Written By: SafeHome.org Team | Updated: October 20, 2020
Public Safety Experts: A Look at Home Security
Key Considerations for Securing Your Home
Home security topics are important, no question. For example, the FBI points out that a burglary occurs every 25.7 seconds. There’s a lot of information in cyberspace, sometimes too much. This guide is a good starting point for homeowners and renters to learn about the basics of protecting their homes without getting overwhelmed. We touch on areas such as smart home technology and property maintenance to deter burglars.
Unfortunately, burglaries are not the only things that pose dangers to a home. Fire is a major safety threat, so the guide addresses that, too. First, let’s delve into the thought process of a burglar.
Understanding the Mind of a Burglar
Let's take a look at how these thieves’ minds work.
Security cameras deter most burglars. However, a few inmates serving time for burglary told KGW News in Portland, Oregon, that cameras can indicate loot inside the home. The takeaway: Cameras are just one piece of the puzzle. Don’t rely on them alone to keep your valuables safe, and incorporate alarms into your security system. They get burglars to leave right quick.
Time, sound, and visibility are three main factors to consider. Some questions to ask yourself include:
- Are my doors locked (and double-locked if possible) at the main entrance?
- Are my other doors locked?
- Are my windows shut all the way?
- Is my property well lit at night?
- Can I see any of my valuables from outside on the street?
- Are there areas in my neighborhood that could offer cover or leverage for a criminal to break in easily?
- Does my routine make it easy for a thief to know the best time to enter?
Most of the burglars who corresponded with KGW News said they broke in through unlocked doors or windows. The items that interested them most included cash, credit cards, jewelry, electronics, guns, and collectibles. One inmate wrote about driving through upper-class neighborhoods looking for closed window blinds with the porch light on. Almost all the burglars agreed that having a car in the driveway deters break-ins.
Common burglary deterrents:
- Security cameras
- Alarms going off
- Someone answering the door
- Radio and TV noises
- Good lighting
- Trimmed bushes and trees
- Extra car in the driveway
- Big, loud dogs
- Bars on windows and doors
- Good neighbor relationships
Common burglary “aids”:
- Unlocked windows and doors
- Big fences
- Overgrown trees
- Cheap doors
- Old window frames
- Reserved neighborhood
- Residents with predictable routines
“Mind of a Burglar” Resources:
Interested in learning more about burglars, what they do, and why they do what they do? Check out the following resources:
- Psychology Today – Discover how your house looks through the eyes of a burglar.
- Science Daily – Burglars reveal all in a crime study.
- The Atlantic – Read about what the mind of a burglar is like and how burglaries are executed.
What are some things I can do to prevent burglaries?
Thieves are always looking out for themselves, so it is crucial to do the same. Be ruthless in protecting your home, self, and family from any potentially dangerous situation. Here are some measures you can take to prevent burglaries.
Get a dog.
Dogs will often bark when they sense unfamiliar people coming to your doorstep, warding off potential criminals.
Be smart about who you let into your home.
Sometimes, even your gardener or housekeeper might have ulterior motives. It’s crucial to keep a close eye on people you hire to work in and around your home, and to keep your valuables secured out of reach. Anytime you let someone into your home, you are essentially giving them an opportunity to steal.
To keep your home secure but accessible to visitors, use keypad locks and give third parties their own personal entry codes. Change these codes regularly, especially when a household employee leaves the job. Another option is to install smart locks that alert you when someone enters and leaves your home. These locks track who is coming in and out, offer limited digital access keys to guests, service workers, and kids’ friends. They let you remotely lock and unlock doors, and are compatible with smart home ecosystems/security systems.
Always complete a background check & ask for references on new contractors.
After workers leave, go through your valuables and make sure everything is still there.
Install a home security/alarm system.
A home security camera keeps tabs on people, and its very presence deters crime. Many systems record footage to the cloud or a hard drive, giving you and the authorities proof that crimes have been committed. Installing an alarm system is a must, whether you hire pros or do it yourself.
Get to know your neighbors.
A great way to ward off potential burglars is to get friendly with your neighbors so that everyone can help each other out. This is especially helpful if you go on vacation and need a neighbor to keep a closer eye on your property.
Make sure your doors and windows are locked.
This step is the easiest way to keep burglars out of your home. Easy access invites bad news and people.
Don't accept unsolicited help.
Unless you call service workers to come over, don't let them in. Many thieves are con artists who put on a front, making themselves look like a plumber, painter, tree trimmer, etc. They often come with one other person. One may lure you outside to talk about the service they are “offering,” while the other runs into your house to go through your belongings while you are distracted.
Install lights outside your doorstep area so that your home is well lit at night.
Thieves frequent dark areas because they are less likely to get caught.
Be careful with your trash.
Some criminals go through your trash for clues to what’s inside your house. Suppose you recently bought an expensive TV and are throwing out the packaging. A criminal who sees that now has an incentive to find a way to get the TV. After you make significant purchases, cut up the packaging and make it as inconspicuous as possible.
Maintain a well-kept home.
Trimming your bushes and eliminating potential “hiding spots” keeps thieves away. A well-maintained home signifies that the property is lived in and that you're not away on vacation.
Stay mum about vacation plans, especially on social media.
The fewer people who know you are going out of town, the better. Wait until you are home to post these amazing vacation photos.
Burglary Prevention Resources:
You can never be too cautious when it comes to protecting your home, family, and yourself from burglary. Here are some websites for additional information:
- San Jose Police Department – This guide by the SJPD is comprehensive and includes a video.
- Crime Doctor – Read additional tips on how you can prevent burglaries.
- Reader's Digest – Ever wonder what a burglar is thinking but won't tell you? Find out here!
Identifying Valuables & Maintaining Your Home
Maintaining your home is an important aspect in preventing burglary. At the same time, it’s smart to plan ahead in case your valuables do get stolen.
To do this, you want to:
Write your last name somewhere on valuables so that they can be identified if stolen. If space allows, add your state abbreviation and driver’s license number, assuming it is different from your Social Security number. If it is not, request a new license with an unique number.
Take detailed pictures of items, especially those you can't write on.
Keep an updated record of your valuables. This record might include model, type, serial number, fair market value, and proof of purchase, to name a few considerations.
Replace broken windows, locks, and doors as soon as possible.
Fix broken fences and locks as soon as possible.
Keep loose rocks away from the property to avoid vandalism and break-ins.
Keep your home in good condition. Mow the lawn, rake the leaves, clean litter, etc., to indicate that your home is lived in and not being neglected.
Make sure that your house number is clearly visible from the street so that police can find your home easily.
Securing Your Home Resources:
- Insurance Information Institute – Are you doing enough to maintain your home and make sure it's not an easy target for crime? Find out here.
- Safe Bee – Learn more about how you can reduce property theft using this user-friendly guide.
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How Can I Keep My Home Safe While I Am on Vacation?
Before you leave, check that everything in your home is in working condition. This includes your locks, security cameras, alarms, and doors. If you don’t already have an alarm or security system, now is a good time to get some home security cameras or even a video doorbell camera so you can keep an eye on things while you are away.
You can also take advantage of smart home technology that lets you control lighting, music, blinds and much more from afar. Switch the lights and TVs on at random times to create the impression you are home. Move the blinds up and down on occasion to foil would-be burglars. Many systems even let you communicate with people who are inside your home (but only if you want to!). Digital assistants in conjunction with programs such as Alexa Guard even listen for breaking glass, carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors, and notify you when these triggers occur.
“While You're Away” Resources:
Looking for more ways to keep your home safe while you are on vacation? Consider the following resources:
- Smarter Travel – Get some tips on how to protect yourself and your home while you are away.
- Wikihow – How to protect your home while you're away (with pictures).
- New York Times – Great advice to make sure you are aware of and practice these tips before you step out the door for your vacation.
What Do I Do In the Event I Get Robbed?
Hopefully, you never get burgled, but plan as if you might. Keep an updated list of your valuables so you can submit it quickly if necessary. If you come home and the door is unlocked or open, and things look out of place, leave everything as is and call the police right away. Never confront burglars, but if you spot them, take a good look at what they're wearing, what they look like, and what they have taken out of the house. Since someone may have had access to your personal information, monitor your identity for at least a year. Follow these steps to minimize the fallout if a burglar does steal your identity.
Home Security Technology
Keeping your home safe is a lot easier now than it used to be. For example, smart home technology lets you set triggers such as time of day, motion or the behavior of another device. No matter where you are, it’s possible to keep an eye on occurrences inside and around your home, and be notified when someone breaks in. You can also remotely control locks, lights, music, yard sprinklers and much more. If you’re new to this type of technology, it may be less overwhelming to start with a smart home speaker such as the Amazon Echo Dot and a couple of compatible devices. However, it’s pretty easy to set up an ecosystem of linked security devices. Some systems require professional monitoring, but many do not.
Home Security Technology Resources:
- Best DIY Home Security Systems – Get your system up and running in 30 minutes or less, regardless of your experience with tools.
- How to Navigate the Age of the Smart Home – Don’t let smart home devices intimidate you.
Creating a Home Fire Defense Plan
Home security is not just about keeping burglars away. Protecting your home from fire is critical, too. For example, you should store valuables and important documents in fire-resistant safes and boxes. They are not fireproof, but UL ratings of one hour at 1,700 °F indicate that a safe should do its job well. Other simple but essential steps to take include:
- Install smoke detectors in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of your home. The U.S. Fire Administration recommends testing detectors at least once a month and replacing batteries once or twice a year.
- Replace smoke alarms that are 10 years old or older, or that do not sound when you test them.
- Consider a monitored fire alarm system so that firefighters can be alerted right away.
- Create a home fire escape plan with two escape routes from every room. Account for household members with disabilities or special needs.
- Review escape plans and conduct drills at least twice a year.
- Store belongings away from any heaters.
- Don't leave stoves, toasters, and ovens unattended.
- Keep your local fire station's contact information handy.
- Put fire extinguishers on each level of your home and especially in the kitchen since more than half of all home fires begin there.
- Keep your kitchen clutter-free, especially around the stove.
- Double check that stoves and ovens are turned off before you leave home.
- Be extra thorough when extinguishing candles and cigarettes. Always blow candles out if they are not in use.
There are so many ways to approach home security. Some are common sense practices that we already do, while other techniques require more planning and awareness. Home security does generally take some work and costs a bit initially but is well worth it to minimize safety risks. After all, a safe home is a happy home!