Ways to Make Your Home SaferFor anyone who has seen those World’s Dumbest Criminals clip shows on late-night TV, it may come as nosurprise burglars aren’t always the smartest tools in the shed. But sometimes they don’t even have to be.Burglars most often enter a place through an unlocked door, says Craig L’Esperance, a detective for a Midwestlaw enforcement agency. Other times the homeowners have a burglar alarm, but forget to set it when leaving thehouse, even for just a short amount of time.If you need to protect your home, a traditional alarm system isn’t the only option.Those problems are easy enough to remedy, but what about the criminals who aren’t deterred by locks oralarms? L’Esperance is also the author of the thriller “Terror from Within, “which concerns a burglary crew thatcommits residential and commercial burglaries and describes how and why they pick their targets, and he andother experts weighed in on how homeowner can safeguard their possessions.Lock it upStandard exterior doors should contain a good-quality deadbolt lock, says Robert A. Gardner, a certifiedsecurity and crime prevention consultant with offices in California, Arizona and Nevada. That bolt should havea hardened steel insert and a minimum throw of one inch, so check the packaging if you’re thinking of installinga new one. Double exterior doors should be equipped with a vertical throw deadbolt and all locks should have afive-pin (or more) tumbler, he says.Sliding doors also need a lock system that prevents the door from being pried open or lifted off of its track.Locks should be changed when moving into a home or whenever a key is lost. Make sure the locksmith has thenecessary licenses and is bonded and insured, and get recommendations from friends or business rating agenciesif you can, Gardner says.Gardner also offers a home security test on his web site so you can see how well your home is protected.Know your neighborsIf you’re not already acquainted with the neighbors on either side of you, get to know them now, says ToddMorris, CEO of BrickHouse Security in New York City.“Get their cellphone numbers and give them yours,” Morris says. “Then if you see something awry, like apackage left out in the rain or a strange car at their home, you can text message them and ask that they do thesame for you.”But Morris doesn’t recommend giving these neighbors — or anyone else, for that matter — a key to your house.Use a fingerprint scanner lock instead, he says, or a lock you have to punch a code into to open. Non-key accesswith an audit trail is the best, he says. That way you’ll know when the dog walker, house cleaner or anyone elseenters and leaves your house.
Beware of dogYou don’t actually have to own a canine to scare a burglar into thinking you do. Post a sign in your yard thatsays, “Attack Dogs Trained and Sold Here,” says Susan Bartelstone, host of the radio show Crime Prevention101 in New York. “Extremely Vicious Doberman” works too, she says.“Then get a recording of a fierce-sounding barking dog and set it on a timer to go off periodically when youaren’t home,” Bartelstone says.To give a burglar pause, leave a large dog bowl by the front door with the name “Cujo” or “Killer” printed on it.Make it look usedIf you are planning a vacation, L’Esperance advises, either put a hold on your newspapers and mail or stop themaltogether. Nothing says, “Come in and take what you want,” like a pile of old newspapers on your porch.Also have your home phone forwarded to your cellphone so people who hear the phone ring will think you’rehome, L’Esperance says.There are some other important ways to deter thieves no matter if you’re home or not, like making sure thegrass is cut, the snow is shoveled off the driveway in the winter and there are no ladders lying about in the yardor against the side of the house. Most burglars know people don’t usually lock second-story windows,L’Esperance says, so a ladder is basically an invitation.If you have a garage, make sure to protect that as well. Lock your car so nobody can get to your garage dooropener and enter your home through the garage or just steal what’s inside the garage.For the most authentic lived-in look, make it appear you’re home by leaving the TV or a radio on and add atimer to your lights so they turn on at different times of the day and night.Go hi-techSenior real estate specialist Chantay Bridges, who works for Clear Choice Realty & Associates in Los Angeles,has seen vacant homes vandalized, with squatters taking up residence in house for sale and taking all theappliances, furniture and fixtures when asked to leave.Bridges suggests installing a home security system, but using one that has apps for your smartphone so you canmonitor the system from anywhere. Alarm.com lets you send commands from your phone to arm or disarmyour system remotely. You can also watch live video from your security cameras to see what’s going on whenyou’re not there.Mobiscope.com works the same way and sends email notifications to your phone if any motion is detected atyour home.
Blackout social mediaFacebook, Twitter and other social media make getting in touch with old friends and family easy. But don’t postthat you’re going to be away from home, L’Esperance says.“You never know if that old high school friend or college buddy is now a … felon with burglary or theft on hisrecord,” L’Esperance says.It’s easy and often recommended that you “check in” to certain sites and post when and where you’re going onvacation, but this allows burglars to see your every move and know when the best time is to break into yourhouse.If you really want to post comments about your vacation with photos, wait until you return home before doingso, L’Esperance says.Case your own houseOne of the best preventive measures you can take is to try and break into your home. Not literally (you don’twant to have to replace any windows after all), but walk around every side of it and act like a burglar, Morrissays. Is one of your doors hidden from the street? Could you get in without arousing a neighbor’s attention?If so, you should invest in motion-activated floodlights, which you can get for about $19 at a warehouse-typehardware store, Morris says.“Criminals don’t like to be in the spotlight,” Morris says.One final thought: Did you plant large shrubs years ago for your privacy? Well, they also protect burglars fromsight, so unless they are essential to the look of your house, it’s safer to trim them.