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Is Your Home A Burglar Magnet?

By Jaymi Naciri via Realty Times

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The thought of a home break-in is terrifying, but are you doing everything you can to prevent one? You might be making critical mistakes that make your home a burglar magnet, or, at least failing to take advantage of easy fixes to make your home less attractive to thieves.

While break-ins have been declining over the past decade, "It's estimated that a home burglary occurs every 15 seconds in the United States," said Safety.com. "That means that during the 10 minutes it takes you to read this post, approximately 40 homes will have been burglarized." Taking a few steps now can help ensure you're not one of the unlucky ones.

Protecting your house during the day

"When someone breaks into your house, it's usually in the middle of the night - a masked, anonymous man swipes your jewelry before fleeing in an unmarked car. Right? Nope," said Architectural Digest. The publication quoted Dr. Joseph Kuhns, a professor of criminology at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte who was part of a groundbreaking study on the effects of alarms on crime and criminal behavior. "Myths about burglars abound," he said. The reality is that one in four robberies involve a known associate or the homeowner or renter, many robberies take place during the afternoon - female robbers, and there are plenty, tend to prefer this time - and most often the victim's medicine cabinet is the real target. Most burglaries are drug-involved."

That means making sure a home is secure during the day is every bit as important as securing it at night.

Examining the exterior of your home by walking the perimeter and taking note of areas of concern is the first step. "The best way to protect your home from the outside is to survey it with the eyes of a burglar," said HomeAdvisor. "If you can easily tell that a window could be pried open, a thief will definitely be able to come to the same conclusion. You can even contact your local police department and they'll provide a courtesy home assessment that can help you identify your home's weak spots."

Leaving doors or windows open

The number of burglars who are able to access a home through a window or door that was left unlocked is disturbing. Making sure locks are strong and in good working order is key to protecting your place.

"Most burglars reported entering open windows or doors or forcing windows or doors open," said Alarm.org. In fact, security experts estimate that almost 70% of burglars enter your home through a door. "Only about one in eight burglars reported picking locks or using a key that they had previously acquired to gain entry."

Upgrade your door

You can help make sure you're not one of the ones who comes home to a kicked-in door by making a smart upgrade. A solid wood door that can't be easily breached might just make someone turn around and move on to another home.

Get a deadbolt

New door or not, adding a deadbolt is a great deterrent for criminals. A Reddit post on the topic of home burglary asked thieves how to keep a home safe from theft. The consensus: The sight of a deadbolt will likely make a burglar choose another home. Other types of locks can be easily picked, and often it takes no more than the swipe of a credit card.

Change the locks

Did you change the locks when you moved in to your house? Whether you just took possession today or have lived in the home for a few years, getting a fresh new lock and set of keys is easy, and smart. You never know if there is a key floating around out there that could give someone immediate access to your place.

Don’t hide a key

While we're talking about keys…that whole key under the rock thing isn't fooling anyone. It's time to cut that out.

Secure sliding doors

Sliding patio doors can be an open invitation to burglars because they typically create a simple forced entry opportunity. A curtain rod or pole cut to size and placed in the sliding track can keep the door from budging. This easy, budget-friendly tip can make the difference between a home that is an easy target and one that causes a criminal to look elsewhere.

A poorly lit yard

When the sun goes down, it's time to apply another layer of protection to keep your home and your family safe, and lights are a great place to start. Not only will a good lighting system out front highlight your home and landscaping, but it will make it less likely that your home will be targeted. Motion sensor lighting is great, especially for darker areas, and newer products combine motion sensors with video playback.

Be smart about lighting

Just as you want your home to be well-lit to discourage a would-be burglar, you don't want it to be too lit at certain times. A home whose lights stay on all night long for a few days in a row is a tipoff to someone casing the neighborhood that the residents are probably on vacation. That makes your home a great candidate to be burglarized.

Trim those hedges

Tall hedges or other greenery close to the house can act as hiding places for burglars. If you do want landscaping up close to your house, HomeAdvisor suggest planting "thorny shrubs by your windows to make it not only difficult to break in, but painful!"

And don't forget about second-stories. A tree can be climbed for access to a window, so prune those branches!

Get to know your neighbors

You know when nosy neighbors can come in really handy? When they notice and alert you to questionable activity around your home. HomeAdvisor reports that, "Crime tends to be lower in tight-knit communities because neighbors are more likely to look out for each other and can easily spot a stranger. Your neighbors can be one of your best assets in home crime prevention because they offer extra eyes and an outside perspective. Plus, if they have a different work or school schedule from yours, they might be around during the day when you're away and can alert you to any suspicious activity that may occur in your absence."

If you're somewhat of an introvert and don't want to physically meet your neighbors, at least join Nextdoor to keep up with neighborhood happenings online. You might learn about a crime spree or suspicious individuals in your neighborhood to look out for.

Secure sliding doors

Sliding patio doors can be an open invitation to burglars because they typically create a simple forced entry opportunity. A curtain rod or pole cut to size and placed in the sliding track can keep the door from budging. This easy, budget-friendly tip can make the difference between a home that is an easy target and one that causes a criminal to look elsewhere.

Keep your plans to yourself

You may want to brag online about your European vacation and post pictures from every city on your month-long tour, but consider who's seeing or hearing what you're putting out there.

"Whether you announce your big vacation on Facebook or you and a friend discuss an upcoming business trip at a coffee shop, mentioning travel in public forums is dangerous," said A Secure Life. "In these types of situations, anyone could overhear you and know that your home is going to stand empty for a few days, creating the perfect opportunity to target your home. It's especially important to emphasize to children that when they mention outings innocently on their social networking pages, they are opening the door to strangers who might want to burglarize your home while you're out."

Get an alarm

If you're on the fence about the expense of an alarm system, consider this: According to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte study, "A majority of burglars considered the presence of deterrents such as alarms, outdoor cameras and other surveillance equipment when choosing a potential residential or commercial target," said Alarm.org. "Approximately 83 percent of the offenders said they would attempt to determine if an alarm was present before attempting a burglary, and 60 percent said they would seek an alternative target. This was particularly true among the subset of burglars who were more likely to spend time deliberately and carefully planning a burglary."

A key piece of data from the study is the fact that, "Among those who discovered the presence of an alarm while attempting a burglary, half reported they would discontinue the attempt, while another 31 percent said they would sometimes retreat. Only 13 percent said they would always continue the attempt even after an alarm had been discovered."

Get a security camera

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte study also found that video surveillance was a top choice for theft deterrent. "Nearly 60 percent of the burglars said they would consider the presence of cameras or other video equipment when selecting a target, and more than 40 percent said that would be a factor in prompting them to choose another target," said Safety.com. "You'll need indoor and/or outdoor security cameras with night vision and a decent hard drive to record a few days' worth of video. If you can't afford the real thing, fake cameras can also work as a good deterrent; just make sure they're quality fakes and not cheap plastic that thieves will easily identify as dummies."

Mind your porch

Package theft is one of the fastest-growing crime categories around. Home deliveries are tempting for would-be crooks looking to snatch your stuff. And, if thieves think you're an easy mark for stealing packages, they may come back for more, or get more aggressive about their tactics. You can eliminate this temptation by only scheduling deliveries for when you'll be home.

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