Written by: Bill Herren
Burglary is the unauthorized entry of a residence or the attempted unauthorized entry thereof. It is the most common threat that a home faces from criminals. The Federal Bureau of Investigation says that a break-in happens almost four times every minute. According to a study published by Cornell University, as many as half of all burglaries go unreported, which means the prevalence of this crime is greater than law enforcement officials realize. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), nearly $5 billion in losses occurred in 2011 due to burglaries. While it is impossible to prevent all burglaries, residents can reduce their risk dramatically with the use of deterrents. Statistically, an intruder will waste no more than a minute getting into a house. Thus, the key to prevention lies in making a home either less desirable or extremely difficult to break into. Securing windows and doors, installing motion sensor lights and home alarm systems, and having dogs around the house are some of the many ways that homeowners can make their home an unappealing target for thieves.
What Burglars Are Looking For
Criminals intent on breaking into a home are looking for properties that provide stealth, are easy to break into, and have things worth stealing. According to a study by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology, convicted burglars were asked what traits made a home desirable or undesirable. Desirable homes are in neighborhoods where there is no surveillance, those that had high foliage in front of windows and around doors, poor lighting, no alarm systems or dogs, windows that were open or looked easy to open, and doors that looked old or weak. Statistically, they tend to strike homes between ten in the morning and three in the afternoon, when residents are out and about. Also, burglars tend to look for homes that have a lot of valuables inside. Putting out boxes for expensive televisions and computers for garbage disposal is a sign to thieves that there is something of value to take from the home.
Lock Your Doors
Doors are one of the two primary paths of entry into the home for burglars. If the door is open or looks like it has an easy-to-pick lock, thieves will attempt to break in. If they have managed to steal a key to the house, they are highly likely to try to break in at some time in the future. The key to securing one’s door is to not store or hide the house key in an obvious location, and to replace the locks if the one’s current keys become lost. Deadbolt locks are highly unpopular among burglars, but they are not a sure-fire deterrent against all criminals. In addition, doors that are heavily worn or otherwise weak can be forced open, and locks that are old or rusting can be bypassed more easily. Replacing old and worn doors and locks, as well as damaged door frames, will provide an excellent deterrent against burglars.
Windows And The Dangers Of Air Conditioning Units
Windows are the other major path of entry for burglars. They are especially popular during the summer months when people leave them open to let in breezes or keep them unlocked so they can quickly open them to fight the summer heat. Window frames weakened by decay make it easier to pry open or otherwise bypass windows to gain entry. Replacing worn window frames and keeping windows locked will make a home much less appealing to thieves. Window air conditioning units are another appealing target for thieves. On their way into the home they can remove or even steal the air conditioner, and then slip in through the resulting gap to take one’s property from inside. To prevent this, residents will want to secure their air conditioner with brackets, strike plates, and mounts.
Know Your Neighbors
Friendly neighbors are an essential part of crime prevention. They can keep an eye on each other’s properties and catch criminals who attempt to break into homes. This is the reasoning behind forming a neighborhood watch. Burglars prefer to avoid neighborhoods where citizens are keeping an eye on things. Establishing a good rapport with others in the neighborhood is key to starting or joining a neighborhood watch program. New residents should get to know others and join existing community events such as clean-up programs to encourage bonding.
Be Alert To Strangers
When people are aware of who lives in their neighborhood, they are more likely to recognize strangers to the area. Everyone should be aware of people they do not recognize, particularly if the individuals in question are acting suspiciously or are loitering around. An example would be someone from outside of the neighborhood who is walking around homes that do not belong to them. This may be a sign that the individual is scoping out homes or cars with the intent to commit theft. One should also be aware of strangers who drive past their home or through the neighborhood on more than one occasion without stopping to visit anyone in particular. Strangers who knock door to door should also be viewed as suspicious as they may be performing surveillance with the purpose of recognizing when homes are unoccupied. No one should allow a stranger into their home at anytime, nor should they unlock their door to speak with them if they come knocking.
Change Your Routine
Thieves often monitor an area to see when people are away from home and when there is less pedestrian or motor vehicle traffic. When they see a pattern, it helps them decide when to strike. Residents who are invariably away from home during certain periods of time are more likely to become victims of break-ins. Therefore, one key to preventing burglaries is for a resident to make their pattern of absence less reliable. They can also create the appearance of being present by having lights on in the home, or having programmable lights that come on at random times for random periods of time. For those who must be away from home during work hours, an effective neighborhood watch is absolutely essential.
Security Hedges And Motion Sensor Lights
Hedges and foliage around the home can potentially make great hiding places for burglars while they attempt to break in. Removing these hiding places is an important step to take in making a home less ideal for criminals. However, it is also possible to plant bushes in a way that also deters burglars. Rose bushes and other thorny bushes, for instance, make great security hedges because of their prickly nature. Placing them flush against the home and keeping them trimmed will make it painfully difficult for a thief to hide in the bush while doing their work. Motion sensor lights are lights that turn on when someone moves nearby. These lights will highlight a burglar’s presence and scare them away, while saving electricity by not turning on when no one is around.
Thieves are more likely to invade homes that contain valuable items. Destroying cardboard boxes that contained expensive items like televisions rather than placing them outside for garbage collection will help to reduce a home’s attractiveness. Working routinely on outside maintenance and cleanup projects, such as trimming bushes and mowing the lawn, will also advertise a resident’s constant presence, which will also make the home a less desirable target. Items of value should be kept away from windows, including computers, televisions, game console devices, jewelry, and other expensive possessions. At night, people should not be able to see television or computer monitor screens from outside, or any indoor activity whatsoever. This means closing window shades or curtains for privacy’s sake.
Don’t Leave Tools Outdoors To Make Their Job Easier
Burglars will use tools that they find outdoors in order to aid in their efforts to break in. This includes crowbars, screwdrivers, sledgehammers, glass cutters, torches, hammers, and especially ladders and house keys. Residents should ensure that none of these objects are left outside or in shacks that an intruder can easily access. If a resident is planning to leave an additional house key outside, they should reconsider. The best way to store a back-up key is to leave it with a trusted neighbor.
Ultimately, there is no perfect method for keeping burglars out of a home. In the event that a burglary happens, the last line of defense is homeowners or renters insurance. Insurance will protect one’s belongings by providing money for their replacement in the case of theft. In order to make the most out of homeowners or renters insurance, a resident will first need to acquire the proper amount of coverage. This will depend on the value of the items in their home. Expensive jewelry will need a special form of coverage called a ‘rider’. In order for a resident to know what they need to protect, it is a good idea to create a home inventory list. This will help them know how much coverage they need, and if something is stolen, they can identify to the insurance company which item on the list was lost. As part of making this list, residents should collect and keep receipts, as well as instruction manuals and photos. In case receipts are unavailable, evidence of past purchases may also be found in their bank account records and emails.
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