If you were locked out of your house, would you still be able to get in? Maybe you keep an unlocked window in the back, or a hidden key in your mailbox or on top of a window ledge? You may think this is a good idea, but guess what? If you can break in, so can a burglar! One out of ten homes will be burglarized this year. For a small amount of time and money you can 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 to burglars.
- Did you know that in almost half of all completed residential burglaries, thieves simply breezed in through unlocked doors or crawled 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. You can secure them by installing commercially available locks or putting 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 into 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 neighbor you trust.
- When you move into a new house or apartment, re-key the locks.
- 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 around them.
- 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
- 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 a thief could use to climb to an upper-level window.
- If you travel, create the illusion that you're at home by getting some timers that will turn lights on and off in different areas of your house throughout the evening. Lights burning 24 hours a day signal an empty house.
- Leave shades, blinds, and curtains in normal positions. 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 - electronics, computers, jewelry, etc. Take photos of the items, list their serial numbers and description. Consider engraving your valuables.
- Ask local law enforcement for a free home security survey.
Consider an Alarm
- Alarms can be a good investment, especially if you have many valuables in your home, or 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'll probably 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
- Burglars 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 911 from your cell phone or a neighbor's house.
- At night, if you think you hear someone breaking in, leave safely if you can, then call 911. If you can't leave, lock yourself in a room with a phone and call 911. If an intruder is in your room, pretend you are asleep.
- Guns are responsible for many accidental deaths in the home every year. If you have guns in the home please store them safely and ensure they are out of the reach of children.
There is More That You Can Do
- Join a Neighborhood Watch group. If one doesn't exist, you can start one with help from local law enforcement.
- 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.
Ten Things You and Your Neighbors Can Do
- Work with public agencies and other organizations (neighborhood-based or community-wide) on solving common problems. Don't be shy about letting them know what your community needs.
- Make sure that all the youth in the neighborhood have positive ways to spend their spare time, through organized recreation, tutoring programs, part-time work, and volunteer opportunities.
- Set up a Neighborhood Watch working with law enforcement. Make sure your streets and homes are well lighted.
- Build a partnership with law enforcement, focused on solving problems instead of reacting to crises. Make it possible for neighbors to report suspicious activity or crimes without fear of retaliation.
- Take advantage of "safety in numbers" to hold rallies, marches, and other group activities to show you're determined to drive out crime and drugs.
- Clean up the neighborhood! Involve everyone - teens, children, senior citizens. Graffiti, litter, abandoned cars, and run-down buildings tell criminals that you don't care about where you live or each other. Call the public works department and ask for help in cleaning up.
- Ask local officials to use new ways to get criminals out of your building or neighborhood. These include enforcing anti-noise laws, housing codes, health and fire codes, anti-nuisance laws, and drug-free clauses in rental leases.
- Form a Court Watch to help support victims and witnesses and to see that criminals get fairly punished.
- Work with schools to establish drug-free, gun-free zones; work with recreation officials to do the same for parks.
- Develop and share a phone list of local organizations that can provide counseling, job training, guidance, and other services that neighbors might need.
STREET SENSE: IT'S COMMON SENSE
BASIC STREET SENSE
- Wherever you area—on the street, in an office building or shopping mall, driving, waiting for a bus or subway—stay alert and tuned into your surroundings.
- Send the message that you're calm, confident, and know where you're going.
- Trust your instincts. If something or someone makes you uneasy, avoid the person or place—or leave.
- Know the neighborhoods where you live and work. Check out the locations of police and fire stations, public telephones, hospitals, restaurants, or stores that are open early and late.
ON FOOT—DAY AND NIGHT
- Stick to well-lighted, well-traveled streets. Avoid shortcuts through wooded area, parking lots, or alleys.
- Don't flash large amounts of cash or other tempting targets like expensive jewelry or clothing.
- Carry a purse close to your body, not dangling by the straps. Put a wallet in an inside coat or front pants pocket, not a back pocket.
- Try to use automated teller machines in the daytime. Have your cards in hand and don't approach the machine if you're uneasy about people nearby. Use drive up ATM's or ones located inside stores.
- Don't wear shoes or clothing that restrict your movements.
- Have your car or house key in hand before you reach the door.
- If you think someone is following you, switch direction or cross the street. Walk toward an open store, restaurant, or lighted house. If you're scared, yell for help.
- Have to work late? Make sure there are others in the building, and ask someone—a colleague or security guard—to walk or drive you to your car or transit stop.
- Keep your car in good running condition. Make sure there's enough gas to get where you're going and back.
- Always roll up the windows and lock car doors when you drive and when you park, even if you're coming right back. Check inside and outside the care before getting in.
- Avoid parking in isolated areas. Be especially alert in lots and underground parking garages. Note the location of exits or emergency phones.
- If you think someone is following you, don't head home. Drive to the nearest police or fire station, gas station, or other open business to get help.
- Don't pick up hitchhikers. Don't hitchhike.
- Leave enough space to pull around the vehicle in front of you when you're stopped at a light or stop sign. If anyone approaches your vehicle in a threatening manner, pull away.