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Protecting Your Home this Holiday Season

burglar opening a back door with a prybar

The holiday season usually brings warm feelings and cheer –but there is a darker side and it affects your house directly. While people are traveling to spend time with family and leaving their houses unattended, burglars spend their time scoping out neighborhoods, watching houses that they know are empty, and planning break-ins to steal your valuables. November and December have a higher rate of home robberies because burglars know that they will have as much time as they need to get into a house and search for valuables.

The winter months also provide another unique opportunity for burglars – since many houses get packages delivered to them, burglars have started dressing up as delivery people and stealing packages from doorsteps, or even worse, robbing houses that have people inside. A security camera outside a house in Houston caught 4 men robbing the owners of a house at gunpoint, as reported by ABC news here.

In addition to having valuables stolen, being a victim of a home robbery can leave you feeling constantly scared, unsafe, and uneasy in your own home. To avoid this, we’ve compiled a list of easy tips that you can follow that will make your home more difficult to break into and ensure that you won’t be the best option for burglars scoping out your neighborhood.

 Easy Security Improvements

  • Make it look like you are home:

    Most home robberies, believe it or not, are committed between 10am and 2pm, when people are out of their houses and at work or picking up kids from school. These houses are the easiest targets, and someone who has studied a neighborhood usually knows the residents’ schedules. Make use of the following tips to make it look like you’re home:

    • Use timers:

      Burglars are used to people leaving lights on in an effort to dissuade them from entering their house, and if they’ve studied a house they might notice that a light is left on constantly. However, you can dissuade thieves by using multiple timers that turn on lights or noise-making devices like TVs and Radios at specific times. You can take this one step further and buy timers that are randomized during the evening and early morning, just to make sure that thieves don’t recognize any patterns.

    • Have someone stop by when you’re on vacation

      You should already be notifying the mail service to hold your mail, but are you doing anything about your overgrown lawn, or the flyers that solicitors leave on your door? Have a friend stop by for you and mow your lawn and pick up any evidence that shows you may not be at home.

    • Cover your garage windows:

      garage door windowsGarage windows are useful for allowing a little bit of light into your garage during the day, but can also allow thieves to see whether you are at home or not during the day. If you know your garage will be empty during the day and you don’t want this inviting sign showing to undesirable people in the neighborhood, cover up your garage door windows with a trash bag or black butcher paper.

    • Secure your sliding doors and windows so they cannot be lifted off the tracks

      When sliding doors and windows are installed, the frame is installed first, and the door/window is lifted into place to complete the installation. This process can be reversed very easily by a burglar with a crowbar. This short video shows a very simple solution to making sure that burglars cannot gain access to your house using this method.

  • Make Common Entry Points Difficult:

    One of the most common entry points for burglars is the front door, whether it is left unlocked or forced open. If the door is not reinforced, a strong kick to the door can break the lock and allow for easy access. A higher quality door and lock can stop a burglar in their tracks when they realize they cannot get in.

    • Install a solid core or metal door

      Most interior doors are hollow and easily breakable, but solid core doors are heavy and don’t give way kicks as easily.

    • Check your deadbolt and strike plate

      strike plateWithout a deadbolt and a strike plate to prevent the door jamb being broken, the pressure from a kick can push a door lock through the frame and break the door.

    • Reinforce your door further

      Your deadbolt can be reinforced further by buying products that fit over your strike plate, or that secure your doorframe to the stud it’s attached to even more securely.

    • Insert a wooden stick in sliding windows

      Sliding windows and doors often only lock in one place, and it can be easy for burglars to get around these locks without smashing the glass.

  • Don’t Allow Burglars to Hide:

    If burglars know they’re visible to neighbors and security cameras, they won’t be sticking around your house. Don’t allow them to hide, whether in the darkness or using your home features to their advantage.

    • bushes in front of windowsPrune bushes and shrubs to keep a burglar from hiding

      Install a motion sensing doorbell

      Doorbells with a live video feed that can be viewed from your phone are becoming increasingly more popular. Most of these doorbells are either battery powered or can be wired to replace your existing doorbell, making it very easy to install. The average retail cost for these doorbells is $200, but the video recording and motion sensing capabilities of these doorbells detours suspicious people coming up to your front door and makes it easier to identify and catch them if they do anything illegal.

      www.doorbellhome.org has put together a comparison of 4 popular doorbells on their website, listing pros and cons of each of them.

    • Install motion sensing lights

      Motion sensing lightsEven in the daytime, motion sensing lights provide a warning that makes potential thieves feel uneasy. Not only do they draw attention to themselves and anyone walking by, but they also send a message to the neighborhood that you as the home owner care about and have thought about the security of your house. Most motion sensing lights will need to be hardwired to an existing electrical line running through your house, which doesn’t make it the easiest piece of equipment to install, but there are also motion sensor lights available for purchase that you can mount outside your house and plug into existing outlets, making the process much easier and safer.

    • Install motion sensing security cameras

      If you want to go the full mile in home protection, you can install security cameras by the entrances to your home. Most security cameras require a hardwired connection like the motion sensing lights, but many of them offer great features for keeping your house safe, such as:

      • The ability to pan and tilt to aim the camera wherever a window or door is opening
      • Cloud Storage
      • Alarms that can be triggered manually
      • Night Vision
      • 2-way Audio
      • Battery Backups

      PC Magazine has put together an excellent comparison and subsequent individual reviews on 10 of the best smart security cameras currently available. You can also buy an older security camera bundle which doesn’t have all the smart wifi-connected features that the new cameras have, but often come with multiple cameras that you can place around your property so you can catch intruders from all angles.

 Advice From Career Burglars

Several different burglars have come forward with advice about how they easily could break into different homes.

  • Big deterrents for burglars:

    Multiple former burglars have come forward to let people know what they look for when choosing a house to break into, as well as what their biggest deterrents are.

    • Window laminate

      Broken laminated glassIf a window has been laminated, it makes it much more difficult to break through. While a normal window can be broken by one strike from a heavy object, a laminated window can usually resist multiple strikes from a baseball bat or crowbar, which are loud and will draw attention to the source of the sound. Burglars want to get in and out of your house in as little time as possible, so losing precious time breaking the window does not appeal to them. According to a former burglar, if someone tries to break your window without knowing that it’s laminated, they will usually run away when they find out it will be much more difficult to get into your house than they originally thought.

    • Glass break sensors

      Window break sensors are another thing that tell burglars to steer clear. The sensors are installed on or near a window and use microphones to listen for the specific frequencies generated by breaking glass. When it hears this sound, the sensor sounds an alarm to warn the residents or neighbors. In an interview with a local NBC news channel, a burglar who claimed he had robbed 5,000 homes said that if someone sees “that glass break [sensor] attached to that window, they know this is a well secured home – stay away from it.”

      Glass break sensors are relatively cheap and easy to install. They can be purchased online – some for less than 10 dollars each if you buy in a bundle.

  • Alarm systems:

    Alarm Systems are always good to have in place, but they do not protect from every threat and should not be the only source of security that you rely upon. Keep the following things in mind when you have an alarm/security system:

    • Signs outside may intimidate potential burglars, but experienced ones may know how to get around a specific security system if they know what service is protecting your home.
    • You can consider ordering a generic sign that shows that you have a security system installed, but make sure that it doesn’t have a fake company listed on the sign. Experienced burglars will know which alarm companies are real and which are fake.
    • If an alarm does go off in your house, make sure that an alarm representative that calls your house confirms your identity with a passcode or PIN number that you have set up previously. Burglars that have experience with alarm companies can speak to someone on the phone and convince them that they are the owner.
  • Things that don’t work

    • Having an enclosed back yard:

      Although an enclosed back yard with a high fence may make it more difficult for a burglar to climb the fence to get to your back door, it will also make them feel much more comfortable when finding a way to get into your house from the back, since they will be invisible to neighbors. A former burglar posting on Reddit said that he only hit houses with enclosed backyards, saying that he knew the “neighbors will probably never see me.”

    • Having a dog:

      Cute DogA dog may seem like it would be a deterrent, especially if a burglar didn’t want to make any noise. However, most dogs can be calmed and bribed with dog treats. If a burglar is friendly to the dog and gives it food, even a small, yappy dog will keep quiet and let a burglar do their business.

    • Spare keys outside:

      Burglars recognize hideaway rocks and other places that residents will hide their keys in an instant. Keep your door locked and don’t leave a key outside unless absolutely necessary on the day you need it. If you need to leave a key outside consistently, use a lockbox and change the combination often!

    • Hiding your valuables in the house:

      As it turns out, many people keep cash and valuables in similar places in their houses. The former burglar on reddit shared how he would check for cash “on kitchen counters, near the coffee pot, as well in the cupboards near it, around the area where keys were hung, in jars and boxes (especially ones on the upper shelves of bookcases), in bedrooms and bathrooms on vanities and in the clothing draws, under beds, under mattresses, under lamps… and just about anywhere that there didn’t seem to be much collected dust, but was a small enclosure.” If you don’t want to buy a heavy safe, consider finding a more discreet or difficult to access place to store your valuables. You could consider a fake wall vent like this one or a fake shelf safe like this.

You can never take home safety too seriously. Even though no house is completely safe from being broken into, your goal should be to make security improvements a priority and be one of the safest houses in the neighborhood. When your house is the safest, you will be much less likely to be a victim of burglary. Make sure that you’re a good neighbor and keep in contact with your neighbors so that you can warn them if you’ve seen anyone suspicious walking around. Your entire neighborhood will be safer with everyone looking out for each other.

If you or a loved one experience a personal injury due to a break in, contact a Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney lawyer.

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