By the time you finish reading this article, eight homes in America will have been broken into. How do criminals consistently manage to get into the last places in all the world that we should be leaving unsecured? The sad truth is, despite our inborn desire to keep our families and property safe, many of us tend to help the burglars rather than hinder them. How do we do that? By making simple, easy to correct home security mistakes. Here are 13 things that you might be doing to compromise the safety of your home.
1. Not locking doors/windows
Seriously, do you know what percentage of break ins occur through an unlocked—or open—door? 30%. That’s nearly a third of all burglaries that could be potentially prevented if only people would lock up. Get in the habit of locking all of your doors and windows, even when you’re at home. It’s easy to do, and it could save you some serious grief.
2. Forgetting about the second floor
If you have a two-story house, then chances are that it would be easier for a prowler to gain entrance on the second floor than at ground level. Most people don’t consider their upper story windows and balconies when they plan for home security, but criminals see no need to neglect possible entrances when all it takes is a short climb to reach them. Make sure to trim away any low hanging branches that could be used to gain access to your roof, and if the locks on your upper story windows and doors aren’t up to par, replace them.
3. Letting yards become overgrown
Prowlers love hiding spots. If you have shrubs or bushes growing under or near to your windows and doors, then potential burglars will have a nice place to keep out of sight while they work on jimmying your lock. Keep that yard trim.
4. Leaving garage doors open
Getting into a garage is often the first step for someone who is attempting a break in. This is because the doors that lead out to garages are often less secure than those that lead outside. Additionally, thieves will sometimes “borrow” various tools or other supplies from the inside of a garage to help them break in through another entrance. Close the garage door and cut off their access.
5. Hiding spare keys on the property
Hiding keys around the yard is a terrible idea. Criminals know how to tell hollow plastic rocks from real ones, and are aware of all of the sneaky places that you don’t expect them to look. Leave keys with neighbors instead.
6. Allowing solicitors inside
Some criminals will actually pose as door to door salesman and try to gain entry into your home that way. Once they’re inside, they can make note of any valuables, secretly unlock windows or doors, and even steal keys for later use. Or, they can just overpower you and loot the place right there. If you’re actually interested in what’s being sold, take care of your business outside or on the doorstep.
7. Not using outdoor lighting
Every shadow in your yard is another place where a prowler could hide. Outdoor lighting cuts down on those shadows, and helps make your home look like a less inviting target. However, you don’t need to keep your lights on all night to protect your house; instead, invest in motion detection lighting. This way, you’ll be able to scare away criminals without adding 8 hours of continuous use to your electric bill.
8. Leaving sliding doors unsecure
The little locks that are used on sliding glass doors are seldom very strong. Back them up by using a length of metal tubing or pipe the same length as the door track and placing it in the track so that the door cannot be opened unless the pipe is removed.
9. Letting mail/newspapers pile up
Criminals would rather not run into you while they’re looting your home. As such, if they can be sure that you’re out of town, they’ll be more likely to attempt a break in. Don’t tip them off by letting your mail or newspapers pile up while you’re away. Have a neighbor pick up your newspapers and post for you. Alternately, contact your local post office and newspaper service and have them suspend delivery until you get home.
10. Leaving small valuables lying around
The most attractive things for burglars to take are small, valuable items that can be quickly stuffed into a pocket. Jewelry and other small yet expensive items should never be left out. Instead, invest in a safe that can be bolted to the ground, or a remote location safety deposit box, and keep your small valuables inside.
11. Showing off new purchases
If you’ve recently purchased a new 70’ flat screen TV, don’t leave the box outside on the curb for everyone to see. Keep the TV away from windows so that passersby aren’t able to check it out from the sidewalk. An expensive new piece of equipment can be hard for burglars to pass up.
12. Not involving the police
The police are there to serve and protect citizens like you. Contact the police department and talk to them about adding your neighborhood to their regular patrol route.
13. Not using a home security system
Nothing deters criminals quite like a state of the art home security system. And if the surveillance cameras and electronic locks don’t scare them away, the alarms, glass break detectors, and 24 hour external monitoring systems will. Contact a home automation and security company to compare packages and rates. Top companies such as Vivint, Front Point, and ADT are good starting places to check reviews and see what system would be right for you. Remember, the goal should always be to make your home as secure as possible, and a small mistake can end up costing you big, when it comes to home security.
David Glenn is a home improvement expert. He occasionally freelance writes about home automation and making your home more green.