- Don’t leave ladders outside. Keep any tools that could be used to break into your home safely locked away in a garage or shed.
- Plant thorny bushes under all windows.
- Invest in a good security system and use it regularly.
- Get a barking dog or “beware of dog” sign. Place a huge dog bowl on the side of your patio.
- Secure proper personal protection and training. Consider placing a can of wasp and hornet spray in one or more strategic locations. According to news reports, it is more powerful than police mace, spraying 20 to 25 feet and temporarily blinding an intruder.
- Because light is a great deterrent, report any nearby malfunctioning streetlights directly to TECO. You may use their Lights Out form (available at http://www.tampaelectric.com) or call (813) 223-0800. You’ll be asked to provide the pole number (posted on each pole) and the pole’s physical address.
- Install out-of-reach motion-sensor flood lights around the perimeter of your home.
- Avoid placing valuables where they can be seen from the window, especially items that can be easily carried.
- Avoid keeping large amounts of cash and valuable jewelry around the house.
- Make a list of all valuables in and around your home such as stereos, high-end bicycles, computers, televisions, cellular phones, and video cameras. The list should include brand, model, serial number, description, and approximate value. Be sure to keep this list in a secure location and provide a marked copy to law enforcement in case of a burglary or theft.
In 2012, the national clearance rate for burglary was only 12.4%. In other words, very few of these crimes are solved and very few items returned. These steps can, however, significantly change the odds in your favor.
Law enforcement has access to a nationwide online database that pawn shops use to enter serial numbers for all incoming merchandise. If a match is found, you significantly increase the odds of catching the thief and having your items returned. (Even if no match is found, this list may still come in handy with your insurance company.)
Use an engraving pen to engrave an Owner Applied Number (OAN) on other valuable items without serial numbers. Apply clear nail polish over the engraving. According to experts, criminals typically avoid visibly marked property items because they are easily identifiable and therefore hard to sell. A driver’s license number makes a good OAN; never use your social security number.
Remaining items that cannot be marked with an OAN, such as jewelry, antiques, or collectibles, should be documented in detail. Include size, weight, karat, description, and photographs that clearly display the owner’s identification.
- Keep your front door locked at all times. Most burglars enter homes through the front door and during daylight hours.
- Don’t open the door for strangers or invite them into your home.
- Invest in heavy, solid core metal, fiberglass, or wood doors and good quality deadbolts (e.g., separate from the spring latch, grade 1 or 2, solid metal, no exposed screws on the exterior, a throw bolt that extends at least 1 inch, Schlage or Medeco brands since they are the only two bump-key-proof brands according to HCSO).
- Install wide-angle viewers in peepholes. Peephole covers are also good since they prevent possible intruders from using a reverse peephole viewer to look into your home.
- Consider setting doors so they swing out in order to better withstand attempts at forced entry.
- Install flush lever bolts at the top and bottom of double doors. Make sure the bolts are long, sturdy, and mounted into a solid door frame.
- Many homes have doors which open to the outside, exposing the hinge pins. No matter how good your lock is, the burglar can remove the pins and lift the door from the frame. To prevent this, remove two opposing center screws from each leaf of the hinge. Screw a long lag bolt into the frame side of the hinge leaf and saw off the head leaving about 1/2 inch protruding. Drill out the opposite hole to allow the bolt to enter when the door is closed. Do this to the top and bottom hinge plates. The hinge pins can now be removed by the burglar but the door will remain firmly in place. This technique is good for any door, no matter how the hinges have been placed.
- Secure the actual hinges to the frame with three-inch screws.
- Replace flimsy strike plates with heavy-duty metal security strike plates secured by four three-inch screws. (The strike plate is the metal plate surrounding the hole the bolt enters in the door frame.)
- For maximum protection, avoid doors with glass panels or ensure the glass panes are at least 40″ away from the deadbolt. Otherwise, burglars may break the panes and then reach in to unlock the door from the outside. Some homeowners may use double key deadbolt locks in these instances although these doors can become a hazard in a fire and the key, therefore, should be kept in the interior locks whenever a person is in the home.
- Take precautions to help secure sliding glass doors and windows. Screws installed in the track above the sliding door/window frame will prevent the door/window from being lifted and pried out of the track. Drill a pilot hole in the top track above and slightly in from each corner of the sliding door/window frame. Install a screw into each hole. Adjust the screws so that the head of the screw just barely clears the frame when it is moved back and forth. A thick aluminum rod or wooden dowel laid in the bottom track can also help. (Avoid steel, as it can be lifted with strong magnets).
- Secure all remaining windows. Place the latch on casement windows in a closed position and make sure the panes have a tight seal. Then drill a small hole through the latch frame and handle. Insert a metal pin through the hole or a key-operated replacement latch (available from a locksmith and at most hardware stores). If you use a key, keep it handy in case of emergency.
Secure double-hung windows using the “pin” trick. Drill an angled hole through the top frame of the lower window and partially into the frame of the upper window. Then insert a pin (e.g., a nail, an eyebolt) into the hole. The window can’t be opened until you remove the pin. Make a second set of holes with windows partially open so you can have ventilation without inviting intruders. You may also purchase special key locks for windows at a hardware store.
- Whenever you leave your home, lock all doors and take the key with you, even if you are just stepping next door.
- Avoid the temptation of placing a spare key under the door mat, in a light, or under a flower pot. Thieves know all the good hiding places. If you must leave a key, consider leaving a copy with a neighbor or properly install a quality lock-box out of sight.
- Keep your garage door closed when unattended. An open garage offers another means of entry, showcases items to steal, and broadcasts your absence when you are away from home.
- Because garage doors are notoriously easy to enter, securely lock the door between your garage and your home.
- Forgo the convenience of leaving a garage door opener in your vehicle. Consider purchasing an opener that goes with you on your key chain instead. (They may be found online at Amazon, Brookstone, Sears and other retail stores.)
- Always double check doors at night and lock all windows.
- Install a fence to your backyard and keep the gate locked.
- Keep doors and windows in full view. Keep tall hedges, trees, and larger vehicles (like RVs) parked in circular driveways and in front of homes in mind. They provide excellent cover for burglars.
Sources: Florida Attorney General’s Office; “Crime Prevention Starts with You” presented by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and Tampa Police Department at the Hillsborough County Neighborhood Conference (May 2015)