If you're locked out of your home, can you still get in? Through an unlocked window in the back, or using an extra key hidden under a flowerpot or up on a ledge?
If you can break in, so can a burglar.
A small investment of time and money can make your home more secure and can reduce your chances of being a victim of burglary, assault, or vandalism. Get to know your neighbors. Watchful neighbors who look out for you, as well as themselves are a front line defense against crime.
CHECK THE LOCKS
In many residential burglaries, thieves walk in through an unlocked door or crawl through an unlocked window.
Make sure every external door has a deadbolt lock.
Secure sliding glass doors with commercially available locks or with a broomstick or wooden dowel in the track to jam the door if someone tries to pry it open. Insert a pin in a hole drilled in the sliding door frame that goes through to the fixed frame to prevent anyone from lifting the door off its track.
Secure double-hung windows by sliding a bolt or nail through a hole drilled at a downward angle in each top corner of the inside sash and part way through the outside sash. Secure basement windows as well.
Don't hide keys in mailboxes, planters, or under doormats. Give an extra key to a neighbor you trust.
If you've just moved into a new house or apartment, rekey the locks.
Lock garage doors. Don't depend on "the remote", codes can be copied.
CHECK THE DOORS
Locks aren't as effective if they're on flimsy doors.
Make sure all exterior doors are solid wood or metal.
Doors should fit tightly in their frames, with hinge pins on the inside.
Install a peephole or wide-angle viewer in all entry doors, so you can see who is outside without opening the door. Door chains are not a security device - they break easily and won't keep out an intruder.
CHECK THE OUTSIDE
To discourage burglars from selecting your home as their target, make sure to:
Prune back shrubbery that hides doors or windows. Cut back tree limbs that could help a thief climb into windows.
Light porches, entrances, and yards - front and back. Consider timers that turn on outside lights or install motion detectors.
Keep your yard well-maintained. Store ladders and tools inside your locked garage, basement, or storage shed when you're not using them.
Clearly display your house number so police and other emergency vehicles can find your home quickly.
Help the neighborhood stay in good shape. Dark alleys, broken street lights, abandoned cars, vacant buildings, graffiti, litter, and run-down areas attract crime. Work with the local government and neighbors to organize community clean-up days.
Put lights and a radio on timers to create the illusion that someone is at home when you go away. Leave shades, blinds, and curtains in normal positions. Stop the mail and newspapers, or ask a neighbor to take them in.
Update your home inventory, listing things like VCRs, stereos, cameras, sports equipment, and computers. Take photos or make videos of items, list descriptions and serial numbers. Engrave valuables. If your home is burglarized, this can help identify stolen items and make insurance claims easier to file.
WHAT ABOUT ALARMS
If you have valuables in your home, or live in an isolated area or a neighborhood vulnerable to break-ins, consider an alarm system. Before you invest in alarms:
Many companies provide them. Check with several and decide what level of security fits your needs. Sources of information include your local police department, the public library, and the Better Business Bureau.
Learn how to use your system properly. If you continually set off false alarms, your neighbors will ignore the noise.
BURGLARS CAN TAKE MORE THAN YOUR PROPERTY
Burglars generally don't want to run into their victims. But if they're surprised by someone coming home or pick a home that's occupied, someone may get hurt.
If you see a screen slit, a window broken, or a door ajar, don't go in. Call the police from a neighbor's house or a public phone.
If you hear a noise in the night that sounds like someone breaking in or moving around, call the police and wait for them to come. If you can leave safely, do so. Otherwise lock yourself in a room or, if the intruder is in the room, pretend to be asleep.
Think carefully before buying a firearm for protection. Guns can be stolen and sold to anyone, or captured and used on you or the police. If you do own a gun, lock it up and learn how to use it safely.