Last week, thieves broke into my dad’s home and stole his TV, his laptop, and a whole bunch of other stuff. Most of the items, luckily, are easily replaced. And he wasn’t home at the time, which is the biggest blessing.
What can’t be as easily replaced, however, is the sense of security and peace of mind he had before the break-in. Coping with the emotional whiplash from the robbery has been more time-consuming and mentally draining than handling the police reports and insurance adjusters.
One thing to keep in mind is that while burglaries take place throughout the year, according to security officials, most areas in the country see a significant spike in crime from November through January during the holiday season. And since most thieves want to be in and out of your home in six minutes or less, anything you can do to slow them down, or deter them entirely, will work in your favor.
Here are 8 tips to help prevent a break-in from ever happening in your home, all of which can help provide you not only with emotional security, but also decrease the likelihood that you will have to replace items that could burn a major hole in your wallet:
1. Get an Indoor Dog
I drove down to Louisiana as soon as my dad told me about the robbery. And I brought him a great alarm system – an 85 pound Bordeaux Mastiff I’d rescued from the animal shelter just a few months before. He’ll be staying with my dad from now on.
The insurance adjuster who came yesterday said that dogs are often the most effective alarm system you can get. Sophisticated thieves often know how to work around electronic systems, and “average” thieves have no issues with breaking windows if there’s no system at all.
But dogs are unpredictable – they may bite, they may not. More often than not, he said, thieves will pick a house that’s dog-free rather than take the risk.
There are plenty of dogs who desperately need a good home. Petfinder is a great place to look. Making the decision to adopt a family pet dog could very well prevent you from becoming the victim of a robbery. And that’s not to mention all the love you’ll receive, in return!
That being said, however, dogs are a lot of responsibility and they can be expensive. I have three dogs (well, now I’m down to two after the gift to my dad), and they’re a lot of work. Please only get a dog if you’re truly going to care for it as it deserves.
2. Lock Your Doors and Windows
This seems like an obvious tip, but I’m sure many of us have neglected to do this at times. I know I’ve forgotten to do it countless times myself.
The thieves that broke into my dad’s house busted open the door to his sunroom. They then entered the house easily because he hadn’t locked the windows between the house and the sunroom.
Make sure your doors and windows are always locked. And I mean all windows. Experts say 23% of break-ins occur through first-floor windows. So securing these should be a top priority. GE makes a wireless alarm kit you can purchase for $25 that will sound if a door or window is opened. This is a very inexpensive way to protect vulnerable areas in your home.
Don’t forget to secure side doors and garage doors as well.
3. Use Strategic Landscaping
Thorny rose bushes under windows will make thieves think twice before going in that way.
Also, keep your bushes and hedges trimmed to a minimum; don’t give thieves a place to hide while they scope out your place.
Gravel and loose stones can also alert you (or a dog) that someone is approaching your house.
And make sure your yard is well-lit during the night!
4. Hide Valuables
Can people see your 50-inch flat screen TV from the sidewalk? What about your super-expensive stereo system?
Make sure your valuables are hidden from passer-bys. Use privacy curtains (sheer curtains that let in light but block the view) so people can’t see in while you’re away at work. With the holidays coming up, this especially includes gifts! Don’t leave gifts, even wrapped ones, in front of any window.
5. Install Double Key Deadbolts
Experts say 34% of all thieves come in right through the front door. So any investment you make securing your front door will probably pay off.
Double key deadbolts are the kind that require a key not only to enter, but also to exit. With a double key deadbolt lock, if thieves do break in, getting your stuff out is going to be really difficult unless they break the door down.
The downside to double key deadbolts is they can be dangerous in the event of an emergency, such as a fire. Consider this carefully before installing one. If you do put one in, keep the key very close to the door in a hiding place that’s easy to remember.
You should also have a lock far away from any windows that are a part of your door. If someone breaks through your door window glass, they can easily turn a regular indoor deadbolt. Have another lock at the top or bottom of your door that’s out of reach.
6. Secure Patio Doors
Security experts say most thieves don’t want to smash sliding glass doors because they’re so noisy. They’d much rather slide it open. To prevent this, secure your sliding door by placing a sawed-off broom handle in the track to prevent it from opening.
7. Don’t Advertise
If you’re going away for a week, don’t tell people on your answering machine that you’re out of town. Police say that, surprisingly, many thieves will find your number and call to see if you’re at home.
If you’re going to be away, make sure you purchase a timer that will automatically turn on lamps when it gets dark. Also, either put a temporary stop on your mail, or have a neighbor pick up your mail, packages, and newspapers so your home doesn’t look vacant.
8. Be Prepared
Make sure you religiously back up your computers and laptops in the event those items are stolen. My dad didn’t do this. As a result, many years worth of family pictures are gone.
Also, make sure your portable hard drive is kept hidden in an innocuous place where it won’t get hurt (like the kitchen pantry or laundry room).
Keep money out of site. My dad had a coffee can of petty cash he kept right on the kitchen counter. Of course, they grabbed it. If you have cash, keep it hidden. Again, putting that same coffee can in the pantry next to the sugar would have probably kept it safe.
Take pictures or video of your valuables. Know the model numbers and purchase prices of your most expensive items. The insurance company will want this information if it’s stolen.
If Your House IS Broken Into:
- Don’t go into the house. If you’ve already walked in, leave immediately. The thieves may still be inside, and it’s not worth your life to find out.
- Call the police from your cell phone or from a neighbor’s house.
- Don’t touch anything. The thieves might have left fingerprints.
Have you had any experiences with break-ins? Do you have any additional tips to help avoid the potential for one?
(Photo Credit: Orange County Archives)