If you wanted to, you could build a panic room for protection from robbers or kidnappers. But what about protecting your belongings when you’re not home? Perhaps you really don’t want to install an alarm system — or maybe you do. Either way, here are some no-cost and low-cost tricks to make your protection more complete, and help keep your belongings away from thieves.
Begin with the landscaping, which is the first thing a burglar sees and the first thing he will assess. To make it harder for a burglar to hide and gain entry:
- Prune lower limbs from any big trees.
- Trim bushes so a man could not use one for cover.
- Move any decorative trellises away from windows or porch roofs so they cannot be climbed for second-floor access.
- Consider planting thorny bushes below first-floor windows, and be sure they are close enough to the house so that an adult could not wedge behind one to jimmy a window without getting scratched up.
- Remove any trees or bushes beside exterior doors. They can hide a burglar from passing cars and they can also hide intruders from your sight when you answer the door.
- Make sure all ladders and tools are secure inside the house, not inside a garden shed.
- If your yard is dim at night, install the brightest, biggest lights you can afford for all entries to your house. Use them. Turn them on when you leave the house at night; set up motion detectors to turn them on when you are away.
Inside the Home
Windows generally provide easier access for criminals than doors. Here are some window tactics:
- Buy special window locks at your hardware store for all first-floor windows and any second-floor windows accessible from a porch or garage roof. DO NOT hang the keys on clever little hooks or nails beside the window. Crooks know that one and will simply break a pane and reach around until they find the key. (But be sure the whole family knows where the keys are in case of emergency.)
- Don’t demonstrate the easiest window to enter by climbing in it. If a family member regularly forgets his or her key, consider leaving keys with a trustworthy neighbor for emergency use. DON’T CLIMB IN THE WINDOW EVER. Even amateur burglars can figure that one out, especially if they’ve seen you do it and figure the neighbors won’t notice.
- For sliding windows, use the same techniques as for sliding doors, below.
Some burglars like to enter like a guest, through the door. Here are some ways to discourage that sort of burglar:
- Make every entry door solid core wood or metal; hollow-core doors are easily kicked in. The door should fit the frame snugly, with no more than 1/8 inch between door and jamb. If the gap is larger, replace the door, or install a heavy-gauge metal strip available at the hardware store.
- Replace doors with decorative glass windows or panels. If that’s too expensive, install break-resistant plastic panes, or install a decorative grille over the glass.
- It’s unlikely, but if an entry door has hinges on the outside, rehang it with hinges inside. If that’s impossible, reinstall it with pinless hinges. Burglars can pop pins and take off the door to enter.
- Make sure locks on all sliding glass doors are sturdy. Then use a solid stick of wood or broom handle in the track of the closed door.
- Adjust door rollers so the door cannot be lifted out of its track.
A Few More Hints
- Close your garage door when you’re away, whether or not it also leads into the house. An empty garage equals “no one’s home.” Cover garage windows completely with shades or curtains so no one will know if there’s a car in there or not.
- Don’t leave notes on entries; if you were home, you wouldn’t leave a note. Not even for FedEx.
- Don’t hide keys in the yard; burglars know all the usual places, even those cute little garden toads with hollow bellies.