Every year, over 2 million homes are burglarized—that is a burglary every 15 seconds! Here are some common mistakes people make when trying to protect their homes from burglary.
Not setting security system
One mistake many people make is not setting their security system when they are only planning to be gone for just a few minutes. One house in my neighborhood was burglarized last Christmas during the 30 minutes the mother took to pick up her child at school. Sophisticated burglars watch neighborhoods and learn when residents go to work or run errands and how long they are likely to be away, so the burglars are ready to make their move the minute you leave.
The best systems offer multiple layers of protection—motion sensors, light sensors, glass breakage sensors, etc. Burglars often break into bedrooms while the family is home eating dinner in the dining room, so you may want to get a zone system that has room-by-room controls that allow you to keep the system on in unused areas of the house.
Low-cost, high-technology systems incorporating infrared motion detection, remote controls, and easy-to-install door and window sensors are available for use in apartments and small homes. If you have pets, you can prevent false alarms by looking for systems that incorporate “pet alley” settings that keep detection just above their usual paths.
For more security with doors and windows, purchase individual alarm units to supplement existing security measures.
Posting security company signs
When you post a sign that identifies your security company, you give the burglar the information he or she needs to disable the system; all the burglar has to do is buy a diagram of how that particular system is wired. It is better to buy a generic sign from a home-supply store that simply says, "This house is protected by a security system." As long as the sign does not provide specific information, it may be a deterrent.
Having newspaper and mail delivery stopped when you go away
You may trust your mail and newspaper carriers, but you do not know who else is privy to the information, so keep your plans quiet. Have a neighbor or close friend pick up your paper or mail. Ask them to drop by at different times of the day. The more activity burglars see, the less likely they are to target your house.
Getting a big dog
Big dogs may look scary, but burglars know better. Most big breeds, unless they are trained as guard dogs, are not barkers. What you want to get are "yappers," small dogs that make a lot of noise. Breeds such as Chihuahuas are better deterrents than most large dogs.
Hiding valuables in the bedroom
his is the first place burglars look. Burglars spend 15 minutes or less in a house, and more than half that time is spent in the bedroom, checking the usual hiding places—the underwear drawer, under the mattress, high closet shelves, etc.
Keep money or jewelry you rarely wear in a safe-deposit box. Hide other valuables in places where burglars do not commonly look, such as in the garage, above removable ceiling tiles, in the freezer, or in fake food containers.
Do not hide all your valuables in one place. A burglar is less likely to get everything if you hide items in different places.
Hiding windows with landscaping
Tall bushes and shrubs allow burglars to jimmy windows or doors without being seen. Keep all bushes trimmed to below window level. Do not count on thorny plants to prevent entry. Professional thieves routinely wear gloves and 2 layers of clothes, and carry cutting tools to remove any thorny obstacles that may get in their way.
Leaving the inside lights on
A light that is always on is no more of a deterrent than a dark house. In fact, it helps burglars see well once they are inside.
It is better to use timers that turn lights on and off in different parts of the house at different intervals. In addition, purchase motion detectors that turn on lights or appliances if someone enters the house. A home with a well-lit home exterior is much less likely to be broken into, so fully illuminate your house with motion-detector spotlights and other strategic light fixtures.
Hiding a spare key
Never hide spare keys in “secret” places outside your home, because smart snoops know which flowerpots to look under. Be smart about issuing spare keys. Even though you may be careful about who they are issued to, you cannot control the people to which they may have contact that may expose the key to duplication or theft.
Relying on memory
Perhaps the most important security measure of all is to document your home’s contents, particularly the valuables. Get out the video camera and take a thorough tour of your home, and then keep a copy of the tape and any other helpful documentation in your safe deposit box.
Relying on standard door locks
A door with only a handle lock is an easy mark for a crook with a plastic credit card, so add a good-quality deadbolt at each entry. The best require a key on the outside and incorporate a thumb latch on the inside. For doors with glass near the lock, also use a key lock on the inside so a burglar cannot reach in and open the door. Keep the key in a known spot near the door or use in an emergency exit situation. Further, strengthen every locking system by substituting long, heavy-duty screws for those provided by the manufacturer.
No matter which lock you choose, the lock is only as strong as the door itself, which is generally weakest around the lock. To make doors more secure, add a decorative door reinforcement plate (about $10) or use metal doors.
Secure your patio door by adding a patio bar, which can stop the inside door from sliding open or being pried off if the lock is broken. A sturdy piece of wood strategically placed in the open track may also improve door security.
When leaving home for day trips or longer, keep your garage closed to intruders by inserting a large stove bolt through one of the side track holes to prevent doors from being slid open.
Install a wide-angle (200-degree) peephole in your front door so that you can easily see who is at the door.
Relying on standard window locks
Windows may be the weakest link in home security, especially if left open and unattended. Make sure all windows are closed and locked before you leave home, even for the shortest errand, and add window dressings and shades to discourage prying eyes.
Modern windows include sash locks, but you can improve security by drilling a hole from front to back where the top and bottom windows overlap and installing a long nail in the hole. If the integrated window lock breaks, the nail will stop the window from sliding open. Security bars on ground-level windows are also an option, but make sure they are fitted with quick-release mechanisms that allow them to be opened from the inside in an emergency.