Over the coming months, we’ll explore many different topics relating to your family’s safety (Have suggestions or requests? Hit me up in the comments.), but today we’ll start with some very simple things you can do, right now, to make your family and home safer.
Your home is your castle. Keeping it secure and your family safe should be a high priority. While many articles focus on how to handle a burglar once they have entered your home, we’ll instead focus on methods to reduce making your home an easy target.
Consider the mindset of someone wanting to illegally enter your home. Most burglars / home invaders are opportunists: they’re looking for easy targets with a low chance of risk to themselves. Finding a way to reduce the probability that someone would want to illegally enter your home can be done in 10 easy steps which we’ll discuss below.
1.) Lock doors and windows
This may seem like common sense but many people forget to do lock doors and windows and provide an easy access point to burglars. According to the FBI, about 30% of burglaries in the US are considered “Unlawful Entry” meaning intruders were able to gain entry without breaking in, usually through an unlocked door. Each night before I go to bed, I go through the routine of checking all the doors and windows to make sure they’re locked.
Regarding locks, use deadbolt locks at a minimum (as opposed to simple push button locks). For another layer of protection, consider using a door security bar. If someone tries to kick down your door, they’ll find this will be a difficult task. The security bar provides your home with an added dose of safety by reinforcing doors from outside intruders.
Sliding glass doors and windows are also vulnerable. Using a wooden dowel or another solid object like the door security bar helps prevent windows and sliding doors from being opened should the lock be compromised. Most windows can be pinned for security. Drill a 3/16″ hole on a slight downward slant through the inside window frame and halfway into the outside frame – place a nail in the hole to secure the window.
And don’t forgot to lock the door going out to the garage. If someone gains entry into your garage, they can easily walk into your house if you didn’t lock that door as well. I have a neighbor whole recently had their car broken into in front of their house. They had left the car doors unlocked and when the burglar accessed their car, there was a garage door opener inside their car. The burglar opened the garage door and was able to steal tools. Had they wanted to, they could have also broken into the home if my neighbor had not locked his garage door.
A few additional tips:
- When moving into a new home, have all the locks changed.
- Put a lock on your circuit breaker (if it is outside the house). If someone can access your circuit breaker panel, they can cut the power to your house thus potentially defeating your home alarm or phone line (if you’re using VOIP).
- Don’t leave windows open at night that are visible to the street (this could attract burglars). I have special locks on my windows that allow me to open my windows at night to let in the cool air. But on the windows facing the street I don’t leave them open because I don’t want to attract someone looking for an easy target.
- Make sure the door hinges are on the inside of doors, not outsides.
- Never leave keys under doormats, flowerpots, mailboxes or other “secret” hiding places — burglars know where to look for hidden keys.
- For my spare key, I have a fake sprinkler head I have placed in my yard which has my house key inside. It looks just like a sprinkler head and is hidden somewhere in my yard.
2.) Make your house well lit at night
Someone looking to enter your home doesn’t want to be seen. I have several different lights on at night outside my house to make my house very visible. It’s easy to forget to turn these on so having lights setup on automatic timers, photosensitive switches or motion detectors is a simple way to ensure your house always has lights on at night.
Here’s a few different options you can use:
- Light bulbs with a photosensitive light switch.
- Motion activated light switches which are great in your backyard.
- Candelabra light control switches.
- Photosensitive light switch bases to activate your current lights.
3.) Make it appear someone is at home
Contrary to popular belief, most burglaries do not occur at night at all. Instead, 65% of burglaries occur between 6am and 6pm. Most burglars do not want to risk encountering someone so they will try your home when you’re most likely to be at work. The most common hours for a burglary to occur are between 10am-3pm.
Many times a burglar attempting to access your home during the day time will pose as a salesman to find out if anyone is home. Often would-be home burglars will knock on the door and if no one responds, will either try to gain access via the front door or other points of entry (think your patio door in your backyard).
Here are some considerations based on the time of the day:
- Have inside lights on timers
- Have music or a T.V. on. There’s also this option for a fake T.V. which from the street appears someone is watching television.
- Have music or a T.V. on.
- Build a relationship with neighbors to help watch your house which we’ll discuss next.
4.) Learn to rely on neighbors to watch your house
Having an extra set of eyes to watch your house is invaluable. I have a friend that lives outside of Salt Lake City, Utah that I used to visit from time-to-time. In his neighborhood, the children ran around without any parents nearby. I was surprised to see this coming from an area where it’s rare to see a child outside without adult supervision. When I asked him about this, he brought up the point that the neighbors all look out for each other. There was a real sense of community there and people genuinely cared and watched out for their neighbor.
The best way have to have good neighbors is to be a good neighbor. Take the time to develop a great relationship with your neighbors and develop a network with them.
5.) Removing shrubbery from around your house
Trim trees and shrubs so they can not be used as hiding places for intruders. If you have shrubs that provide cover for a would-be intruder, they can use this to take their time to break into a window. Also consider putting plants around the house that have thorns. Anything you can do to make it difficult for them to get close to your home will make it that much more challenging.
6.) Barking Dog
You don’t necessarily need a large attack dog, but rather a small barking dog will do just as fine. If the animal makes noises and barks, someone make think twice about attempting to break into your home. They will not know if you are now alert that something is wrong or if the dog is big enough to attack them. Point in case. Watch this video where a potential home burglar is scared off by a small yorkie dog. While it’s a funny video, the reality is that when someone is trying to break into your home, they’re probably already nervous and a dog like this can do the trick to scare them away.
7.) Home security systems
In the context of our discussion to prevent a home invasion, having a visible home security system or the appearance of a home security system can work in your favor. (Side note: some would argue that having a visible home security system would give a burglar a reason to suspect you have something that is worth stealing. I would argue differently. A home security system will give you an advantage if it alerts you that someone is breaking into your home.)
There’s several approaches we can take here:
- Security company stickers. These send the clear message that you have a some security system installed and will give someone 2nd thoughts before trying to force their way into your home. You can easily pick these up for cheap online even if you don’t have a home security system.
- Outside security cameras. I recently picked up a 4 pack of these fake security cameras. One day when I have the budget for it, I’ll replace them with real cameras, but for now I’m using these as deterrents.
- Have a peep hole on your front door and use it before opening your door.
- Home security system. These can range wildly in both costs, monthly fees and installation fees. Typically home security system companies will provide free installation and then lock you into long contracts to make up for their up front costs. Remember, if you have a home security system, arm it. Burglars know many times individuals will not arm their system simply because it’s not convenient. For those on a budget, there are options like this one.
Don’t have a budget for a home security system? Here’s some alternatives:
- Hang a bell on the door. At least you get alerted in the middle of the night of someone attempts to come in.
- Door alarms.
- Door security bar.
8.) Don’t flaunt your wealth
Again, our goal here is to avoid giving someone cause to break into your home. Flaunting your wealth sends a signal that you have things they’ll want. Simple things you can do:
- Keep curtains closed. No reason to show off all your nice things in your house. At night I keep the curtains that face the street closed for this very reason. If someone is driving by at night, having the curtains open with lights inside my house makes things very easy to see.
- Leaving a box of new big screen T.V. you just purchased on your curb.
- Lawn mowers, BBQ’s and bicycles are best stored out of sight.
9.) What to do if you are gone for an extended time away from your home
If you’re going to be gone for an extended period of time, here’s some simple things you can do to not draw attention to burglars checking out your neighborhood:
- Put some lamps inside your home on automatic timers.
- Have someone mow your lawn.
- Don’t post on social media that you’re on vacation. On sites like Facebook, if your friend posts a comment their friends can see the comment (and the original posts). Social media can easily provide a lot of information to people you don’t know.
- Don’t allow mail to build up on your front porch.
- Have neighbors remove the mail and newspapers that may accrue at your house or have the post office put a hold on delivery
- Also be sure to ask your neighbors to take out your trash as this can alert others that you aren’t around to take it out.
10.) Considerations if your car is outside your house
As I mentioned above, I had a neighbor recently that had their cars broken into (well, they left the car doors unlocked) and the burglar was able to access their garage. If you park your car in front of your house, here’s some things you need to think about:
- Do not leave valuables in plain view: (GPS devices, lap tops, PDA’s, cell phones, MP3’s, wallets, purses).
- Do not leave doors unlocked.
- Do not leave keys in the vehicle.
- Do not leave the garage door opener in plain view.
With these simple (and inexpensive steps), you can severely reduce the probability that your home will be a target for home invasion.