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Everybody loves the holiday season, including burglars. Every year, the rate of theft and property crime skyrockets between Thanksgiving and New Years Day. There are two main reasons for this: 1) Burglars know that after Black Friday, most homes contain expensive gifts and gadgets. 2) Burglars know that many people are off visiting relatives, leaving their homes vulnerable.
Burglars don’t just hit homes at random, though. Instead, they look for ones that are likely to have something worth stealing and are easy to break into unnoticed. Think your home is safe? Check the list below and make sure.
Here are 17 things that could be making your home a target for burglars.
1. Empty Boxes
Like I said, burglars target houses that look like they have something worth stealing inside. To do this, they often check for empty boxes in the trash such as TV, computer, smartphone, or gaming console boxes.
This is an especially popular tactic after Christmas. Be sure to destroy or conceal such boxes to avoid making your home a tempting target.
2. Obvious Wealth
If possible, make sure your 60-inch LED TV isn’t visible from any windows. Same goes for pricey computers and gaming systems. If a burglar checks all the windows and doesn’t see anything good, he might decide to move on to another house.
And if you have a really fancy car, keep it in the garage. Don’t leave it parked outside, no matter how much you want to show it off to your neighbors.
3. Toys in the Yard
Some burglars like targeting houses with children in them, and toys in the yard is a dead giveaway. They figure that if you can afford to have kids, you can afford other expensive things (only burglars without children think this, by the way). They might break in to look for tablets, gaming systems, jewelry, and other valuables.
4. Flyers on the Door
Burglars need an excuse to get close to your home. One way they sometimes do this is by putting flyers on your front door. They may also watch to see if the flyers are taken down in order to determine if someone is home or on vacation. Ask a friend or neighbor to get the flyers for you.
5. An Overflowing Mailbox
Some burglars will simply open your mailbox. If they see that it’s crammed full of envelopes, packages, and junk mail, then it’s safe to assume you’re on vacation. Arrange for a friend or neighbor to get your mail, too.
6. No Lights in the Evenings
It may be a well-known trick, but burglars are still scared off by it. If a burglar sees light from a lamp or TV in your windows, chances are he is going to play it safe and assume someone is home. This makes for a simple way to decrease the odds of your home being robbed. Consider getting a TV light simulator.
On the other hand, if your TV and lights stay on late into the night, burglars will realize it’s just a trick to scare them off. Few people are still up at 3 or 4 in the morning, so if you want to deter burglars with lights and a TV light simulator at night, make sure they’re on a timer.
7. Predictable Schedule
Sometimes, burglars will watch a house for days trying to pin down the occupant’s schedule so they’ll know exactly when no one is home. If your house is empty from 8 am to 5 pm every day, they’re going to pick up on that immediately. The fact that most people work during the day is why most burglaries happen in broad daylight.
If possible, try to vary your schedule from time to time. If a burglar is unable to predict when you’ll be home, they are a lot less likely to target your house. But if you can’t change your schedule because of work, then it’s all the more reason to get a dog, a home security system, or make friends with neighbors who can keep an eye on your house when you’re gone.
8. Convenient Location
Burglars like to target houses on corners, next to alleys, or at the end of a street where there’s only a neighbor on one side. This makes it easier for them to prowl around without being spotted. Any home with entranceways that can’t easily be seen from the road is an easy target.
They also like houses next to busy roads because, if necessary, they can quickly hop into their vehicle and disappear into the traffic.
Obviously, you can’t just move your house, but this is something you should be aware of. If your home is in a spot that is convenient for burglars, it’s all the more important that you have home security measures in place.
9. Few or No Outside Lights
A house with few lights is even more attractive to burglars. All they have to do is dress in black and hide in the shadows if someone drives by. Get some solar powered motion sensor lights and place them around your house so there’s nowhere to hide.
The burglar will know they’re motion sensor lights, but the feeling of being exposed will probably make him leave.
10. Lots of Bushes / Tall Grass
Even if you do have lights outside your house, it will still be an ideal place to break in if there are lots of bushes and small trees because these things give burglars lots of cover. Crouched behind a bush, a burglar can take his time trying to open a window because no one will see him.
Even if you don’t have any bushes in your hard, make sure you keep the lawn mowed. If a burglar sees that you don’t care about mowing the lawn, then he’ll figure you’re probably a lazy person who didn’t bother setting up a home security system either. Or he might think you’re on vacation.
11. Privacy Fences
Privacy fences are a good deterrent, but only if they’re very high, like 8 feet or more. Otherwise, they just provide the burglar with more cover. A shorter fence is easy to climb over, and it allows the burglar time to search for a way inside without being spotted by neighbors or by people driving by.
So if you have a high fence, make sure it’s one that is difficult, if not impossible, to climb. Get rid of trees or anything that could help the burglar climb over, and grow some thorny vines such as catbriar on the fence.
12. Unlocked Doors and Windows
This is a big one. Believe it or not, the most common point of entry for burglars is the front door. Once a burglar is certain no one is home, he’ll simply check all the doors and windows to see if they’re open.
Most people remember to lock their doors, but when is the last time you checked to make sure your windows are locked? Did you open a window for a summer breeze, close it, and forget to latch it? Has it been open this whole time? (This is why the number of break-ins via windows goes up in the summer.) If you aren’t sure, go check.
13. Open Garage Doors
In my neighborhood, some people have a bad habit of leaving their garage doors open all the time. I don’t know why they do this, as it gives burglars a chance to run inside, grab some expensive tools, and take off without anyone noticing.
Even more common are people who close their garage door but leave the door leading from the garage to the house unlocked. Burglars know this, so they’ll often try to get the garage door open in hopes that the inner door is unlocked.
By the way, if you have a roll-up garage door, you should know that it is very easy to open from the outside. All a burglar needs is a coat hanger to pull the cord on the safety release, unlock the door, and roll it up by hand. To prevent this, use your garage door’s sliding latch lock if it has one, disable the safety release, or remove the cord from it.
14. Unlocked Second Story Windows
If you feel it is safe to leave your second story windows and doors unlocked, think again. A single ladder or a little bit of climbing skills is all it takes for a burglar to access to these entry points. This is why you should lock all doors and windows no matter where they are.
15. Window Air Conditioning Units
Most people never consider this, but it’s very easy to kick in an A/C unit and crawl inside a house. If you’re going to be away for a while, bring the unit inside and lock the window.
16. No Security System
Burglars don’t want to admit it, but security systems are great deterrents. Burglars like easy targets, and there are plenty of them to choose from. There’s no need for a burglar to risk breaking into a home that has a security system when there are so many homes without them.
17. Being a Loudmouth
This is one of the most important. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 2/3 of burglaries are committed by someone who knows the victim. If you post on Facebook that you and your family are going out of town for the weekend, you’ve just let anyone with internet access know that your home will be unoccupied.
To avoid this, start by tightening up the privacy on your social media accounts so that only your friends are able to see your updates. Even then, you should still avoid posting vacation plans, updates, and pictures until you are back home.
This rule also applies to people who rarely, if ever, use social media. Burglars come from all walks of life and are employed in a variety of jobs, so don’t be chatting it up with complete strangers–or even work associates–about your home, your schedule, or other information a burglar could use.
This is especially true if someone has come to your door saying that are taking a survey or something along those lines, as this is one method that burglars often use to gather information about a home and its occupants.
Sorry if this post made you paranoid and crushed your Christmas spirit. Just know that if you follow the advice above, it is very unlikely your home will be robbed. This article shouldn’t make you nervous. Rather, once you take this advice, you can have peace of mind this holiday season.