7 mistakes that make homeowners targets for burglars
I received an advertisement in the mail yesterday for a publication called Bottom Line Personal. The ad included several money tips. My favorite was the list of “Top Mistakes That Make Homeowners Prime Targets for Burglars”.
To get the real scoop on how to protect your home, we asked the best of all sources — a reformed burglar. This former burglar stole over $70 million worth of jewelry during his career, and spent 11 years in prison for doing so. Here's what he has to say about the mistakes people make most often:
- Leaving the burglar alarm off when you're running out for a few minutes. Nearly all the houses we robbed had expensive alarm systems — and more than half the time, the alarms weren't turned on! Sophisticated burglars watch neighborhoods and learn when residents go to work or run errands, and how long they are likely to be away. They're ready to move the minute you leave.
- Posting detailed alarm signs. When you post a sign that identifies the alarm company, you've just give the burglar the information he needs to disable the alarm. It's better to buy a generic sign from a home-supply store.
- Hiding valuables in the bedroom. It's the first place burglars look. We used to spend 15 minutes or less in each house that we robbed. More than half that time was spent in the bedroom, checking the usual hiding places. Hide valuables where burglars won't think to look. Don't hide all your valuables in one place.
- Getting a big dog. A 100-pound Rottweiler or German shepherd might look scary, but burglars know better. What you want are “yappers”, small dogs that make a lot of noise.
- Hiding windows with landscaping. Tall bushes and shrubs allow burglars to jimmy windows without being seen. Also, don't count on thorny plants to prevent entry. Professional thieves wear heavy clothes and carry tools to remove obstacles.
- Leaving the lights on. A light that stays on all the time is no more of a deterrent than a dark house. In fact, it helps burglars see better once they're inside. Use timers.
- Having newspaper and mail delivery stopped when you go away. You may trust your mailman and newspaper carrier, but the fact is that you never know who else is getting that information. We used to get tips all the time about homeowners going on vacation. Keep your plans quiet.
The Burglary Prevention Council offers a home protection guide. Some of the BPC's tips include:
- Keep doors and windows securely locked.
- Brace sliding glass doors.
- Lock the door to an attached garage.
- User timers to create the illusion that you are home.
- Keep the exterior of your home well-lit.
- Never leave clues that you are away.
- Never leave a message on your voicemail saying that you are away.
- Keep shrubbery trimmed away from entrances and walkways.
One tip I'd add is: Organize a neighborhood watch. One of the best burglary prevention tools is a friendly, active neighborhood. People are more inclined to watch out for you and your interests if you have a relationship with them. At our old house, we barely knew our neighbors. Our new neighborhood is friendly and supportive — we help each other in many ways, one of which is to keep a watchful eye.
Also, it's a good idea to keep a home inventory (with photos and videos, if possible). And keep your homeowners or renters insurance up-to-date!