Keep Your Home Secure While Away

People worry about burglaries this time of year, when their homes are vacant for a week or more while they are on vacation. The best defense against home break-ins while at the beach or touring a foreign city is to burglar-proof the home as much as possible before leaving town. It is not a difficult process and easily can be done on a weekend.

Local teenage hoodlums are those most likely to strike while families are away. Walking through neighborhoods, they notice when homes look deserted. Most of the advice below is designed to create an illusion of occupation. While illusion/deception is the least effective means of home security, it is still an important part of the process of crime prevention.

1. Put mail on hold. This is mostly for on-the-street mailboxes or apartment boxes. Also, consider doing this if there is a mail slot in the front door and someone can look through a window to see mail stacking up. Whatever the case, remember to have the post office stop mail delivery a few days before leaving town.

2. Don’t let newspapers pile up. Newspapers collecting on a driveway indicate no one is home. When calling the newspaper company, instead of saying the reason is for vacation, tell the person a detailed work project will keep you too busy to read it for the next week. Occasionally, a “girlfriend” of someone involved in a burglary ring will take a job where she can gather information about people going out of town.

3. Use light timers. These come in a variety of costs from programmable ones for indoors or outdoors to simple plug-ins for a bedside lamp. Use them in two or three rooms so lights go on and off at various times.

4. Leave a radio/stereo playing (or a programmable television). A deserted house “feels” empty. By leaving the stereo on a talk station or keeping the television turned on, there’s a more realistic impression that someone is home.

5. Record “we can’t get to the phone right now” on your answering machine. Set the machine to answer in five rings. Answering too soon or too late indicates no one is home. Five rings could mean you really can’t get to the phone. In consolidated phone/answering machine models, turn down the ringer. In separate phone answering machine systems, unplug the phone from the machine.

6. Adjust the drapes. There is debate about leaving drapes open or closed. Closed drapes might indicate no one is home, while open drapes invite potential burglars to peek inside. The best idea is a combination, leaving some open (especially in rooms where there is little of value) and some closed. Consider leaving upstairs curtains open and first-floor drapes shut.

7. Park your car in the driveway. On the one hand, it makes it look like someone is home. But then a car that doesn’t move is a tip off. Consider asking a neighbor to park in your driveway, so the car moves during the day.

8. Padlock fence gates. Make your backyard inaccessible to seriously hinder burglars from getting out of the back yard while carrying items like stereos and computers.

9. Hire a reliable teenager to be a caretaker. Pay a neighborhood teen to watch the house and do certain chores, such as mow the lawn and take the garbage bin to the curb, to disguise the fact no one is home.

10. Tell a neighbor you’ll be away. Always leave a contact number where you can be reached and consider leaving a key, as well.

11. Make sure all doors and windows are locked. Make a circuit of the home before leaving to be certain all windows and doors are secure and locked. As obvious as this may sound, quite often in the rush to get out the door this can be overlooked.

12. Arm the alarm system. This is another obvious one, and yet people forget it all the time. In fact, it helps to have a check-list of things to do before walking out the door.

13. Notify the police. For vacations longer than a week, be sure not only to inform your security service provide but also the police. This is an extra layer of protection, as officers often will schedule extra drive-bys to make sure your home is safe.

14. Get a safe for jewelry and expensive small items. A small floor safe in the bottom of a bedroom closet is the perfect place to put valuable items. It easily can be concealed by clothing and shoes.

15. Hire a house sitter. Although Hollywood gives the impression that any teenager without adult supervision automatically throws a party and destroys a house, this is just not true. Next to making your home difficult to break in to, the best burglary defense is to hire a house sitter. Many responsible college students would jump at the chance to make extra money – and then you also have someone to feed the cat.

Marc MacYoung is the originator of and has worked as the director of a correctional institute, a bodyguard and a bouncer. A master in martial arts, he lives in Colorado with his wife, Dianna, where he writes, lectures and t