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Avoiding Home Burglary

Keep em' out!!

Most criminals who burglarize homes are looking for an easy hit; a house that they can break into quickly, take something of value, and leave without being detected. Yes, there are professional burglars who can gain entry into almost any home if they want, however, most criminals who break into homes are opportunists who got lucky with an open widow or unlocked door. There's no fail-proof way to keep out a burglar, but every little bit of deterrence helps. Even if you can't afford a security system, you can take a few minutes to make your home a little safer. Some relatively simple steps will greatly decrease the odds of a break-in, which means you can enjoy a bit more peace of mind. And isn't that what "home" is all about?

Lets take a look at a few facts.

Once a burglar has selected a home to burglarize, most will spend no more than a minute trying to break in and less than five minutes inside.

Most residential burglaries occur on the first or ground floor.

The point of entry is usually made at the rear or by a side door, the second most common access is via the garage door.

Most burglaries occur during daytime hours when homes are empty, and belong to two person households.

Now, with a few basis facts of burglary out of the way, in order to out fox a burglar, you need to think like one. Here are a few questions a burglar would ask himself before he breaks into your home. Ask this question to yourself.

If you were a burglar targeting your own home:

How would you get in to your home? Evaluate your home from the inside and out, night and day. You might even try a "mock" break-in, trying window jambs and loose locks on your house's perimeter. Just let the neighbors know what you're up to before you go lurking in the bushes.

If you failed your test, hear are a few thoughts to harden your residence to burglars.

Lights

Even though most burglaries occur during the day, some occur during hours of darkness. Criminals are in search of houses with no one home. To reduce your home's risk of burglary at night, install motion lights in the front and in the rear of your house wherever possible. To be extra cautious, try to position the lights at the corners of your residence so the motion detectors can catch someone approaching from the side. Make sure the lights are positioned at a height that someone cannot disable them by easily reaching up and unscrewing the bulb.

Landscape

Make sure all shrubs and trees are trimmed back so they do not allow a burglar to conceal himself while attempting to open a window or door. If possible, plant bushes with prickly thorns around these locations. They are a cheap deterrent. 

Scope out your yard

Don't stop your security awareness at the outside walls of your house. Your yard areas (if any) also deserve attention. In general, don't leave anything around the yard that might help a burglar get into your house. Ladders, stackable boxes or any garden tools should be put away, preferably in a locked cabinet. Many burglars have used the property owner’s own tools to break into a home. Don't place outdoor furniture tables nearby the house. These could become an easy stepladder to the roof. To discourage potential climbers, spread grease on any metal drainpipes if they are close to windows. Use Vaseline or clear automotive grease, depending on the color of the pipe (or replace them with plastic pipe). Yes, criminals do climb up drainpipes. Think about it, most second story windows are left un-secure and make a house easy to gain entry to. 

Hide your identity

Do not place your name on your mailbox or front door, especially if you are a woman. If you really have to do this, use your last name only. 

Secure the windows

Though windows are relatively easy to break, the loud noise of shattering glass will deter a thief if you're near other houses.

Create a lock for wooden-frame windows. At the top edge of the bottom frame, drill two holes perpendicular to the sash or at a slight, downward angle. Drill completely through the inside sash and halfway into the outside sash. Insert nails or bolts (don't hammer or screw these) into the holes. To test this setup to make certain the bolts won't pop out when wiggled.

Don't leave windows and doors open during the night whether you're home or away. That's a commonsense precaution, but a surprising number of people forget to do just that, especially second story windows. It's a good idea to make a "pane patrol" part of your ritual of leaving the house. Another option is to use a swege window alarm and stop. A swege is like a door stop for windows. It’s a device you place on windows you use for ventilation. It allows you to keep the window open (say 6-8 inches) for air. However, should anyone push the window further open the swege stops the window from sliding and emits an ear piercing alarm to scare the intruder away and to alert you of attempted entry.

Use a pickproof locking device for your windows. Make sure the frames are solid.

If you're beyond the earshot of your neighbors, they won't hear the glass breaking.

Consider installing a Plexiglas sheet for the more accessible windows. This will make entry through them more difficult.

Basement windows are an easy target, since they're low and usually well hidden. Firmly wedge a steel bar across the window, or install a metal grate.

Secure the doors

All exterior doors should be solid core, and can withstand being kicked in. All should have high quality dead bolts with at least 1 1/2 inch throws on the bolts themselves. The bolts in the locks should always be solid, not hollow metal. 

Insure the door frame has a metal strike plate, which is secured by a minimum of six, three inch screws, which are screwed into the solid door frame.

Install a wrap-a-round steel place on the front of the door which covers the deadbolt. This will provide extra protection from a burglar kicking in the door, and reducing his ability to pry the door lock.

If you don't have a peephole, install one in the front door. If you have one, make sure that you and your family are in the habit of using it. Don't open the door to anyone you don't know, especially at night. If the peephole is out of reach of your children, keep a stepladder or stepping box by the door for them to use.

Dogs, even the small yip-yip variety, have sharp teeth and a way of noisily not welcoming stealthy intruders. But a dog is more than an organic alarm--it's a living creature, and it'll need a lifetime of love, care, attention and exercise. If you can genuinely welcome a dog into your life, it will welcome the task of protecting you. But if you're a cat person (or a guppy person) at heart, then look into electronic security systems.

The recording of a bark, as sometimes suggested, may only be effective for particularly gullible burglars. Some people have a playback system that's triggered by the doorbell, but the cause-and-effect (push, bark, push, bark) is a little too easy to discern. A Beware of Dog sign is better than nothing; for an added touch of verisimilitude, get a sign that refers to a specific breed rather than the generic Dog. A "Beware of Rotweiler" sign (or a bumper sticker that says "I Love My Pit Bull") might do the trick.

Protect your valuables

Don't leave your valuables (stereo, computer, jewelry, etc.) where they can be seen from a window. If you don't want to hide everything from sight, consider draperies and blinds. Make a valuables inventory. Keep a record of your expensive and personally significant items--not just a listing, but a photographic or videotape record if possible. Store this inventory at another location. This is helpful for both the police and the insurance agency (if you have a homeowner's policy), to identify the stolen goods.

Use an engraving pen to mark these items with some kind of personal identifying information, such as your initials, in an inconspicuous place. This also helps record your possessions in case of any other mishap, such as fire or flood.

Note: The old engraving recommendation was to use your Social Security number. However, this is now considered to be an unsafe practice--your Social Security number can be far more valuable than any individual object, and a thief may use it to impersonate you for the purpose of getting credit cards, loans, etc. Trying to undo the resulting damage can be a long and difficult process. Consequently, you should keep your Social Security number safely stored away. Some states issue driver's license numbers that are different than your Social Security number; this may be a good substitute. It is now recommended that owners of property use their driver's license number, followed by the state of issuance. 

Example: N38493XX CA

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