Having your home burgled (yes, that’s a real word) is traumatic even if you have insurance to cover what’s stolen or the thieves don’t make off with much. Protecting your safety and sense of security is even more important than protecting your stuff. During an emergency or power outage, thieves can take advantage of downed security systems, overwhelmed law enforcement and blackouts, so take some time to make sure your home and outbuildings are secure. Here are some tips from experts, including insurance companies and ex-thieves who really know how criminals think:
- Pretend you don’t have a key and you have to get in your house. Take a walk around – how would you break in? Reinforce those weak spots.
- Make sure your front door looks well maintained and has a cylinder lock and a deadbolt.
- Dummy alarm systems are too easy for experienced thieves to spot. Invest in a high-tech system that you can monitor from your phone or laptop. However, don’t depend on this system entirely; always use common sense.
- Don’t leave your curtains and blinds open so thieves can see your expensive home theater gear or Aunt Clara’s silver tea service.
- If you have a sliding door, put a steel pole in the channel when the door is shut and locked.
- Make sure bushes or trees aren’t giving burglars the perfect cover to break in through a door or window.
- Light the outside of your house well – thieves prefer to work in the dark.
- If you have a dog, put up a “Beware” sign, even if the dog is friendly. Thieves prefer houses without dogs.
- Get a dog, even a small friendly one will deter thieves because they are naturally inclined to alert and protect their families.
- Don’t leave spare keys outside anywhere.
- Don’t leave your garage door opener on the visor of your car. If your car is broken into, your address is on the paperwork in your glove box.
- If you have a ladder in a detached garage, make sure it’s padlocked to something so thieves can’t use it to break in while you’re away.
- If you buy something pricey, don’t put the boxes in the trash so it’s obvious. Break down boxes and put them in garbage bags.
- Install motion-detecting lights on the front and rear of your house and outbuildings.
If you’re going to be gone overnight or longer, you’ll need to take extra precautions:
- Have a neighbor keep an eye on things, pick up any newspapers and flyers, and take in the mail.
- If you have a house or pet-sitter that just visits once a day, have them park in back and visit at different times of day. Pet sitters that advertise on their vehicles or come on a schedule are a sure sign to thieves that you’re gone.
- Have someone mow your lawn or shovel your snow. Your house should look lived in while you are away.
- Ask a neighbor to leave a bag of their trash on your curb, or put out your trashcan, on trash day even if it’s empty.
- Rig your house to look like an insomniac lives there. Put the lights and TV on a late-night timer. If you have a TV in a bedroom, time it to come on during the late hours.