According to the FBI, burglary victims lost an estimated $4.5 billion in property in 2013. The average dollar loss per case was $2,322.
Many of those burglaries could have been prevented if the homeowners had taken even the simplest steps to secure their homes and property. The FBI says more than 34% of burglaries were crimes of opportunity, where the burglar easily entered the home through an unlocked door or window.
Vacation time is prime crime season. While you're off exploring the Grand Canyon or navigating the crowds at Disney World, the criminals are looking for easy scores. And your empty home could be a big, juicy target.
Protect the investment you've made in your home. Here are 10 quick tips we've compiled to help keep your home and valuables safe while you're away this summer.
Tip #1: Lock your home up tight. Don't make it easy for a potential burglar to rip you off. Secure every door and window (and don't forget about the door from the garage into the house). If you leave a car in the driveway, lock it up, too – and don't leave the garage door opener on the front seat.
Tip #2: Consider upgrading your locks. Nearly 60% of all burglaries involve forcible entry. A good deadbolt lock can make it a lot harder for a criminal to kick in your door.
Tip #3: Take special care with your sliding glass doors. They're often at the back of a house, which can give the burglar additional cover and time. Make a sliding door harder to pry open by wedging a wooden or metal rod into the inside track when the door is closed. Make it a lot more difficult to lift the door off its track by installing a sliding bolt on the frame.
Tip #4: Make your home look lived-in. That house at the end of the cul-de-sac that's been dark for days is just begging to be broken into. Use automatic timers on your lights – and maybe one for your radio or TV, too. Leave your curtains and shades in their usual positions. Turn off your telephone ringers, so unanswered calls don't attract unwanted attention. Ask a neighbor if they'd park their car in your driveway from time to time. Hire a trusted teen to cut the grass.
Tip #5: Stick a "Beware of Dog" sign near your front door – whether or not you own a dog. The last thing a burglar wants to face is a snarling, barking, canine guard.
Tip #6: Have an alarm system. Invest in a good alarm system and make sure any potential burglars know you have it by displaying the alarm company's signs and stickers prominently. Just don't forget to arm the system before you lock up and leave town.
Tip #7: Stop your mail and newspaper delivery. An overflowing mailbox and a doorstep littered with a week's worth of newspapers is an engraved invitation to a burglar. You can submit a request online to stop your mail by using the U.S. Postal Service's Hold Mail service. Many newspapers offer a similar service on their websites.
Tip #8: Leave a key with a trusted neighbor and ask them to stop by once in a while. Be sure to let them know how to reach you if there's an emergency.
Tip #9: Notify the police that your home will be empty. Not every police department will take down your address, but many will, and they'll even ask a squad car to drive past your home while they're out on patrol.
Tip #10: Resist the urge to advertise your vacation plans and exploits online – until you're safely back home. The things you post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and elsewhere are meant to be shared – and even if the only person on your friend list is your dear Aunt Sally in Poughkeepsie, you can't control where she may share your vacation pics. If you have 100 contacts, your odds of accidentally alerting the wrong person that you're away skyrockets.
Want more information on preventing crime at home and elsewhere? The National Crime Prevention Council has an enormous list of resources available.
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