Vacation in peace: Deter home break-ins with these steps

Staff Report

Taking a vacation? It will be sweeter without the worry of a home break-in while you’re gone.

Homes are burglarized about every 15 seconds, according to the U.S. Dept. of Justice. Nearly eight million property crimes take place annually, with losses of $14.3 billion, the FBI says. Cash, jewelry, electronics, firearms, and medications are ranked as the most-stolen items.

“Making your home look occupied and locking it to make break-ins difficult can go a long way to deter a home burglary,” said Brett Schurter, vice president of insurance at AAA East Central. “Summer vacation plans can turn disastrous back home for travelers who fail to plan for the worst.”

Some simple steps can lower your chance of being hit by burglars:

• Never announce your vacation plans on social media. Turn off settings that display your location online so burglars don’t know you’re away from home. Only share details and photos of your trip after you’ve returned.

• The same goes for your voicemail and automatic email response. Cyber criminals issue mass mailings in hopes of receiving these messages, and cross check them with online directories to find where you live.

• Lock all doors and windows before you leave. Use deadbolts, steel dowel rods, and locking pins in sliding glass doors and windows to keep them from being pried open.

• If possible, install a monitored alarm system in your home. Make sure your home insurance is up to date and provides adequate coverage if you own luxury goods, jewelry, and electronics.

• Use automatic timers with inside lamps and a radio. Set them to come on at random times. Remember, keeping your lights on during the daytime is a dead giveaway that you are not at home.

• Look through your windows and see what valuables are visible. If you can see any special possessions, move them out of clear sight.

• Keep the exterior of your home and yard well lit with low-wattage outdoor lighting. Consider installing flood lights and motion detectors.

• Have your lawn mowed while you’re on vacation to keep up the appearance of being home. Also, trim your front entrance bushes, including near windows, to give a burglar less cover in which to hide.

• Close and lock the garage door. Side garage doors should be solid, without any glass, and equipped with a strong deadbolt. Remove the garage door opener from any car parked outside. Also, remove spare keys from outside your home.

• Stop deliveries, mail, and newspapers, or ask a trustworthy neighbor or friend to pick them up. Don’t let mail, including bank statements and credit card offers, sit in the mailbox to advertise you’re away.

• Keep some blinds up and curtains open to keep up normal appearances. Put away personal documents and place critical documents in a safety deposit box or leave them with a relative. Hide expensive jewelry or place in a bank safety deposit box.

• Keep a detailed inventory of your valuable possessions, including a description of the items, date of purchase, and original value, and serial numbers and keep a copy in a safe place away from home.

• If you’re not on vacation, report suspicious activity in your neighborhood to help protect yourself and your neighbors.

Staff Report