Thousands of homeowners file insurance claims each year as a result of burglaries. The typical homeowner suffers a loss of nearly $2,000 in stolen goods or property damage in such an event. But if you have a high deductible on your homeowner’s insurance policy, you’ll likely have to pay out of pocket to replace your valuables.
The good news is you don’t have to invest a lot to avoid becoming a victim of a burglary. Door locks, an alarm system, and alert neighbors go a long way. Research shows that burglars will go elsewhere if it takes more than five minutes to break into your home.
Here’s a checklist to ensure your home is guarded against burglars:
- Protect your home with strong doors and windows and the proper locks. Install padlocks, door and window locks, grates, bars, and bolts. Make sure the window and door locks work properly. These simple security devices can increase the amount of time it takes to break into your home. Also, most insurance companies provide discounts from 2-15 percent discounts for devices that make homes safer. Deadbolt locks are the best option. They usually lock with a key from the outside and a simple turn on the inside. Key locks are available for all types of windows. Outside doors should be metal or solid hardwood.
- Trim overgrown bushes and trees. If shrubbery is blocking your windows, doors, and porches, burglars see it as a place to hide. Same rule applies to high fences. The higher the fence, the more privacy you have, but also the more privacy the burglar has when trying to break into your home. You want every exit and entrance to your home to be visible to neighbors and anybody passing by. You also want to keep doors and windows clear in case you need to exit quickly during a fire or other emergency.
- Don’t hide your keys outside your home. Burglars know where to look to find “secret” hiding spots for keys. It’s a much better idea to leave a copy of your key with a trusted neighbor or nearby relative.
- Arm your home with a security system. While it is true that a security system won’t necessarily deter a burglar, it can definitely make them think twice before breaking into your home. Besides being a preventative measure, an alarm or security system can sometimes result in a discount on your home insurance. Most insurers require it to be a monitored system.
- Get yourself and your family into a habit of locking all the windows and doors and activating the alarm before leaving the house. Many burglaries are a crime of opportunity in which the burglar makes entry without force, through an unlocked door or window. Sliding glass doors tend to be the biggest problem because most people forget to lock them — and they are easy to open. Buy special locks for sliding glass doors, which are sold in your local hardware store.
- Meet your neighbors. As simple as this may sound, homeowners don’t take advantage of this crime prevention tool as often as they should. But getting to know your neighbor and creating a phone chain can be the simplest and most effective way to keep your home and neighborhood safe. Burglars don’t like nosy people because they tend to jot down tag numbers and details that can land them in jail. The idea is that the entire neighborhood keeps a watch for any suspicious activity. If they see an unusual car or person in your driveway, they’ll notify you – and the authorities. Be a good neighbor and do the same for them.
- Establish a working relationship with your local police department. Most law enforcement departments have community police officers whose sole duty is to interact with neighborhoods to ensure their needs are met. Knowing your local police officers can make a difference if burglaries start to take place in your town. And don’t be afraid to notify the police if you spot suspicious activity. Many people fear they’ll become a target by calling the police, but you don’t have to give the dispatcher any personal information; simply report the activity. Besides, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
- Install motion sensor lights. Burglars find comfort in the dark, but bright lights will usually discourage them from going near your home, especially if there’s a security camera nearby. Hint, hint.
- Use shades, drapes, or window treatments. Window shopping is one way burglars choose targets, so try to hide any valuable household items from plain view. Rearranging furniture and artwork is one way to do this, but the easiest method is to keep the blinds shut, especially when you’re away from home.
- Even if the house is unoccupied, it should never look that way. Unoccupied homes tend to be magnets for theft and vandalism. Insurers know it and will probably not cover your losses if you didn’t take the steps to prevent theft from happening. If the house is unoccupied for a short period, use lighting timers, make sure the mail is picked up and stop the newspaper delivery. If it’s a vacation home, consider the use of a caretaker.
If you’re going to leave your house unattended for a longer period of time or you have a vacation home that you only visit for a few months out of the year, be sure to follow these eight easy tips to keep your home safe from intruders:
- Install motion sensor lights that go off when a person or car passes nearby.
- Stop your newspaper delivery and arrange for a neighbor, friend, or relative to pick up your mail or forward your packages to another location.
- Activate your alarm and post signs showing you have a security system.
- Have your lawn mowed and watered in the summer and snow shoveled in the winter. An unkempt yard sends a signal that nobody’s home.
- If you have a car, don’t lock it up in the garage. Leave it in the driveway.
- Lower the sound of your telephone ringer and answering machine so it can’t be heard outside the house.
- Use automatic timers to turn lights (or even a radio) on and off. This will give the illusion that the house is occupied.
- Ask neighbors to keep an eye on your home.