As much as you'd like to believe your property is safe from theft, it happens — a lot. The Federal Bureau of Investigation reported that more than 1.7 million burglaries occurred in one recent year, and 73% of those were residential crimes.
Fortunately, there are many easy, affordable, and commonsense things homeowners can do to protect their homes.
Tighten up your security
Dissuade burglars with these tips:
- Add a generic security sign to your yard or stickers to your door. It may not fool a burglar, but he may think twice about hitting your home.
- Consider setting up a home security system, which can qualify homeowners for discounts on insurance.
- Create open spaces in your landscaping and keep bushes trimmed so burglars have fewer places to hide. If you're landscaping, plant thorny bushes such as roses in vulnerable areas.
- Install a motion sensor light to catch intruders by surprise — but put it high enough that a burglar can't reach up and unscrew the bulb.
- At night, turn on your lights, open your curtains, and walk around the exterior of your home. You'll see what's visible to a burglar from your yard or sidewalk. Then have someone turn off the lights in your home. You may be surprised how much you can still see from street level. After this exercise, you might choose to move certain items or draw the blinds more frequently.
- Install deadbolt locks on all exterior doors and doors from an attached garage. Select a deadbolt that has been given a Grade 1 from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The ANSI tests locks for security and durability, and gives them a Grade 1, 2, or 3 with Grade 1 being the best.
- To make existing locks more secure, install a heavy-duty strike plate using three-inch screws that penetrate the wall stud. Make sure the door strike is held in place by four or more screws. And strengthen the door frame by installing a door jamb reinforcement product.
- Put tools, bikes, and other items away when you're done using them. If your possessions are too visible, burglars may wonder what else you have inside.
- Dogs are exceptional deterrents to theft. Let your dog be seen — and heard. A thief who knows there's a dog in the house may pick another target.
Hide the good stuff
Thieves are typically looking for small items they can grab quickly and resell easily.
- Drawers and closets in the master bedroom are often where thieves look first. Hide valuables, jewelry, and cash elsewhere.
- Thieves will hit the family room, looking for gaming systems and small electronics. Cover your windows with shades that filter light but block an intruder's view of your components.
- Your desk is filled with important papers, statements, checkbooks — which could lead to identity theft. Encrypt vulnerable information that's stored on your home computer, and keep important documents in a home safe. Then be sure to keep your safe well hidden and bolted to the floor so it cannot be easily removed.
Pretend you're there
Keep your home looking lived-in when you're away.
- Leave lights on timers when you're away — but choose timers that have random settings so thieves can't detect a pattern.
- If you'll be away for a short time, leave a radio or TV on, turned up loud enough that it might be heard outdoors. If a longer trip is in your plans, consider using an electronic device that simulates the lights and flicker of a TV and gives the impression that someone's home — and uses about the same amount of power as a night light.
- Don't leave a message on your home answering machine that indicates you're away. Some burglars phone ahead to see if you're there.
- Don't post your travel plans on social media websites. Some burglars use social networking sites to find victims.
- When you're leaving for longer period, ask a trusted neighbor to watch your home, gather your mail, and otherwise give the appearance of activity. Leave your spare key with the neighbor, too — burglars know the usual hiding places.
Try an ounce of prevention
Take these steps to protect your home and property.
- Ask police if they'll do a safety check of your home. An officer can point out where your home is most vulnerable.
- Engrave your electronics with a non-official ID number to help police track goods if they're stolen.
- Take photos or a home movie of every room and its contents and store the film in a safe deposit box. Learn how to create a home inventory with tips from State Farm®.