Thanks to the evening news and the availability of video clips online, we can all live vicariously through the horror of seeing a burglar climb a fence, kick in a door, and rifle through the contents of someone’s house.
Home burglaries have tumbled along with most crime in America in the last 20 years, according to the FBI, but it still occurs about 2.1 million times a year across the country, accounting for about 24 percent of all property crimes reported, and almost 75 percent of them were residential. Of those burglaries, about 60 percent were forcible entries, meaning that the break in was a result of cutting a screen, breaking a window, or forcing a lock. The average value of the property taken was just over $2,000.
Cities with the highest burglary rates include Tulsa, Toledo, Indianapolis, Memphis, Albuquerque, Baltimore, Cleveland, Cinncinati, Anaheim, St. Louis, Seattle, Durham, and Orlando, each with over 1,000 burglaries per 100,000 residents.
From the Outside
Make sure it looks like someone could be home – at least not away on vacation. That means having a service cut the lawn and canceling deliveries that could pile up in your mailbox, on the porch or driveway. If you are away, put lights and television on a timer so the place appears occupied, and it’s not enough to get your driveway plowed when it snows, you should also have someone walk around a bit so any thief gets the impression someone could be there at any time.
Many of these tips are perennial, and have been around for decades, but here’s one that isn’t: it’s important too to avoid posting any travel on social media because friends of friends could look up your address and invite themselves in if they know you’re off skiing or surfing. Make your children promise to do likewise.
Make a Show of Strength
Invest in strong doors and deadbolt locks of at least 2 inches in depth. Put stickers on windows that advertise your alarm system – and better yet, stickers warning that you have video monitoring. If you own seriously valuable items or regularly carry large amounts of cash, consider a safe that is cemented or otherwise built into the home. Now, actually use those items: lock the door even when you run around the corner, turn on the alarm every time you go out, and close the safe.
New Weapons to Consider
There are plenty of new gizmos available that dramatically enhance the security of your home, and most are pretty simple to install. For around $250 you can get a doorbell that will ring on your smartphone and allow you to have a conversation with as well as see the person at the door, regardless of where you are. Similarly, motion detector porch lights may now come with video cameras built in that allow you to see who is outside your home from your phone.
Alter Your Schedule
Most home break-ins take place between 11-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. on weekdays because that’s when you and your neighbors are most likely to be at work or running errands. The culprits have told journalists that they are likely to arrive dressed nicely or posing as a lawn care or package delivery worker and will knock on the door first. If their knock is answered by a barking dog, they’re less likely to pursue their plan.
Clean Up Your Act
Television interviews of several former burglars revealed that these are crimes of opportunity: they often strike at random, choosing homes to hit because foliage obscures doorways and front porches where they can’t be seen from the street or from other nearby houses. Being able to look into windows while standing on the front porch helps a burglar decide if he wants to follow through on the plan. Additionally, high fences help to shield burglars and give them time to commit their crimes.
Hide in Plain Sight
Burglars don’t have much time to grab your goodies and get out, so make it challenging for them. They already know about putting valuables in the sock drawer, which means you have to hide things better. Think of an empty (and dry) paint can in the garage, right there on the shelf. Or screwed inside the motor compartment of an old appliance, or make a false compartment in a cabinet, or slip an envelope of cash between two bookcases that are side-by-side. Just don’t forget where you put it.