In my neighborhood NextDoor.com, one of the leads of the Neighborhood Watch posts periodic information about the crime in our area of Austin and how it can be prevented. His most recent post was on Burglary of Residence and some tips for reducing your risk.
Here are some helpful tips to help prevent home burglaries. Some of these are common sense strategies but sometimes we as citizens become comfortable in our surrounds and think it will never happen to use. This was my thought before we got broken into. Being PROACTIVE IS THE KEY. Doing these will limit your chances of being burglarized but will not prevent all burglaries. If someone wants to get into your home and they have time/means/opportunity, they will get in. Property Crimes are crimes of opportunity. Criminals have the means, they have the motive but let’s not give them the opportunity to steal from us.
1. Lock all of your doors. This means front, back and the door in your garage at ALL TIMES. Even when we are home. This will not give a potential burglar the opportunity to just walk in when they want when you or your family are home.
2. Dogs are the #1 Deterrent to a burglar. I recommend putting up Beware of Dog signs. Even if you don’t own a dog, put one up. The burglar will never know if you do or do not have a dog. They will just move onto another home. A Beware of Cat sign does not work 😉
3. NEVER open your front door to someone you don’t know. ALWAYS let them know that you are home by talking through the locked door and letting them know you don’t want any or turn of the front porch light when they knock to let them know someone is home. If you don’t answer the door and you just go about what you are doing, the potential burglar could kick in your front door or walk around the side and make entry through your back door thinking no one is home.
4. Put up a No Soliciting Sign.
5. Add 3” + Screws in all dead bolts and hinges on doors leading outside. Should be 3 doors. On the hinges just 1 screw in each hinge should be fine. Replace 1 screw for 1 screw, do not take off the whole door. Most screws are less than 1 inch.
6. Keep your front lights on at night. Motion activated lights are amazing.
7. Add cameras if you can afford. Being able to see what’s going on in front of my house and inside 24/7/365 with my Nestcams has been great. There are plenty of options today this one just fits my needs.
8. Trim your bushes so they are not too high. Bushes next to doors and windows can be hiding places for them. Trim your trees up 7 feet tall so you can see through them.
9. Keep your garage door closed at all times, this means day and night. This is a no brainier but garage doors are let open all the time by mistake. Again, if you accidentally leave the garage door open and you don’t lock that door leading into your home, now burglar has access to your home. Not a good thing at all. Some people leave there garage doors open all day/night because they have an “alarm” in garage letting them know if someone is in their garage. I really really discourage this! Even though you want it open and you are protected, what you are doing is leaving bait out for the burglars basically inviting them into the neighborhood. They just don’t hit one house they hit many. Please stop doing this and think of the whole community.
10. Use your alarm system if you have one. You are paying for it so use it. Put out alarm company sign in front yard and put alarm company sticker by front door and back door.
11. Let your neighbors know when you are leaving for a vacation. So they can watch your home while you are gone, get any packages left on porch, put garbage cans away, get newspaper or any flyers left on your door. All indicators that you are not home. Help each other out!
12. If you are on vacation set programmable Christmas timers you normally use once a year for lamps in living room or bedrooms to make the home look occupied while you are gone. This is easy and very effective.
13. Get serial #’s of everything you can of value and pictures if possible. If something is stolen and pawned now the police department can track that property if it pops up in a pawn shop.
14. Don’t leave wallets, money, jewelry or purses in plain sight. A burglar could walk by and peek in and see the valuables and make his move.
15. Put a pad lock on back gate. Very easy to do. I like using the Word locks rather than number locks. They are earlier to remember and your kids will remember as well.
16. Be wary people who you let in your home that you do not know. If someone knocks on your door and ask to use your bathroom or for a drink of water do not let them in or even open the door. If you do they could be checking out to see if you have a dog, if your door chimed when you opened it which would indicate a security may be active and taking a mental note of what you have of value. Just be cautious of who you let in your home.
17. Don’t leave whole boxes outside that say 75” Samsung TV or anything of value boxes. Just break them down into smaller pieces and put in your recycling container. Don’t put the cut up boxes in the big TV box by the curb. You’re telling the burglar that you got a new awesome big screen.
18. Add a lock you the Breaker box outside on the side of your house. If you don’t anyone can just lift the lid and turn off your power. Never good. See picture.
19. If you are being broken into call 911!! Sleep with your phone next to you so you can make that call. Do whatever you can to stay safe.
To expand on a few of his points.
Point 1. This above all things. Locking your doors and windows is the single best thing to help out. Too many stories of break-ins of homes or vehicles involve the owner leaving things unlocked.
Even if it’s just for a few minutes to walk down to the mailboxes.
Point 3. This is a big one. A lot of people prefer to not answer the door at all; no, it’s better to answer so they know someone is in fact home. But when you do answer, there’s zero need to open the door. If you have one of those new video/audio doorbells, that can be useful to minimize the yelling through the door, but yell away if you have to.
Point 9. People often keep their garage doors open when working in the yard. Does your garage have an electric opener with a remote control? Put the remote in your pocket while you work. You can then easily open and close the door, without leaving it open while you’re in the backyard working.
To that, if you park a car in the driveway or street but keep a garage door opener in that car? Don’t. If they break into your car, now you’ve given them a key into your home.
Point 10. This too. I see numerous people with alarm systems but they never or rarely use them. You don’t get to choose when you will be the victim of a crime, so do use the alarm system and get something out of that monthly bill you keep paying.
Point 12. Not only should you consider lamp timers, but you can go to Lowes or Home Depot and pick up programmable timer for your wall switches. I have these for the switches that control my exterior lights (e.g. porch lights), and they are semi-smart, able to keep the time and self-adjust for the seasons. Thus they come on “at sunset” and go off “at sunrise”. Works well, and having it fully automated ensures they always come on (and doesn’t matter if I forget).
Points 15 and 18 are things we don’t often think of but matter. Do the cameras, video doorbell, alarm system, your internet connection (router, modem, etc.) that connects all these things so they can work, etc. you have run off electricity? Do they have battery backups? If the power goes out, what happens?
The locks aren’t necessarily going to be high security – I mean, if our fences are just 6′ cedar pickets, it’s not high-security anyways. But it provides additional obstacles and deterrents, reducing crimes of opportunity.
I admit, it’s sometimes a weary thing to have to live by the rules and take additional effort to keep some people from ruining your day. But these are small steps, most of which are “do it once and done”, or just small changes to our habits – but they do go a long way to keeping one’s life overall in a good place.