Most people think of burglars as professional thieves able to thwart all security systems with the sophisticated black bag of tools when normally they are just opportunists, looking for a weak point in the system.

While it is important to remember no home or property is completely safe from burglary, there are ways you can make your home and neighborhood less inviting to a criminal. Keeping your valuables secure starts with you and your immediate surroundings. If it is known that you have large amounts of cash, jewelry or other expensive items, the steps you take to protect these may need to be more detailed than most. But for the majority of homeowners, taking basic precautionary steps to make you home a harder target than the rest is all that is needed to have a would-be bad guy pass you by.

Start with the exterior or curb appeal of your home; does it look attractive to a criminal? A well-maintained exterior indicates you are home and active. Don’t let newspapers of mail stack up, and keep bushes well-trimmed. Criminals like to work without being seen so lighting is a way to deter suspicious activity and show off your beautiful home. Thorny holly bushes or cactus are a great deterrent. If a thief knows you are not home and can get close to your house without being seen or detected, the better they like it. Privacy and anonymity are a criminal’s best tools; don’t let them use your unkempt landscaping against you.

Next, think about the home itself; is it easily accessible? Over 32% of all burglaries are from non-forced entry, they just entered through an open door or window. Having the dead-bolt locks and solid-core doors are no good at all if the burglar can just turn the handle and walk right in. Remind family members to lock all doors and windows, and remember to keep the garage door closed. Also, don’t leave tools or ladders lying outside where they can be used to enter the home. Alarms are another great preventative measure that must be used and maintained in order to work. Many are now equipped to support many “extras” that may not be necessary. If nothing else, make the siren loud enough to be heard inside and out.

Most burglaries happen in highly populated areas where people are consumed in their own world and not paying attention or ignoring what is going on around them. Develop a relationship with the police department, start a neighborhood watch program, and at a minimum get to know the people around you. Be a good neighbor and watch out for each other. If you see something that looks out of place or abnormal, report it. If it’s an honest mistake, honest people won’t mind and will be glad to know someone is watching.

And finally, mark and/or photograph all valuables so that if they’re ever stoles the police can quickly identify and return your property.

Published: Community Association Living 3Q 2012