Avoid Home Break-ins While on Summer Vacation 09 Jul 12

Summer vacation is your time to get away and leave all your worries at home. However, this can be hard to do when you’re worried about having an empty home and making it susceptible to burglars. And don’t let anyone convince you that you’re just being paranoid since, as described in a recent This Old House article, summertime is a peak season for residential burglaries.*

So, besides buying a costly alarm system, what can you do to protect yourself? Here are ten suggestions:

Invest in a quality deadbolt - Remember, many criminals are masters at lock picking, which means you need a deadbolt up to the challenge, so if you don’t already have one, buy one that’s pick-resistant. Criminals are much more likely to target a house with easy entry than taking the risk of fumbling at a home with a difficult lock.

Keep your entry lit – Illuminate your front and back entryways by putting your porch lights on a timer. A well-lit home is another intruder deterrent as they have few places to hide.

Lock all windows – You’d be surprised how many people forget to lock all their windows. Don’t just check the windows on the first floor as a skilled intruder can easily scale two or more stories.

Window alarms – You can buy basic, battery powered wireless alarms that signal every time a window is opened. These are inexpensive and the noise alone is often enough to frighten off prospective robbers.

Use a security bar on sliding glass doors – Sliding glass doors are easily picked and lifted off their tracks. You can prevent this by installing an adjustable, metal security bar which jams the door shut.

Replace doors – If you’re willing to spend a little extra money, consider replacing any doors that are hollow or have windows as they offer little protection.

Trim and adjust landscaping – Tall trees and bushes under windows or in front of doors provide the perfect hiding spot for burglars. Before leaving town, make sure your hedges are trimmed and trellises are not underneath second-floor windows.

Lock ladders inside house – Don’t make it easy for intruders to get to your second-floor by leaving a ladder in the yard or in an unsecured tool shed.

Don’t hide key under mat, in faux rock, on top of door frame, etc. – Criminals know all these obvious hiding spots and will look for them first. Instead of hiding your key, leave a copy with a family member or a trusted neighbor.

Don’t make it obvious you’re not at home – Avoid leaving any tell-tale signs you’re not at home. For instance, cover your garage windows with curtains so burglars can’t see it’s empty of cars. Also, have someone pick up your mail and newspapers so they don’t start piling up, and never leave a note on your door as this is a dead giveaway you’re not at home.