Feeling safe, comfortable and secure in your home is something you can't put a price tag on. Thanks to some great new home security technology and a few simple home modifications, you can keep your mind at ease when when both home and away. We, as humans, instinctively want to keep our homes and loved ones protected -- regardless of the cost. Nobody likes to feel violated, and that's exactly how most people feel once their home is broken into. If you've ever had valuable or sentimental items stolen from you that can never be replaced, you know how much grief it can cause.
I decided to write on this topic because in my area, home burglaries are on the rise. I live in a community where many people still don't find it necessary to lock their doors. I live in a neighborhood where people are very trusting, and trustworthy as well. Yet, break-ins still seem to happen. I realize that this isn't just my local problem. In hard economic times, people in all neighborhoods can expect to see property crimes rise. I am sad that the world has come to this, however I realized that I do need to take an inventory of my home security and crime prevention measures so that I can make sure my family and all my valuables and precious, sentimental items are heavily secured. In doing this, I came up with a comprehensive list of the top 20 home security and crime prevention tips.
There's a bunch of things that you can do to make your home more uninviting to criminals. In reality, the more difficult it is to break into your property, the less likely it is that burglars will want to break in. Shady criminals tend to look for easy targets.
1. Keep your doors secure and guarded with multiple locks.
A lot of people think that having one lock on their front door is all that they need. But the sad truth is that locks can be picked, and doors can be kicked in. The more locking mechanisms you secure on your door, the more frustrating it is for intruders to break in. Deadbolts make it more difficult to kick in a door. Even installing two deadbolts wouldn't be a bad idea.
2. Secure your door frame.
Keep in mind that locks are only as good as the strength of your door frame. If you've ever seen police or rescue crews break down a door on television, you might be wondering how easily they have done that. The truth is, any strong person can usually bust open a door simply by forcefully ramming it with their shoulder. No matter how many locks you have installed on your door, it's not going to matter if your interior door frame is flimsy and can easily be broken down. High quality metal frames are usually very difficult to break, so investing in one is a smart idea.
3. Keep your keys with you.
I once lived across the street from an elderly old man. My entire family, 6 members, knew that he kept his house key under a mat on the front step. He did not tell us that was where he kept his house key, but all of us, at one point or another, had just happened to see him put it there when he left the house or or dig for it when he got back. Do you think he knew that our entire family knew he kept his house key right outside the door? And, were we the only family on the street that ever saw him openly hide his house key under the front mat? You never know who is watching you. Leaving your key under mats, flowerpots, on top of door frames or even in those magnetic key holders that sit under your cars frame are a disaster waiting to happen. Burglars know that these are common places that homeowners leave their keys, and they often look in these places when they're looking for a spare. If you really must leave your key outside of your home or away from you, you can keep your spare key secure in a coded key vault that is similar to the ones real estate agents use. Alternatively, invest in one of those keypad locks where you enter your code to be able to unlock the door if your home. That way if you lose your key, you can still get in by typing in the code. I installed the Morning Industry BHF-01SN handle set on my front door. I love it because it's secure, easy to use and doesn't look like a commercial locking system.
4. Don't display vital information on your keys.
Some people feel that it's a clever idea to write their name, address or phone number on their keys so that if lost, the finder can contact the owner of the keys who can successfully retrieve them. Bad idea. When you display your name, address or phone number on your keys, you are taking a huge risk. Your keys could end up in the wrong hands and a person can easily find out where you live, making your home a prime target -- now that they have a simple way to get inside.
5. Keep your property well lit.
Burglars love creeping around in the dark because they think nobody will be able to identify or see them. When you keep your property well lit, you are warding off some thieves from attempting a break-in. They're more likely to try breaking into areas that are kept dark so that they can't be noticed or identified as easily. Investing in inexpensive solar lighting, porch lights and motion censored lights are a must. To save money on electricity, you can purchase energy saving bulbs. You should also consider investing in a timer for your lights to turn on from dusk til dawn -- that way you won't forget to turn them on or off.
6. Install an alarm system.
I have known people to simply put the ADT security sign on their front lawn or right on their windows or doors. This is an excellent idea because you're telling the world that you have an alarm system. Wireless motion sensors can be installed on windows or doors which will frighten and annoy intruders who are trying to sneak in. Alarm systems are great because they are extremely loud, they generally alert the neighborhood so people can keep watch of who is running away from your property. Some alarm systems are even equipped to call the alarm system and police for help. There are also lots of great wireless security camera options which can be run to your tablet or cell phone. This gives you round the clock surveillance of what's going on with your property.
7. Add additional internal locks.
In the case that a burglar still happens to make it through your heavily guarded exterior security measures, make it difficult for them to get into your storage areas. This can easily be done by installing a simple lock on any area that you wish to protect. Things like passports, birth certificates, cash, sentimental items, or just basically any little storage areas that you have that you would like to keep secured in the event of a break in. Hidden and secure gun storage is a must to protect your weapons.
8. Avoid piling up mail.
When somebody's mail piles up, it's quite obvious that they aren't home to collect it. This makes it quite inviting for a thief to either go through your mail or to assume that you're not home, allowing them adequate time to break in. PO Boxes are cheap and a wise investment if you are planning on traveling or not collecting your mail for a while. Alternatively, you can have a friend or family member collect your mail for you -- or simply stop delivery while you were gone.
9. Keep your yard clean.
Just like an overflowing mailbox, yards that are unkempt can lead to people thinking that you are not home to mow the lawn, pull weeds, etc. Also, yards that are hidden with shrubs, big trees, lots of piled up junk gives ample hiding places for criminals to hide in and watch for when you leave.
10. Don't trust unexpected strangers at your door.
If you are not expecting a delivery, an officer of the law, or any other stranger – you need to remain alert. Always ask for identification before opening the door for anybody. If you're in doubt, do not open the door. If the stranger claims to be a police officer, ask for a badge number or identification and call it in. Police officers will always appreciate the fact that you are trying to stay safe. Uniform alone is not good enough to prove that someone is a police officer. Uniforms of all kinds can easily be purchased at party stores or online. Fake IDs can also be created seamlessly on a computer. It's always best to just avoid opening the door if you're not expecting the visitor. If it was really important, they will try again later or call you to announce themselves.
11. Notify your local police when going away.
In smaller cities or rural communities, this is always an option. Police can sometimes keep a watchful eye on your property to make sure that nothing suspicious is going on.
12. Install locks on your gates.
If you have a gated yard, adding a lock means that you'll no longer have to worry about random strangers showing up at your door, it creates a buffer zone. You'll also be able to remain on high alert if somebody shows up, giving you ample time to figure out who they are and why they are there.
13. Get to know your neighbors.
Neighbors and members of your community who know you by name and face are the ones who will be able to watch out for you. I used to be quite antisocial. When my apartment was broken into, none of the neighbors seemed to notice any unusual activity, or care that I was victimized. I have since moved into a condo and occasionally talk to the neighbors across from me. I have noticed a huge difference. When I was away at work a couple times, I had workers showing up to give quotes on painting and other handyman services. My neighbors would usually let them know that I wasn't available but that they would let me know that they came by. It was really reassuring to know that my neighbors were watching my property while I was away, and cared enough to let me know that people had shown up. If you are antisocial or don't like your neighbors, it's not imperative that you have to be best friends with them – however saying hi on occasion or getting involved in community activities allows them to get to know you. Setting up a Neighborhood Watch program is another great way to help your area safe.
14. Dogs - natures security systems.
Dogs can make spectacular security systems. My tiny 5 pound Chihuahua causes a huge racket if he hears a stranger walking anywhere on my property at night. Although a dog of this size probably won't scare away and intruder that's already inside your house, they can be a huge annoyance which might make the burglar flea and try and easier target. Larger dogs can also be trained to attack intruders, and will usually instinctively growl at and intimidate them.
15. Make creeping around a painful experience with inhospitable plants.
Some of the most beautiful plants can be inhospitable for strangers trying to break in. Thorny bushes and other plants like the BlackBerry vines, raspberry bushes, rugosa rosebushes or bougainvillea make creeping around yards, climbing fences and sneaking around outside windows a nuisance -- and even quite painful.
16. Hire a property manager.
Property managers can be hired when you are away on vacation or for an extended period of time. Having someone around to mow the lawn, collect the mail or newspaper and simply look after the place can make your home look lived in so that potential robbers don't think your place is an easy target.
17. Secure sliding doors.
When I lived in my apartment, I hardly had any security features. And because it was an apartment that I rented, I wasn't even allowed to install anything on windows or doors. Because of this, the best I could do was to put a strong piece of metal or wood in the frames of all sliding glass doors and windows. This was very effective as you cannot slide the door when there's a strong piece of material blocking it from sliding. I also like this security bar from Masterlock. It's great for sliders, but you can also prop it under a door knob on a regular door, to stop an intruder from pushing a door inward.
18. Invest in decorative metal grids.
It can be fairly easy for an intruder to smash a window on a door, allowing them to seamlessly slip their hand through the shattered glass, unlock the door and let themselves in. Adding some metal grid work to the insides of doors with large windows makes this feat a little more difficult.
19. Set up a secure hiding spot.
In a worst case scenario where are your security features have failed you, it's always important to at least have one area in your home that you can secure yourself in until help arrives. This can easily be done by reinforcing a bedroom door that has a good quality metal frame. You can also replace the flimsy interior door with an exterior one. Ensure that you have a phone or computer in that room so you can have a way to communicate for help while trapped inside the room. A mechanism for self defense is also helpful such as pepper spray, a fire arm, a baseball bat or anything that will help you protect yourself from a possible attack. You could even consider setting up a walk in closet as a secure panic room with reinforced doors and hinges. This is also a great place to secure any firearms you may keep in the house, or make sure your firearm safe is in this location as well. There's a great book I recommend called The Secure Home which can show you how to build a multi-purpose safe room in your house as well as implement many other kinds of personal security measures.
20. Keep you mouth shut.
I know, I have been going on anon about all the safety mechanisms that I've put in place to keep my home secure when in fact, this is one of the worst things you can do. One should never discuss your security efforts, what do you have installed, where you're storing valuable items, etc. Staying silent is something that could prevent a break-in. If people don't know you have it, they won't know that they want it -- or can try to acquire it.
One Final Piece of Advice
As a bonus step in securing your home, one of the best pieces of advice that I can pass on to you is to think like a burglar. Try pretending you are a burglar while walking around your place. Look at all the points of entry. Are they secure? Could you get inside if you had lost your keys? Does your home look like a thief's paradise by showcasing your big screen TV and Xbox system right in front of large windows? Do you have ample places to sneak around in the dark with lots of bushes and trees to hide behind? Simply practicing crime prevention by following these tips and adding security features to your home means you are on the right track to safeguarding your family, your possessions and doing your best to keep your mind at rest.