By Catherine Powell
There’s no question that a home is one of the biggest investments most of us will make in our lifetime. That’s why most folks lavish so much time, energy and money on keeping their home picture perfect. But this same need to feather one’s nest is exactly what makes a well-kept home a prime target for burglars and vandals. Before you come home to find your home has been broken into or ransacked, there are a few things you need to know about home security.
1. Are your doors rolling out the red carpet for thieves? – More than a third of all break-ins occur through the front or back door. That’s because most homes are built with doors that can either be pried open, kicked in or broken to gain entry. Just because a door has a deadbolt doesn’t mean that a crowbar or a foot can’t be used to break the doorjamb. If you want to make a burglar’s job a lot more difficult, consider installing a strike plate that will keep a thief from prying or kicking your door in. Also, consider installing a deadbolt that requires a key if your front door has any glass panes in it. Otherwise, it’s child’s play for a crook to break out a pane only to reach inside to open the lock. If you have sliding glass doors, this is a burglar’s best friend, since they can be shifted off their tracks to gain entry. To keep this from happening you’ll need to install blocking bars that prevent burglars from sliding the door open, as well as locking pins that preclude them from lifting the door off its track. Last but not least, if you want to prevent thieves from either cutting or shattering the door to gain entry, you’ll also need to apply a shatterproof film to the glass.
2. Window Woes – Another quick way to gain entry to your home is via the windows. Just as with sliding glass doors, glass windows are vulnerable to being opened, cut or shattered. To start with, take a good hard look at your window locks. While most windows come with latches, most of these are all too easy to pop with a pry-bar. Not to mention the fact that if you leave your windows partially open to let in the cool evening air, standard window locks won’t keep a thief from sliding the window completely open to gain entry. Adding wedge locks or pin locks to your windows is one way of increasing security without having to buy new windows. Either lock works even when the windows are partially open. If your windows slide open, the best way to keep them from being pried open is with the addition of a Charley Bar that keeps a slider from opening, but allows you to prop the bar up when you want to let in some fresh air. Just as with sliding doors, if you want to make it more difficult for a burglar to cut or break your windows, consider adding a shatterproof film to the panes.
3. Does your garage door tell thieves to go away? – If a burglar breaks into your attached garage, they have all the time in the world not to mention the tools to gain entry to the rest of your home. That’s why you need to make it doubly difficult for thieves to get inside it. Even if your garage is unattached, there’s probably enough swag stored inside to make a thief’s day. What’s even sadder is the fact that many people leave the garage door opener in a car that’s parked in the driveway. Or, they have windows in their garage that are anything but secure. If you have an electric garage door opener, be aware that it can be defeated by a wily thief by drilling a small hole in the garage door then snaking a wire through to engage the emergency release. The only way to prevent this is to use zip ties to secure the release. Another thing to eliminate are exterior electronic keypads, since it’s all too easy for a burglar to guess the passcode. An for Pete’s sake, make sure you secure any windows in your garage.
4. Do you have a dog? – While most dogs will bark at the sound of an intruder, you’d be surprised at how few dogs will deter a burglar. All it takes for most thieves to counter Fido is to toss in a few dog treats. Some dogs will simply cower at the approach of a burglar. Besides, dogs only work once a crook is already inside your house. It’s always better to keep the crooks outside.
5. Starlight, Star Bright? – While moonlight may become you, it’s the perfect milieu for thieves. Especially if you have tall shrubs under your windows. If you want to keep thieves from using your shrubs as cover, it’s better to add floodlights or motion sensing lights that illuminate your bushes or anyone lurking behind them.
6. Do burglar alarms deter burglars? – While most people assume that burglar alarms deter thieves, this isn’t always the case. Some alarm systems are only rigged to first floor doors and windows, which is why second-story men were created. Even if all the windows and doors in your home have sensors, some burglars know how to defeat them, while others realize if they get in and out fast enough, their chances are good to get away clean before the cops arrive. What works better than a burglar alarm, or in combination with one are Bluetooth cameras that wirelessly transmit stills or video of intruders to your smartphone. Since no crook wants to see his or her face on the evening news, installing cameras can be a deterrent to both burglars and mailbox bandits alike. Just make sure they provide adequate coverage of your home and are mounted out of reach of thieves, or you may come home to find they have been stolen. Also, make sure you change the camera’s default security setting, or burglars may use your cameras against you by hacking them.
7. How smart is a smart-home? – Speaking of hacking, while there are many conveniences to being able to access your home’s lights, thermostat setting and door locks, if you aren’t careful all you’ll do is make a burglar’s job easy since smart devices can be hacked. So too can your home’s router and Wi-Fi if you neglect to change their default security settings. Today, everything from nannycams to computers can be hacked and turned against their users. If you don’t want to let burglars case your home from the inside, you need to make sure all your web-enabled devices are secure from hackers.
8. Should you leave a TV on while you’re away? – While some people leave their TVs and lights on while they’re out, this doesn’t always deter thieves. Especially if a thief can see inside a home to tell whether anyone is really there. In the first place, unless all your blinds are shut tightly, most thieves know when people are away, especially if they’ve studied your routine. If you want to make it all but impossible for a burglar to tell if you’re home, consider installing reflective film that lets the light into your home but keeps thieves from seeing inside.