Christmas is coming and we need to do some things now to make it a merry one. Crime rates are climbing everywhere. In some places, home invasions and burglaries are at all-time highs and getting worse. Thieves are becoming more brazen and less fearful of the consequences. We must all take this threat more seriously and prepare even if we live in a neighborhood that is considered safe.
As we enter the holiday season, the threat increases. There are simple steps you can take now to deter intruders.
It’s about the doors:
Screen doors: It is winter in the northern hemisphere so you may have taken down your screen door for the season. For those who leave the screen do up year-round, do you keep it locked? It can be frustrating to lock and unlock your door every time you enter or exit but it can deter a burglar, maybe long enough for a neighbor to notice and call the police. Locking that door may give you time to make noise, turn on a light, or do something else to encourage them to run away.
Locks: Do you have a deadbolt lock? If you do and you don’t have a strong deadbolt in place already, choose one of the best door locks with an ANSI rating of 2 or 1. The ANSI rating measures how much force a deadbolt can withstand before it bends or breaks. A lock with an ANSI rating of 2 can withstand five strikes of 75 pounds of force before giving way,
Strike plate: A basic strike plate looks like a flat piece of metal (usually steel or brass) that fits into the doorframe with an opening in the center to receive the bolt. An upgraded strike plate has a longer box (sometimes called a box strike) so the bolt can fit more deeply into the door frame. This is an easy DIY.
You can further secure the strike plate by replacing the screws that hold it in place with longer ones. The farther into the frame the screws travel, the harder it is to bend or break them.
Hinge: Once the deadbolt is secure, the next-weakest spot on the door is the hinge. If the door’s hinges are on the outside of the door, a burglar only needs to remove the pin from the hinge to gain access to your home. Most outdoor hinges are fitted with a hinge bolt that prevents this; if yours does not, replace the hinge with one that does. Again, if you used the screws that came with the hinge, replace them with longer ones. Optimally, the screws should be at least 2½ inches long.
Frame: Reinforce the doorframe. A standard wood doorframe—especially one that has been exposed to the elements for years—may not hold up long to repeated force. Consider replacing the frame with a harder wood that is less prone to splitting, replace with a metal frame designed for doorframe reinforcement.
Secure the door: Get a door barricade or security bar. If you are a renter or have an older door, consider a door barricade which screws into the floor near the door. When not in use they are flush with the floor and out of the way. When engaged, they extend from the floor near the door and prevent the door from opening past the barricade. They are low-profile and exceptionally strong. Other versions include door jammers, which fit under the handle of the door and brace against the floor with a rubber foot, preventing the door from being forced. Door jammers are easily installed and removed and can be helpful when traveling.
Shh…keep it to yourself: Are you posting photos on social media of you vacationing or enjoying a girls’ night out? How many emails do you get from scammers? How did they get your info and know you shop at Target? In the same way thieves can track your social media, they do not need to be your friend to see your posts. If they have been casing your neighborhood and it looks like you may be gone, they can confirm it on social media.
Two-story house: If you live in a two-story home do you leave windows of open or unlocked? Yes, a thief loves two story windows left unsecured. It’s easy to “borrow a ladder from next door or garage or even stand on the top of a pickup.
Garage door openers: Do you leave your garage door openers in the car where they can be seen, or do you leave an unlocked car in the driveway? Cars can be broken into, remotes stolen, and your address discovered on your insurance papers and next thing you know a thief invites themselves into your garage, closes the door and they are now out of sight and can take their time looking thru your home.
Garage doors left open: Leaving the garage door open allows burglars to see what is in the garage and also check out the security. Of course, it also gives them the opportunity to just steal anything in the garage right then.
Spare keys: Do you leave a spare key under a door mat or over the door or under a hollow rock? Consider installing a deadbolt that operates through a keypad. This allows keyless entry into your home. Most keypad deadbolts allow a temporary passcode that you can give to contractors or other people who may legitimately need access to your home. The next day the code can be changed. Give a key to a trusted neighbor.
Flyers or business cards: Burglars need an excuse to scope out your home, look in the windows, and check security. One way they may sometimes do this is by putting flyers or business cards on your front door. They can then watch to see if they are taken down to learn if you are in town or to learn your routine. If you are going away, ask a friend or neighbor to pick up anything that may arrive on your door or doorstep.
Outside Lights: A home with a few or no outdoor lights is very attractive to thieves. Are your front door or porch lights burned out? Install solar powered motion sensor lights and place them around your home, eliminating dark places to hide. A burglar will know they’re motion sensor lights, but the feeling of being exposed will probably make him leave. Replace light bulbs.
Window Air Conditioning Units: Window air conditioners are very easy to kick in leaving a nice big hole to crawl thru. If you are leaving town or summer has ended, remove the unit and secure the window.
Security systems: Security systems really do deter thieves. Even if you are not connected to a service a burglar has no way of knowing that. They will usually move on to a home less protected and an easier target.
Lights out: If you are going out for the evening, leave some lights on in the house. Choose a room that allows you to see the light from outside but not look in the window for checking out if you are really there. If you are leaving for a few days, place lamps on timers to come on and off in different parts of the house at different times.
Radio on: While you are placing lights on timers, also hook up a radio to a timer. Thieves will be deterred if they hear noise inside.
Lock up: We routinely check the doors to be sure they are locked but are all the windows locked? If someone is going to invade your home, make them earn it! Do you have sliding doors secured with a dowel in the track? Are your doors locked even when you are at home? Several years ago, our friend’s teenage daughter was home alone during the day. The bell rang but she was taught not to answer when home alone, so she ignored it. A few minutes later she heard someone in the house, she hid in a closet with her phone and called 911. He had entered using an unlocked back door. The burglar proceeded to go thru drawers until he heard the sirens and jumped out a window. You never want to be in this position.
No window covering: Close those blinds and curtains at night or when you are gone during the day, so your home is not subject to window shopping. We love to place our Christmas tree in a window, but this allows the outside world to see gifts under it.
Mailbox: Invest in a locking mailbox. It is so easy to follow a mail carrier and sort thru your mail for checks, credit cards, bank statements, and other goodies they can sell or use to steal from you.
Thieves love to target homes, next to alleys, near highways or busy main roads, with limited streetlights, that back up to parking lots, next to vacant lots, with high hedges, bushes, and fences. All these make it easier to scope out an area and aid in a fast get away.