You know that song “I fought the law, and the law won”? My version goes, “I fought crime, and crime won.” Since I had a brief career in fighting crime, I’d like to put some of that experience to use (finally). Rather than write a sordid crime-thriller screenplay, I’ll put my knowledge of the underbelly of society to use in a much more practical and useful form: 12 cheap and easy home security tips that might help keep you and your property safe:
- Lock All Door & Windows. You’d be amazed how many burglars get into a home through an unlocked door or window. Most thieves are fairly lazy, and much prefer to “enter” rather than “break and enter.” Locking windows and doors applies to second stories too. Despite general laziness, there are some thieves that are surprisingly agile, and very capable of hopping onto your balcony, or otherwise gaining a height advantage to get into your home.
- Provide Good Lighting Outside Your Home. Motion sensing lights are a great way to discourage any nocturnal snoopers. You can find them very inexpensively at any home store. If your exterior lights up like Chevy Chase’s house in Christmas Vacation, you’re on the right track here. Burglars don’t like the spotlight much.
- Don’t Flaunt Your Goods. So you just bought a brand new MacBook Pro, or perhaps an original Rembrandt? Congratulations! But don’t leave either of them visible from easily accessible windows. Tempting thieves with your bling is not a good plan. Plus, you know how those flashy drug dealers driving around in Lamborghinis in the movies always get caught? It’s a similar thing outside the world of crime: if you flaunt your valuables you draw attention to them. Sometimes that attention comes from people interested in stealing your goods. Keep a low profile.
- Simulate You Are Home When You’re Not. There are several ways to do this. Maybe the most common is to leave a radio on loudly in the house. Another more recent invention, is a TV simulator (only useful at night), that makes it look like you’re watching TV via a sneaky flickering light box. Most burglars do not want to interrupt you watching the latest episode of Lost.
- Don’t Let Your Mail Pile Up. If you’re headed out of town, put a vacation hold on your mail for while you’re gone. You can do this very quickly and easily online via the USPS vacation mail hold service. If you get a paper, cancel it and get an ipad instead. OK, getting an ipad is not a cheap solution, but that was more a suggestion for ushering you out of the archaic printing press era, and into the modern digital media age. Newspapers are so 20th century. Getting back to home security, you don’t want mail, papers, flyers, etc. piling up on your porch. Have a friend swing by and tidy those items up as they can be a dead give away the home is unoccupied.
- Ask Your Retired Neighbor To Keep An Eye On Your House While You Are At Work. Bribe them with Sees Candy if you have to. The vast majority of burglaries happen during the day. Most people assume the opposite. This goes back to the concept that intruders are not really interested in meeting up with you inside your home. They’d rather pillage the place in private, while you’re safely away at work.
- Don’t Hide Your Key In An Obvious Place. Whatever you do, don’t leave a key under your back door mat. Do you really want to provide an all-access pass to your local hooligans? I actually think it’s a good idea to have a spare key stashed away for emergencies, but only if you’re really good at hiding it, you make sure no one sees you hide it, and you never access the key unless you absolutely have to.
- Secure Cash, Jewelry And Other Small Valuables. As sweet as your 60″ LCD TV is, most burglars would barely glance at it (unless they’ve backed their van up to your garage or back door). Thieves love cash and jewelry. If you have a big stash of either, typically in a very obvious jewelry box in the bedroom, your burglar will literally thank you as they clean you out. Invest in a good safe and keep your most valuable family heirloom jewels and any cash in there. And if you do use a safe, choose one that securely bolts to the framing of your home. If you just stick a small safe in a drawer, the burglar will simply take the safe with and drill it open after they leave. Oh, and don’t bother hiding stuff in your sock drawer. . . they’ll check there first.
- Don’t Keep Your Garage Door Opener In Your Car If Your Garage Is Connected To Your House. Quietly breaking a car window or jimmying a car door open and hitting the button on the garage door opener is surprisingly easy to do. Plus, with the opener and garage access, the burglar has the opportunity to get a vehicle inside your garage before closing the door and quietly cleaning out your house in total privacy. Either way, keep the door between your house and garage securely locked. Keep in mind, if a burglar gets into your garage and shuts your garage door, they can then very easily break in unnoticed, even if you locked the door to the house.
- Be Extremely Wary Of Door To Door Anything. But not so wary that they don’t know you’re home. Posing as a door-to-door salesperson, utility worker or even evangelist is a very popular way for more sophisticated thieves to either gain entry into your home, or at least case it and/or see if it’s occupied. Don’t ever let anyone into your home that you don’t know and whose identity you haven’t verified with absolute certainty. There are all kinds of scams where one person gets into a house to distract the owner, while an accomplice scurries around and snatches valuables. I recommend a no soliciting sign to weed out most door knockers. For the remainder that still knock, using an intercom or even talking through the door is a good way to let them know you’re home and not interested.
- Secure Your Exterior Doors With Deadbolts. And take advantage of the longer screws provided on good quality bolts (or replace stock screws with 3″-plus versions). You want at least two of the screws for the receiving box of the deadbolt to go through the door jamb and into the rough framing around the door. Assuming you have fairly solid exterior doors, this will help prevent your door from being kicked in, which is easier than you might think on flimsy door setups.
- Pretend You Own Cujo & That You Can Afford An Alarm Service. Getting a “beware of vicious dog” sign for your gates (preferably one that looks like a drooling rabid Cujo) can convince some prowlers to look for greener pastures than yours. Bogus alarm signs & decals can also be a nice deterrent if you don’t have the funds for an actual security service. Putting a bumper sticker that says “Gun Control Means Hitting What You Aim At” somewhere conspicuous can also deter more timid and gun-fight-avoidant thieves.
This list of security tips is by no means comprehensive, but hopefully will prove useful to many of you. If you have any low-cost cheap and easy home security tips of your own, please add them to the comments below. Stay safe!