It is that time of year when many of us travel over the river and through the woods, (well, probably more like down the highway or to the airport), for family vacations and visiting friends.
Getting ready to travel is essential, but making sure your home is safe while you travel is equally important.
I offer a few ideas to ensure your house is safe when traveling:
Lighting - To give the appearance someone is home, install a timer that operates interior lights at times you would normally be home. It is also a good idea to use motion-sensing lights on the exterior.
Mail - If you are going away for a week or more, stop your mail delivery. You can stop your mail online at the United States Postal Service Web site. You will also want to stop delivery or have someone pick up your newspapers while you are away.
Outside - Make sure your yard work is done before leaving on vacation. If there is a chance for snow, have someone shovel your sidewalk. Cut grass if you live in a warm climate. If you are going to be away more than two weeks, consider hiring a lawn service or asking a friend to mow the grass.
Security - Before leaving, make sure all door and window locks are in good working order and locked. A broomstick or dowel in the track will add security to sliding doors. It is also a good idea to keep windows covered and keep expensive items like jewelry and electronics, out of sight. If your house has a security system, turn it on when you walk out the door. If your alarm system is monitored, make sure your contact phone number is up to date.
Here are 21 things a burglar will not tell you:
- Of course, I look familiar. I was here just last week cleaning your carpets, painting your shutters, or delivering your new refrigerator.
- Hey, thanks for letting me use the bathroom when I was working in your yard last week. While I was in there, I unlatched the back window to make my return a little easier.
- Love those flowers. That tells me you have taste… and taste means there are nice things inside. Those yard toys your kids leave out always make me wonder what type of gaming system they have.
- Yes, I really do look for newspapers piled up on the driveway. In addition, I might leave a pizza flyer in your front door to see how long it takes you to remove it.
- If it snows while you are out of town, get a neighbor to create car and foot tracks into the house. Virgin drifts in the driveway are a dead giveaway.
- If decorative glass is part of your front entrance, do not let your alarm company install the control pad where I can see if it is set. That makes it too easy.
- A good security company alarms the window over the sink and the windows on the second floor, which often access the master bedroom – and your jewelry. It is not a bad idea to put motion detectors up there too.
- It is raining, you are fumbling with your umbrella, and you forget to lock your door – understandable. Understand this: I do not take a day off because of bad weather.
- I always knock first. If you answer, I will ask for directions somewhere or offer to clean your gutters. (Do not take me up on it.)
- Do you really think I will not look in your sock drawer? I always check dresser drawers, the bedside table, and the medicine cabinet.
- Here is a helpful hint: I almost never go into kids’ rooms.
- You are right: I will not have enough time to break into that safe where you keep your valuables. If it is not bolted down, I will take it with me.
- A loud TV or radio can be a better deterrent than the best alarm system. If you are reluctant to leave your TV on while you are out of town, you can buy a $35 device that works on a timer and simulates the flickering glow of a real television.
- Sometimes, I carry a clipboard. Sometimes, I dress like a lawn guy and carry a rake. I do my best to never, ever look like a crook.
- The two things I hate most: loud dogs and nosy neighbors.
- I will break a window to get in, even if it makes a little noise. If your neighbor hears one loud sound, he will stop what he is doing and wait to hear it again. If he does not hear it again, he will just go back to what he was doing. It is human nature.
- Why would you pay all that money for a fancy alarm system and not set it before you leave?
- I love looking in your windows. I am looking for signs that you are home, and for flat screen TVs or gaming systems I would like. I will drive or walk through your neighborhood at night, before you close the blinds, just to pick my targets.
- Avoid announcing your vacation on your Facebook page. It is easier than you think to look up your address.
- To you, leaving that window open just a crack during the day is a way to let in a little fresh air. To me, it is an invitation.
- If you do not answer when I knock, I try the door. Occasionally, I hit the jackpot and walk right in.
With riding season right around the corner, please take time to ensure your home is safe. Most criminals who burglarize homes are looking for an easy hit; a house they can break into quickly, take something of value, and leave without being detected. Yes, there are professional burglars who can gain entry into almost any home if they want; however, most criminals who break into homes are opportunists who got lucky with an open widow or unlocked door. There is no fail-proof way to keep out a burglar, but every little bit of deterrence helps. Even if you cannot afford a security system, you can take a few minutes to make your home a little safer and decrease the odds of a break-in, which means you can enjoy a bit more peace of mind.