Tips for Preventing Home Theft
Practice Intruder Smarts
- Teach your family about home security.
- Explain your security precautions and emphasize the role they play in keeping your home secure.
- Ask them to remember always to lock the door and keep a careful watch on their keys.
- Show them where the keys to internal locks are located in case they have to exit your home quickly.
- Teach children to never answer the door when home alone.
- Print out and fill in your Emergency Contact List. Print copies and keep them by your phones for easy access. Instruct family members how to call for help.
- Do not trust unfamiliar delivery, utility or other people who request access to your home, unless you have set up the appointment ahead of time and they show proper identification.
- Be wary of door-to-door canvassers. Most legitimate fundraisers carry a solicitor’s permit as well as an office number you can call to verify their legitimacy.
- Lock your doors and windows even if you step outside for just a moment.
Increase Your Home’s Security
- Check the door frames. Are they strong enough and tight enough to prevent forcing or spreading? If not, consider modifying the frame.
- Exterior doors should be solid wood, metal or fiberglass. Replace any hollow-core doors.
- Check the door hinges to see if they can withstand a determined burglar.
- Check the locks on all doors – don’t forget your garage, basement, cellar and side doors.
- Deadbolt locks should be installed on all exterior doors and doors from attached garages. There is a grading system that measures the security and durability of door locks. Locks are given a grade of 1, 2, or 3, with Grade 1 being the best.
WHN TIP – Police Check: Contact your local police department — many police departments offer free home security checks. A uniformed officer will visit your home and evaluate your locks, windows, lighting, shrubbery, alarms systems, etc. and then provide improvement recommendations. Follow through with these recommendations. Your insurance company might also provide these kinds of services.
- Secure sliding glass doors.
- Pin-type locks or key locks work best in securing patio doors.
- Install a commercially available lock or place a metal rod or piece of plywood in the track.
- To prevent the door being lifted off the track, insert a pin or screw through a hole drilled through the sliding door frame and the fixed frame. This will allow the door to slide, but not be lifted out of its track.
- Make sure any doggy doors or mail slots cannot be used to gain entry. Many mail slots are within arm’s reach of the doorknob.
- Always lock the door to an attached garage.
- Don’t rely on your automatic garage door opener for security. Power failures or radio frequency signals have been known to cause doors to open.
- If your garage has a window, “frost” it on the inside to prevent the intruder from determining if there is a car inside.
WHN TIP — Secure Yet Safe: Don’t go overboard when securing your home. You want to keep intruders out; but you and other family members must also be able to escape in case of a fire or other emergency.
Keys and Alarms
- Give an extra key to a trusted neighbor or friend instead of hiding it outside your home. Most burglars know the best places to find keys.
- Keep your house keys on a different chain from your car or work keys. Otherwise, if your car is stolen or your house is broken into, thieves will have better access to more of your possessions.
- Consider equipping your home with a security system. Some alarm systems can alert the police or fire departments directly.
- Ask neighbors with security systems about their experiences with the company they work with.
WHN TIP – Three Minutes: Thieves usually try to keep their time in a house to less than three minutes.
- Contact your insurance agent. They may recommend companies or systems. Your agent should also let you know about options that could get you a reduction on your homeowner’s insurance policy.
- Call your local law enforcement agency to find out if there is a local alarm code or if you have to register your alarm. Some cities may require you to register a monitored alarm and pay a small fee. They may also fine you for false alarms.
WHN TIP – Code It: Consider giving a specific numeric code and password information to the person who has your spare set of keys.
- Post security signs and decals even if you don’t have a security system. A friend with a system may have extras, or you can buy security signage online. Don’t forget to post one or two on your garage.
- A dog (indoors or out) can also deter intruders, if they are trained to bark at appropriate times. If you will be away, hire a trusted friend or neighbor to care for your dog at your house instead of boarding it.
- Make sure windows have adequate locks in good condition. Replace if necessary.
- 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.
- Consider installing window alarms. Most hardware stores carry the small, battery-operated variety. When the window is moved from its set position (which you determine when you install the alarm), they emit a piercing alarm. Most have on-off switches that are easily accessible from the interior side.
- Reconsider or retrofit “security bars.” Your goal is to make it difficult for outsiders to come in, not to make it hard for you and your family to get out.
- Keep ladders and tools inside locked sheds or locked tool cabinets in garages. Otherwise they could be used to gain access to your home.
- Replace injured or split wood, or pried siding.
- Keep shrubbery trimmed away from entrances and walkways.
- While large, ornate hedges may be beautiful, they also provide a hiding place for burglars who need only a minute to break in through a window or door.
- If you like shrubbery, choose “unfriendly” types like firethorns or rosebushes.
WHN TIP – Why July? Generally, July has the greatest number of recorded burglaries; February, the least. Crime tends to increase and decrease with the temperature, in part because people leave windows and doors open in summer.
- Install motion detector lights to discourage intruders and highlight your home.
- Make sure all entrances are lit with at least a 40-watt light.
Protect Your Possessions
- Review the limits on your insurance coverage, and ask your agent about additional coverage for special items like expensive jewelry or rare antiques.
- Update the policy whenever you have added new items.
- Keep valuable items in a home safe if it is not easily removed (such as a floor safe), in your safety deposit box or in any other room other than the master bedroom (typically the first room the intruder will go to).
- Set up decoys. Put your real jewels in a nondescript cardboard box in the back of the closet, and put your inexpensive jewelry in a lock-box on the dresser. Put an inexpensive, easily removed safe in the master bedroom. Thieves won’t take the time to pry it open until they’re gone.
WHN TIP – That’s Special: Be sure to check on your “special occasion” jewelry at least once a month or as needed. Otherwise it may be awhile before you notice it’s missing.
- Engrave an identifying number or name on valuables with an engraving pen.
WHN TIP – Appraisers: If the item is an antique or heirloom, check with an appraiser first.
- Don’t publicize recent purchases by making them visible through windows. Break the boxes down and place them at the bottom of your trash pile so thieves can’t see what you bought.
- Keep large TV, stereo or other major items out of window view.
WHN TIP — Sync and Lock: Sync your PDA/cell phone often. Why? If it’s stolen, you’re only as good as your last backup. Then, lock your mobile device so no one else can get your passwords, private numbers, or other important info.
Prepare A Home Inventory
- Create a household inventory: videotape, photograph or compile a written inventory of your home and belongings. This will make it easier to file an insurance claim.
- Keep the inventory off-premises in a safety deposit box or with an out-of-the area contact. The inventory will provide a written, detailed record of your possessions for you and the insurance company.
- Update your inventory every year or so and every time a major purchase is made or significant renovations are undertaken in your home or on your property.
- Prepare a Master Information Box which contains copies of important documents and records, photos and contact information.
Start A Neighborhood Watch
- Take some time to get to know the neighbors in your area. Notice what type of vehicles they drive and pay attention to their routines.
- Be a good neighbor. If you notice anything suspicious, call the police. The police would much rather check out a suspicious activity then to let it go by unreported.
- Start a neighborhood watch group.
Prepare for a Short Trip or Longer Vacation
The majority of home break-ins occur during the daytime when many homes are unoccupied. Here are some home security preparations you can do before you depart.
- Use timers on lights, radios and TV’s. You can also buy random timers to keep the rotation from looking predictable.
- Keep some shades and blinds up and curtains open to maintain a normal, everyday appearance in your residence.
- Lower the sound of your telephone ring and answering machine so they can’t be heard outside, and don’t leave a message indicating that you are gone.
WHN TIP – Forward Calls: Consider having your telephone calls forwarded to another number when away from home, in case someone is using the phone to check if you’re at home.
- Arrange to have your mail and newspaper collected daily. Ask a friend to pick up “throwaway” newspapers and circulars.
- Don’t forget to have your lawn mowed or your walk shoveled and have your cans put out on trash pick-up day to keep up the illusion that you are home.
- Stop any other regular deliveries.
- Lock and disable the electric garage door.
- Ask a neighbor to park in your driveway.
- Tell police and dependable neighbors when you plan to be away and ask them to keep a close watch on what’s happening in your area.
- Do not put notes on your door detailing your schedule.
Thank You …
A special thank you to the industry professionals, lawyers, insurance agents, first responders and people who gave us their time, insight and real-life advice.