1. Outsmart a Burglar by Thinking like a Burglar
One thing every homeowner should do at least twice a year is take a walk around and inside your home with a close friend or neighbor who is not that familiar with your house. Start outside and ask yourself "how could I break in the easiest way? The purpose of not going around the house alone is that your friend may spot things you'll overlook. Return the favor and complete a survey for your friend.
Besides the obvious "lived-in" look, do not get into a habit of only doing certain things only when you are not home. Chances are good you can tell when your neighbor isn't home. Remember it's a burglar's job to know the same things. Most professional criminals can tell nobody is home at least four or five houses away.
Several obvious things a burglar will notice are always closing the drapes ONLY when you're not home. Having no garbage cans out collection day, or an empty can sitting at the curb are obvious tip-offs you are not home. So are closing up the house as tight as a drum in the hot summer months without the air-conditioner running. Turning on a certain light or two and every other room is in total darkness. The same goes for picking up all the children's toys, taking in the dog, shutting the garage door if you frequently leave it open, and turning off the lawn sprinkler.
Many people before leaving turn on a so called burglar light which is the light over the kitchen sink. You might as well hang a sign on the front door you are not home! If you use an answering machine never leave a message that you are not home. Instead say you can not come to the phone right now or leave a message. If you do not have a machine, turn down the volume on your telephones before leaving so it can not be heard from outside which another dead giveaway indicating nobody is home.
2. Use Burglar Repellents
Crime officials will tell you its true! A dog is one of the best burglar deterrents. Not because it's vicious, but it is heard. A dog with a menacing bark will scare away a lot of burglars, not only because they don't know what kind of dog you have and what risk it would be to them if try tried to break in, but more likely because a noisy dog will create a disturbance and get attention - the last thing a burglar wants!
If you don't have a dog there's nothing stopping you from pretending. A Beware of Dog sign on your fence, a dog house in the back yard, even a loose dog chain or bowl can drive away a potential burglar. Companies that provide electronic dogs who bark none stop if an intruder trips a relay or otherwise signals his presence are effective also as long they are of good quality.
Other electronic devices that are effective besides the typical whole house alarm systems for windows and doors are infrared or motion detectors that sense movement or the heat given off by one's body. Anyone approaching too close will trigger any number of attached devices. The most effective are powerful lights or burglar horns that either flood the area with light or fill the air with a deafening sound without notice. Just like a barking dog, the would-be burglar will usually run away for fear of being discovered.
To be effective, the sensitivity of such devices much not be set too high or stray animals will set them off too frequently which will get you on the wrong side of your neighbors. Also be sure such devices are high enough that they can't be easily turned off or broken
given off by one's body. Anyone approaching too close will trigger any number of attached devices. The most effective are powerful lights or burglar horns that either flood the area with light or fill the air with a deafening sound without notice. Just like a barking dog, the would-be burglar will usually run away for fear of being discovered.
To be effective, the sensitivity of such devices much not be set too high or stray animals will set them off too frequently which will get you on the wrong side of your neighbors. Also be sure such devices are high enough that they can't be easily turned off or broken.
3. Make Doors Safer
Illegal entry through the front door occurs more often than any other points of entry in your house. All exterior doors should be of solid hard wood or steel reinforced. A good door does no good if the door frame is in bad shape or of inferior construction. Pay special attention to the door jams. Most inexpensive and expensive homes combined are made out of cheap pine. It does not take much force to "kick in" the door even if protected with dead bolts, if the strike plate is attached with only a couple of 1/2 or 3/4 inch screws. Secure doors by installing 2-1/2 to 3 inch stainless steel or nickel plated screws in all your exterior door jams.
4. Make Windows Safer
Burglars break windows as a last resort if they can't enter through a door or from other outside means. The preferred method is cutting an access hole or slipping in a thin stiff wire and undoing the locking device. Most double hung windows have cheap locks which should be replaced by heavy duty sash locks or even keyed locks, if you can put up with the inconvenience. An old trick is installing a small eyebolt in either corner. If done correctly the window can't be opened, with the eyebolt in place from the outside. You could screw the window shut by drilling a hole through the frame but it defeats the purpose of having a window, and presents a fire hazard. I recommended not doing this.
The safest windows are glass block. Almost impossible to break through, they of course can't be opened and are not as pleasing to look at. However this is a good choice for basements or areas at or near ground level.
Another good protection is installed roll-a-way electric security shutters, or decorative security grates. The main down side is they can prove to be a serious fire hazard and prevent your escape. Newer models install on tracks or can easily be pushed open from inside to lessen their danger in the event of fire and the thick smoke sure to accompany it.
5. Take Household Inventory
The steps talked about above can go a long way to protecting your home but no matter how secure your residence is, if a professional burglar has targeted your home and is determined to break in, he will still probably succeed in breaking into your home. To aid law enforcement officials and greatly assist in insurance claims you should maintain a detailed inventory of all your household valuables.
It makes sense to "mark" important items with some permanent identifying mark. There are a variety of simple tools you can rent that will engrave serial numbers, a driver's license number or some other unique marking into your valuables.
Remember most burglars sell stolen items in order to get cash, usually for illegal drugs. You'll greatly reduce the chances of someone walking off with your TV, DVD or other valuables if it has a conspicuous ID number that can't be removed, simply because it will greatly reduce its street value and make it too much work to get rid of and sell, and of course it is a lot easier to trace and return the property to the rightful owner.
Today, many people have a video camera. Sweep each room and record the contents from several different angles. Next, take close-ups of really important items. To tie-in, have a family member pose with the valuables. In a clear voice identify each item, the date of purchase, price paid and model and serial numbers. Remember to update the tape or disk every time you purchase something new.
If you don't have a video camera, a regular inexpensive digital camera also works well. Make a companion audio tape to go along with it. It very important that the tapes or pictures be kept off the property or they may be stolen or damaged. Keep them in a safety deposit box at your bank. Now set aside an hour or so and complete the security check list on the following page. Correct weak points as soon as possible and your home and property will be more secure.