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.
Check the locks
- Did you know that in almost half of all completed residential burglaries, thieves simply breezed in through unlocked doors or crawled through unlocked windows? EVEN IN FORT THOMAS!
- 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.
Check the doors
- 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
Look at your house from the outside. Make sure you know the following tips.
- 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. And 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 – VCRs, stereos, computers, jewelry. Take photos of the items, list their serial numbers and description. Check with law enforcement about engraving your valuables through Operation Identification.
- 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 the police from a neighbor’s house or a public phone.
- At night, if you think you hear someone breaking in, leave safely if you can, then call the police. If you can’t leave, lock yourself in a room with a phone and call the police. If an intruder is in your room, pretend you are asleep.
- Gun are responsible for many accidental deaths in the home every year. Think carefully before buying a gun or keeping weapons in the home. If you do own one, learn how to store it and use it safely.
There’s More 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.
Weapons In The Home
When we talk about violence, we can’t ignore weapons. Nine out of ten murders involve a weapon – eight of ten involve a firearm. Most robberies involve the use of a weapon, most frequently a handgun.
One in seven teens has reported carrying a weapon – like a bat, club, gun, or knife – at some time to protect himself. Weapons can make violence more deadly and less personal. A gun in the home increases the likelihood of homicide three times and the likelihood of suicide five times.
Reduce the risk
- Think long and hard about having weapons, especially firearms, in your home. Studies show that a firearm in the home is more than forty times as likely to hurt or kill a family member as to stop a crime.
- Look at other ways to protect yourself and your home. Invest in top-grade locks, jamming devices for doors and windows, a dog, or an alarm system. Start or join a Neighborhood Watch. Check with the police, the YMCA/YWCA, or the recreation department about a self-defense class.
- If you do choose to own firearms – handguns, rifles, or shotguns – make sure they are safely stored. That means unloaded, trigger-locked, and in a locked gun case or pistol box, with ammunition separately locked. Store keys out of reach of children, away from weapons and ammunition. Check frequently to make sure this storage remains secure.
- Obtain training from a certified instructor in firearms safety for everyone in the home. Make sure it’s kept current.
- Teach your children what to do if they find a firearm or something that might be a weapon – Stop, Don’t Touch, Get Away, and Tell a Trusted Adult.
- Show children how to settle arguments or solve problems without using words or actions that hurt others. Set the example by the way you handle everyday conflicts in the family, at work, and in the neighborhood. Don’t forget that common courtesies like “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” help ease tensions that can lead to violence.
- Discourage name-calling and teasing. These can easily get out of hand, moving all too quickly from “just words” to fists, knives, and even firearms. Teach children that bullying is wrong and take their fears about bullies seriously.
- Take a hard look at what you, your family, and your friends watch and listen to for entertainment – from action movies and cop shows to video games and music lyrics. How do the characters solve problems? Do they make firearms and other violence appear exciting, funny, or glamorous? Are the real-life consequences of violence for victims and families clear? Talk about what each of you liked and didn’t like.
- Stick with friends and family who steer clear of violence and drugs. And encourage your children to do the same. Research shows use of alcohol and other drugs is closely linked with violence, including the use of guns and other weapons.
Take action in your community
- Be sure you know where and how to report potentially violent situations or concerns about conditions in the neighborhood that could lead to violence. Ask your police department for help in identifying what to report, when, to whom, and how.
- Consider organizing an event that lets people turn in weapons, or even objects that might be mistaken for real weapons, in exchange for books, coupons from local merchants, toys, or simply the satisfaction of making the community safer.
- Support schools and youth clubs in their efforts to keep guns, knives, and other weapons from menacing the everyday lives of children and teens. Encourage children to report any weapons they know about in or near school to staff or the police.
- Look around to see what happens to young people after school hours. Are there supervised programs for younger children? Opportunities for teens and preteens to work with children, get or give help with homework, tackle neighborhood problems, or learn art, music, sports, or computer skills? In many areas, after-school programs are located in schools themselves and called Safe Havens or Beacon Schools.
- Start a discussion of neighborhood views on weapons in the home, children playing with toy weapons, children and violent entertainment, and how arguments should be settled. A PTA meeting, an informal social gathering, or a Neighborhood Watch meeting could provide the opportunity.
- Learn your state and local laws on firearms. Insist that these laws be enforced vigorously but fairly. Support police, prosecutors, judges, and other local officials who enforce laws designed to prevent gun violence.
Just like Neighborhood Watch, members of an Apartment Watch learn how to make their homes more secure, watch out for each other and their community, and report crime and suspicious activities to the police. Here are some ways to get an Apartment Watch going and growing.
- Help arrange with local police for apartment security surveys and Operation Identification.
- Organize citizen patrols to walk around the apartment complex and alert police to crime and suspicious activities. Don’t forget to patrol parking lots, stairways, laundry rooms, and playgrounds.
- Publish a newsletter that gives local crime news, recognizes Apartment Watch captains, and highlights community activities.
- Organize a reception in the lobby of your building or a cookout on common property so neighbors can get to know one another.
- Keep pressure on management to make sure it provides adequate security.
- Start a Safe Haven Program for children — places where they can go in emergency or scary situations.
- Check the complex on a regular basis for problems such as burned-out light bulbs, dark corridors, uncollected trash, or broken locks on mailboxes and doors. Report problems to the building manager.
- Organize meetings to brainstorm how you can help each other, such as starting an escort service for the elderly or after-school care for children.