PERSONAL SAFETY & CRIME PREVENTION - Safety in the Home
Guard Your Home/Family Against Burglary
If you were locked out of your house, would you still be able to get in? Perhaps you keep a window unlocked, or a hidden key under the front mat? You may think this is a good idea, but if you can break in, so can a burglar.
One out of ten homes will be burglarized this year. All it takes is a little time and money to make your home more secure and reduce your chances of being a victim.
Many burglars will spend no longer than 60 seconds trying to break into a home. Good locks—and good neighbors who watch out for each other—can be big deterrents.
Check the locks—and use them:
In almost half of all completed residential burglaries, thieves get in through unlocked doors or crawl through unlocked windows.
- Make sure every external door has a sturdy, well-installed dead bolt lock. Key-in-the-knob locks alone are not enough.
- Sliding glass doors can offer easy access if they are not properly secured. Install a commercially available lock or put a broomstick or dowel in the inside track to jam the door. To prevent the door being lifted off the track, drill a hole through the slide door frame and the fixed frame; then insert a pin in the hole.
- Lock double-hung windows with key locks or "pin" your windows by drilling a small hole at a 45-degree angle between the inner and outer frames, then insert a nail that can be removed. Secure basement windows with grilles or grates.
- Instead of hiding keys around the outside of your home, give an extra key to a trusted neighbor.
- When you move into a new house or apartment, re-key the locks.
Check the doors:
A lock on a flimsy door is about as effective as locking your car door but leaving the window down.
- All outside doors should be metal or solid wood.
- If your doors don't fit tightly in their frames, install weather stripping.
- Install a peephole or wide angle viewer in all entry doors so you can see who is outside without opening the door. Door chains break easily and don't keep out intruders.
Check the outside:
Look at your house from the outside and consider the following:
- Thieves hate bright lights. Install outside lights and keep them on at night.
- Keep your yard clean. Prune back shrubbery so it doesn't hide doors or windows. Cut back tree limbs that could be used to climb to an upper-level window.
- If you travel, create the illusion that you're at home by installing timers that will turn lights on and off in different areas of your house at appropriate times. Lights burning 24 hours a day signal an empty house.
- Leave shades, blinds, and curtains in normal positions. And don't let your mail pile up: Call the post office to stop delivery or have a neighbor pick it up.
- Make a list of your valuables - TVs, stereos, computers, jewelry. Take photos of the items, list their serial numbers and description.
Consider an alarm:
Alarms can be a good investment, especially if you have many valuables in your home, live in an isolated area, or one with a history of break-ins.
- Check with several companies before you buy so you can decide what level of security fits your needs. Do business with an established company and check references before signing a contract.
- Learn how to use your system properly. Don't cry wolf by setting off false alarms. People will stop paying attention and you could be fined.
- Some less expensive options: A sound-detecting socket that plugs into a light fixture and makes the light flash when it detects certain noises; motion sensing outdoor lights that turn on when someone approaches; or lights with photo cells that turn on when it's dark and off when it's light.
Burglars do more than steal:
They can commit rape, robbery, and assault if they are surprised by someone coming home or pick a home that is occupied.
- If something looks questionable (a slit screen, a broken window or an open door) don't go in. Call the police from a neighbor's house or a cell/public phone.
- At night, if you think you hear someone breaking in, leave safely if you can, then call the police. If you can't leave, lock yourself in a room with a phone and call the police. If an intruder is in your room, pretend you are asleep.
- Guns are responsible for many accidental deaths in the home every year. Think carefully before buying a gun or keeping weapons in the home. If you do own one, learn how to store it and use it safely.
There's more you can do:
Join a local/neighborhood watch group.
- Never leave a message on your answering machine that indicates you may be away from home now, say "I'm not available right now."
- Work with neighbors and local government to organize community clean-ups. The cleaner your neighborhood, the less attractive it is to crime.