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Contrary to their image, most burglars are not skilled professionals. They generally do not pick locks or have access to such tools, and are not experienced criminals out on a crime spree. The average burglar is a young kid in his teens or early twenties from a local neighborhood. Their greatest tool is common sense, which is why they can often be defeated by applying a little common sense of your own.
Case the Joint
Take a few minutes to "case" your own house. Inspect weak doors or locks, low or easily opened windows, and dark areas that provide easy cover. Sliding patio doors, basement windows, and garage doors are common weak points. Look for valuables lying in plain view, especially those that can be easily carried off such as jewelry or laptop computers. Check for trees or fixtures that provide easy access to the second floor, where the locks are often weaker.
Then, take a minute to "case" the rest of your neighborhood. If you were a thief, would you find your own house an easy target compared to your neighbors? Do you have thick, low-lying bushes or larger windows? "Adequate" home security is often relative to the houses around you — if you provide an easier target, you may become a victim no matter how much security you have.
Stack the Deck
Thieves are playing the odds game, so you should be too. Anything you can do to make your house look like a harder target will lower your chances of being burglarized. A well displayed "Beware of Dog" or "Alarm" sign combined with heavy-duty locks can convince a burglar to give up and move on to the next house.
Consider replacing thin outer doors or windows, and avoid door hardware that looks flimsy. Good outside lighting is a plus as dark homes with heavy cover are prime targets. If the inside of your home is highly visible, consider using curtains even during the day. Remember that, aside from valuables, burglars look for three things when selecting a home to rob: easy entrance, easy cover, and easy escape. If you can deny or delay their access to these, your chances of being targeted drop dramatically.
Maintain the Illusion
Always make sure your home looks lived in, even when it's not. Things that have piled up in your yard such as mail, newspapers, and even snow, can be a giveaway that you're not at home. Don't publicize the fact that you're away, especially on an answering machine. Automatic timers are cheap and can make burglars think someone is at home by keeping your lights, TV, radio, etc. on during night hours. Garage doors are often a weak link in home security. Secure them from the inside with a padlock or some other means, and make sure the door providing access to the house is secure.
Other Safety Tips
Keep your windows locked.
People forget to secure their windows at a much higher rate than doors, and they can be a more attractive target for this reason. When securing your home, make sure to give your lower-floor windows just as much attention as your doors.
Don't hide a key in an obvious place.
Most burglars know the common places to hide a key. If you must have a key, keep it in a key boxA keybox is like a padlock that attaches to a secure object and contains a key that can be accessed by a combination..
Get a wide angle door viewer (peephole).
Wide angle peepholes allow a clearer view of visitors, and don't provide a hiding place.
Keep your keys and your address separate.
In the case that your keys are lost or stolen, make sure that there is no way for an intruder to identify what they belong to.
Change your locks when you move.
Whenever you move into a new home, you have no idea who has had access to the locks. Get your locks re-keyedRe-keying is the process of changing the pins in a lock to work with a new key. (click for more) immediately upon moving in.
Engrave your valuables with an identifying number.
Thieves do not want stolen goods that can be traced back to them. Although to a thief, smaller valuables are "grab-and-go", an engraved driver's licence or social security number on items such as a TV can be an effective deterrent, and will help in tracing your property.