These easy, inexpensive precautions will deter most would-be thieves.
ILLUSTRATION: KAY HOLMES STAFFORD
A former thief shares home security tips to help you secure your home from burglary.
Home Security Tips: The Well-Protected Home
There's no way to absolutely burglar-proof your home, but these easy, inexpensive precautions will deter most would-be thieves.
Don't display your name on your mailbox or door. It could give a thief easy access to your telephone number.
Do keep window-side shrubs trimmed to two or three feet. There's no point in growing easy hiding places near your home.
Do make sure there's sufficient light outside your home, on all sides. Floodlights are the best bet.
Don't simply leave all lights on when you're gone—a dead giveaway. Do invest in a timer to turn on lights, have a neighbor do it at intervals, or leave one light on in the kitchen and one in a room that can't be scanned from outside.
Do either stop delivery of mail and newspapers or have a neighbor pick them up.
Do install a burglar alarm. If you can't afford one, the fake but professional-looking stickers claiming something like "Warning: Protected by Electronic Alarm System" are surprisingly effective. Most burglars want no part of an alarm; there are easier targets all over the place.
Do use a safe or hide valuables in an unlikely place while you're away—perhaps in the bottom of a child's toy chest, since most burglars don't waste time in what's obviously a child's room.
Do be wary of strangers who knock and act as if they have the wrong address; they could be checking to see if anyone is home. Talk to your neighbors. If someone has visited several homes in the area, try to give the police a description of the individual, with whatever additional information (car type, etc.) you may have.
Never purposely confront a burglar. Most will go to great lengths to avoid a confrontation. If you come home and suspect a burglar may be in your home, go to a neighbor's and call the police. If you accidentally walk in on a thief, leave quickly, if possible, and call for help from next door. When confronted, even a normally passive burglar may fly into a frenzy of fear, and even if he's not armed with a gun or knife, a screwdriver can be a formidable weapon. Leave the heroics to the movies. No one's risking his or her life on the big screen.