By Dr. Charlotte Gorman*
Take precautions to protect your home and possessions from burglary. Even if you have homeowners insurance, replacing what is stolen or damaged could cost you a considerable amount of money out of your pocket--maybe more than it would have cost you to do some things to make your home more secure. (However, don't make your home so burglar-proof that you can't get out quickly if you need to.) Below are some things you can do to help protect your home and your belongings. Some of the suggestions will cost you nothing, while others will require only a minimum outlay of money.
1. Write down the emergency telephone numbers of the local police and county sheriff's office and the numbers of several nearby neighbors. Keep the numbers by your telephone(s). Having the numbers handy can decrease the time it takes you to call for help.
2. If you live in a rural area, don't assume that you are immune from burglaries. You are not.
3. Protect your home during the day as you would at night. Burglaries also occur during daylight hours.
4. Check into the possibility of organizing a Neighborhood Watch where you live. A Neighborhood Watch should help to deter burglaries in your area.
5. Keep the outside doors to your home locked at all times, including when you are at home. Locked doors make it more difficult for burglars to enter your home and might discourage or prevent them from breaking in.
6. Keep your garage door closed at all times. A closed door could help prevent a break in.
7. Keep all gates in the fence around your house locked at all times. Locked gates (especially tall ones and tall fences) might possibly make it harder for a potential intruder to enter your premises. If entrance is too difficult, he or she may give up and move on to an easier target.
8. Don't leave house keys hidden outside your home. A burglar might locate the keys and unlock an outside door to your home.
9. If you store valuables within your home, hide them and do so in the most unlikely places possible. Professional burglars know about most of the ordinary hiding places.
10. Make sure shrubbery and trees don't hide doors and windows. Shielded entrances can provide greater cover for burglars to enter your residence unnoticed by neighbors and passers-by.
11. Don't open your door to a stranger. By opening your door, you could be giving a would-be burglar easy entrance into your home.
12. Don't put your name and residential address on your key ring. If you happen to lose it, a dishonest person could gain entry to your home.
13. Don't make it common knowledge that you are going to be away from your home. Burglars can take advantage of your announced absence to rob your home with more ease.
14. When you are away from your home, don't leave notes on the door such as, "I will return at 4:00 p.m.," or "I will be back in town next Tuesday." Such notes let burglars know their break ins won't be hampered by the residents.
15. If you are going to be gone from home for several days, stop your mail, newspaper, and various other regularly scheduled deliveries. An alternative to stopping deliveries is to ask a friend to pick up such items each day from your house and keep them until you return. A box full of mail and a pile of newspapers alert a potential burglar that the residents probably are not at home and, therefore, that they will not foil an attempt at entry.
16. Consider leaving a radio running inside your home when you are away. A radio which is on implies that someone is home; and, thus, the burglar might decide not to try to break in.
17. When you are gone from your home at night, use timers to turn lights on and off at various times and at different locations throughout your home. Another, less expensive option is to use light-sensitive devices to automatically turn lights on at the appropriate degree of outside darkness and off at the appropriate degree of outside lightness. The lights could help deter burglars.
18. If you plan to be away from home for more than a few days, consider asking the police or sheriff's department to check your house regularly while you are gone. Such checks, if observed by a would-be burglar, could discourage the planned break in. The checks could also stop a break in while in progress.
19. Make your home look as though you are there. For example, if you leave draperies open while you are home, do so while you are away from home. If burglars think people are home, they might decide not to try to break into your residence.
20. Have someone to keep your lawn mowed if you will be away from your home for an extended length of time. An overgrown lawn implies that no one is at home. Therefore, a burglar assumes that your home is easy prey.
21. Ask someone to stay in your home when you are away from it at a family member's funeral (if the deceased resided at your residence). Burglars read the obituary column and often burglarize homes while the residents are at funerals.
22. Consider utilizing a house-sitter while you are away from home. The presence of a person within your home could prevent a possible burglary.
23. Install sufficient outside lighting to light up all entrances to your home at night. A well-lighted home should help to discourage a break in.
24. Use only solid-core or metal-clad doors on the outside entrances to your home. Such doors are more difficult to break through than ordinary hollow-core doors.
25. Make sure outside door frames are solid, substantial, and firmly attached to your home. Door frames with these qualities should make it harder for someone to break down your doors.
26. Make sure door hinges are on the inside of doors and not on the outside. If hinges are on the outside, they can more easily be removed to allow entrance by a dishonest person.
27. Install wide-angle peepholes in all outside doors of your home. These door viewers enable you to see who is at your door, to decide whether or not to acknowledge their presence, and to determine if you should open your door to them. If they are strangers, there is always a possibility they could be burglars.
28. Use dead bolt locks with at least a one-inch throw on all outside doors of your home, including the door leading from the garage to your house. If glass is near enough to a lock to allow someone to break the glass and reach through to the lock, make sure the lock requires a key to unlock it from the inside. These precautions could help to prevent an unauthorized entry.
29. Have heavy-duty night chains on all appropriate outside doors of your home, and make sure they are mounted so as to withstand an attempted forced intrusion. Heavy-duty night chains provide added protection. (Ordinary night chain systems are relatively easy to break through.)
30. Make sure windows and sliding glass doors are securely constructed and have strong, dependable, and tight-fitting locks. Consider additional locks and latches. These precautions could help to prevent break ins.
31. With the sliding glass door closed and locked, wedge a wooden dowel into its bottom track. The dowel should prevent the door from being opened if unlocked by a potential intruder.
32. Consider installing reinforced glass in vulnerable places in your home. This glass will be more difficult than ordinary glass to penetrate.
33. Consider installing burglar bars over windows which are excessively susceptible to being entered by a burglar. Bars will provide a high degree of resistance to entry.
34. Consider installing a burglar alarm system in your home. An alarm system could scare off a burglar if accidentally activated by him or her.
*Dr. Charlotte Gorman is an Extension Agent, Family & Consumer Sciences, Texas Cooperative Extension, Texas A & M University System. She is the author of The Frugal Mind, The Little Book of Living Frugal, and Speak for Yourself. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org