer free security inspections.
9. Always lock up and clean up. This one may seem obvious, but you need to check all windows and doors – garage doors and second-story windows included – at least every night and preferably every time you leave the house.
Close your shades so that burglars can’t “window-shop” and don’t leave out boxes from large-ticket items (that plasma TV box advertises your tempting purchase to opportunists). Lock up inside too – keep all valuables, including personal documents, in a fireproof safe bolted to the floor.
10. Insure. Even the most secure home can still be vulnerable to a crafty thief. Make sure your home insurance provides adequate coverage in case of a burglary, and inventory all of your things. Compile a detailed list with pictures and store a backup copy – hard or digital – somewhere safe outside of your home.
Crime rates tend to rise with hot weather. Be extra vigilant in the summer, especially when you’re spending a lot of time outdoors. Protect yourself, your family, and your home!
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