Understanding home security is the first step in making your home and your life more safe and secure. Unfortunately, it seems that there are a number of very common mistakes that people make relative to home security that hinder far more than they help. Very sadly, these can be the very things that allow easy access to your home for that eager burglar or criminal. Learn about the most common mistakes in home security, and make sure that you’re not making them.
Crimes involving home invasion are crimes of opportunity. Too often, it is the residents of the home that create that opportunity, albeit unwittingly. Things you may never have even considered can create prime opportunities for criminals. Many of these owner/occupant-created opportunities may actually be things that you are doing that you think are helping to protect you and yours, while in fact they are making life easier for robbers and invaders.
Pretty and Perilous
One common mistake that homeowners make is to take an “inside only” view of home security. However, security starts outside the home. In fact, in many ways the outside security factors and contributors are of more importance than internal security features—because what is outside the home is what helps a burglar to choose its target and gain entrance into it.
Too often homeowners create beautiful landscapes and bushes and use them to create pretty and private homes and gardens. What this does in the meantime is creates an ideal target for a home invader because they, too, can capitalize on that privacy. There is a definite limit to the value of privacy in this case, and so you want to think about how your landscaping could be contributing to the insecurity of your home. It’s not that you cannot enjoy any privacy or beauty in your landscaped yard and garden, but there are definite ways to do this that increase the security of that privacy and beauty.
Everyone knows that if you want your home to be as safe as it can be you should be locking your doors on a regular basis. This means locking those doors every time you leave, and possibly/probably while you are home as well (although there may be some debate on this latter point depending on your situation and location). One mistake that people make is taking it for granted that homes don’t always need to be locked whenever they leave. Even running downtown for a few minutes is call to lock the place up, but often people think there is no danger if they’ll only be gone for a few minutes; it only takes a few minutes for a crime to occur, though.
The other mistake that people make is hiding a key in a “secret” location just in case some household member forgets their key. Criminals are not unintelligent people, and they are masters at ferreting out your “hidden” key. They know all the most common hiding places and it is very difficult to come up with one that is undetectable. Not only that, but it’s easy for a criminal who is scouting your house to watch you or a child go to your hiding place and find the key, and note that information for future reference.
Another mistake is handing out keys to your home or residence, even if you are giving that key to friends or neighbors whom you trust. First of all, just because that person may be trustworthy does not mean that everyone who comes through their home will be. Secondly, it’s too easy to wind up with multiple copies of your house key floating about and to lose track of them; you should always know exactly where all of your keys are. A friend is not as likely to treat your “spare” key with as much importance as you would, and could very easily accidentally let it become misplaced or stolen.
If you use services such as valet parking where others will be entrusted with your vehicle keys, you should keep a separate ring with you with your home’s keys on it. Just think how simple it would be for a valet to slip a few promising keys from your ring and look up your home address on a registration or slip inside your car! Really, is it that difficult to make an educated guess as to which keys are likely to open a house door? Or take a few minutes to make a copy of the keys on your ring?
On that note, one final key mistake that makes life easy for invaders is to leave your keys in your car; that is inviting trouble all by itself, but can also give that criminal access to your home as well as your vehicle in the process.
Lock It Up!
It’s very easy for homeowners to think of only the primary structure (the house or apartment) when thinking home safety. Garages and storage sheds where items of less importance are stored are often considered an expendable risk that isn’t worth the time to secure. Not only does this leave you open to losing anything of value that is in there (and many small things of small value can really add up!), but it also puts the very tools a burglar might need right at their fingertips, onsite—no hassle, easy picking and easy entry. Those greasy tools might seem like items of little value, but they could be extremely valuable to an invader, and in fact may be the very tools of entry that they’ve been looking for! Many a homeowner has had his or her home broken into by the hand of their very own tools and accessories.
If It’s Broken, Fix It!!
You would be surprised to know how many crimes occur in homes just because the home or shed was not locked, or the locks were not maintained. It’s very easy to put off fixing a broken lock until you have more time to deal with it—after all, don’t things always break at the worst possible times? But this is a very bad idea. There’s no telling when a criminal will be making his or her rounds, and it could just as coincidentally be the day your broken or flimsy lock left your door wide open.
Leaving a lock unfixed—and this includes any lock, including door, window, sliding door, vent screen, or other access point—is equivalent to leaving the door unlocked. It could actually be worse, because broken locks often prevent a door from closing properly and your door or window could easy be blown or swing open after you leave, which not only makes entry easy, but advertises the fact that the entrance is not secured. Also never grant yourself a sense of false security by thinking that second- or third-story entrances don’t matter; if it’s easily accessible, a criminal will find a way to capitalize the opportunity. Naturally, the very same advice goes for mal-functioning or broken home security alarms and devices.
Turn It On
It does take a few extra minutes of your time to activate your home security system or burglar alarm. When you are running out the door in a rush or just running out to run a few errands, it can feel like an unnecessary chore. Many home invasions occur just because the alarm that could have prevented them was not turned on. For absolute sure, the time and money you lose to a home invasion will be far greater than the few extra seconds it takes you to activate that alarm! Besides that, you’ve got it, you’ve paid for it, how silly not to use it!
You’re So Predictable
This is a tough one to overcome because we all live very scheduled lives. However, when you always leave and return at the same times it’s easy for a scouting criminal to learn the times of day that are safe for invading your home. To whatever extent possible, it’s a good idea to mix up your schedule and vary it a bit. This may mean going to the gym on different days or at slightly different times, or leaving for work at different times of the day (maybe slip in an errand first or last here and there?) so that the times that you come and go are not quite so exacting. As humans we tend to thrive on routine, but so too do burglars!
Without even trying, you may be showing off your valuables for all the world to see, announcing that yours is a home of interest packed with the good stuff. It’s understandable to be proud of what you have, but you should consider making it a little less obvious to the outside world who you don’t want to see what you own!
For example, don’t leave money or valuables like keys, wallets, credit cards, jewelry, purses, and so on in places where they can be easily seen or grabbed from a window or door—even if you are home! Also, consider your décor and inside arrangement—is it easy for peeping Tom’s to see that you are the proud owner of the newest computer or big-screen TV? Perhaps there is a better placement for your valuables or a way (blinds, shutters, drapery….) to obscure the view. Robbers will often “case” or inspect a house to figure out which is worth their time and risk. If yours is a sure bet because all your great stuff is in plain view, you can be sure that you will be on the list, and he or she will find a way to get inside!
You also need to be aware that what you throw out can be just as informative. When you make major purchases (such as that big-screen TV), don’t announce it to the world by leaving out huge flashy boxes on the curb. Instead, break them down and put them into trash bags so it’s less obvious what’s inside.
If it seems like there is no way to win against crime, don’t lose hope. The point is to make you aware of the simple things that people take for granted, that could easily be changed and protect them and their homes more easily. Criminals win when we live in fear. They lose when we know their tricks and preempt their challenges. Relax, get educated, and learn how to protect yourself, so that you are not the target of choice.