With the holidays and gift-giving upon us, burglars are on the prowl. This collection of tips from the Travis County Sheriff's Office is a great reminder of the simple, practical things you can do to make your home less of a target for burglars.
Home Burglary Prevention Tips
You probably know that burglaries cost home owners millions of dollars per year in loss of property and valuables. But did you know that most burglaries are committed by people who are looking to take advantage of an easy target. If you don't make it easy for them, they will likely move on to an easier score. Here's how:
1. Keep the doors of your garage closed and locked
Burglars who are looking for an easy opportunity will typically check for open doors and windows first. Don't leave your garage door opener attached to the sun visor in your car. Otherwise, burglars can gain easy access to your garage and then to your house simply by using your automatic garage door opener.
2. Keep sliding doors and windows secured
Don't make it easy for a burglar to open your sliding patio doors. Cut a broom-handle so that it is the same length as the bottom track. Place it on the track in order to prevent the window or door from sliding open when forced. A further security option is to drill a hole through both the sliding window/door and the track it runs on and insert a nail or small rod so that it can't be moved.
3. Install deadbolt locks
Most deadbolts are locked with a key from the outside and a thumb turn of the bolt from the inside. Make sure that the deadbolt cylinder is pick resistant. Make it a habit to lock your doors whenever you leave the house, even if you're just leaving for just a minute or two (which can often turn into many more if you're delayed) during the day.
The most popular times for residential burglaries are weekdays during the daytime as residents are typically away at work or school. In more than one third of residential burglaries, force was not required to gain entry — the home owner simply forgot to lock the doors or windows. Learn more about residential burglary statistics.
4. Install solid doors
External doors should be constructed from metal or solid hardwood and should be at least 1 and 3/4 inches thick. Make sure that you choose a door frame which is made of equally strong material and that each door fits its frame securely — if not, the burglar could still force his way in by breaking the door off the frame.
5. Secure sash windows
Wooden sash windows can be easily pried open by a burglar. To stop this from happening, drill a downward sloping hole into the base of the top window through and into the top of the bottom window. Insert a pin, large nail or small metal rod to prevent the window from being opened. To prevent break-ins through aluminum sash windows, buy a track lock that blocks the window track.
6. Mark your valuables and property
Use an engraver to permanently mark your valuables. Don't bother with pen markers as they can be easily washed off with the right detergent. Marking your belongings works both to deter would-be burglars and, should your property be stolen, also helps police to identify and return it to you.
A good mark to use on items is a driver’s license number. It is an easily-recognizable, unique number which can be checked against DMV records, making it easier to locate the owner of the stolen property.
7. Record serial and model numbers
Record the serial and model numbers of all your valuables. If you can, take photos of your items; this is easy to do when almost every phone comes with a built-in camera. These visual records will come in very useful in cases of property loss, especially when making insurance claims.
After burglaries occur, items are often recovered but cannot be returned to the rightful owner because they cannot be properly identified. Keep your list of serial numbers in a safe location in your house where burglars are unlikely to look. Also, store it electronically online so that you have easy access to it from anywhere. Whatever you do, do not store the list on the hard drive of your desktop computer or laptop because it might also get stolen.
8. Buy a burglar alarm or video security system
Home alarm systems and security camera systems are effective burglary deterrents and are more affordable, easy-to-use, and reliable than ever. If you purchase a home alarm system, don't forget to test it monthly.
9. Leave one or more lights turned on
Whether you are going on an overnight or multi-day trip, it's worth leaving a light on in the bathroom. In other rooms that are visible from the outside, attach a lamp and/or radio to a 24-hour electric timer. Set the timer to go and off according to your usual schedule — for example, on at dusk and off at your bedtime. Close bedroom drapes or blinds so potential burglars can't peer in while you are not around.
10. Install sufficient exterior lighting
Place a light over every door. View your property at night to see if any areas around your house are shrouded in darkness, where a burglar could hide. Placing double spot lights at each corner of the house will also light up your windows.
11. Keep your neighbors informed
Before you leave for a trip or vacation, let trusted neighbors know and ask them to keep and eye on your property. If you are planning to be away for more than a few days, see if a neighbor will maintain your yard — ask someone to pick up your newspapers from the driveway and possibly even cut your grass.
Make sure that bushes and shrubbery around your house do not hide your neighbors' view of your doors and windows. Ask neighbors to call police if they spot any suspicious activity.
12. Ask for a close patrol
If you are leaving for an extended vacation and are concerned about your home security, you can call your local sheriff’s office and ask for a close patrol while you are away. After a close patrol is set up the Deputies who normally patrol your area will periodically drive by and check on your house.
If you are calling to set up a close patrol, make sure you have the relevant information (e.g., license plates) to hand for vehicles that are allowed on the property, and those that will be left parked the whole time. Inform them about any lights that will be left on or set on a timer, and provide information about any pets left in the house. Finally, give them the names and contact information for anyone who might be at your house while you are away.