Knowing about an intruder's three worst enemies -- light, time and noise -- can help you protect your home from crime. An intruder won't find your home an "easy mark" if he's forced to work in the light, if he has to take a lot of time breaking in and if he can't work quietly.
Take the time to "case" your house or apartment just as an intruder would. Here are a few questions to get you started:
Where is the easiest entry? How can you make it more burglar resistant?
Trim trees and shrubs near your doors and windows and think carefully before installing a high, wooden fence around your back yard. High fences and shrubbery can add to your privacy, but privacy is an intruder's asset. Consider trading a little extra privacy for a bit of added security. Force any would-be intruder to confront a real enemy -- light. Exterior lights mounted out of easy reach can reduce the darkness an intruder finds comforting.
How can you slow burglars down? Time is a burglar's enemy, too. A burglar delayed for four or five minutes is apt to give up and try for another, less difficult location. Simple security devices including such ordinary equipment as nails, screws, padlocks, door and window locks, grates, bars and bolts can discourage intruders and keep them from entering.
How about noise? Try to make the general prospect of robbing your home a noisy job. Noise is the important third enemy of the burglar. Many types of alarm systems are available with detectors to be mounted on doors and windows. Deciding how much home protection you need and can afford is a personal judgment. Ask your police department or sheriff to have someone survey your home and advise you about suitable protection.
Are any of your valuables such as a painting, a silver collection or an antique chair easy to see from outside? Rearranging your furnishings might be advisable if it serves to make your home less inviting to criminals! Incidentally, should you ever need to report a burglary or file an insurance claim a household inventory - a listing of your furniture and major personal belongings - could be a valuable document.
Reducing the risk of break-ins is simply a matter of making your home less inviting to burglars than other homes in the neighborhood. It's up to you.
Doors. Outside doors should be metal or solid hardwood and at least 1-3/4 inches thick. Frames must be made of equally strong material and each door must fit its frame securely. Remember, even the most efficient lock will not keep out a determined burglar if it is placed in a weak door. A peephole or a wide-angle viewer in the door is safer for identifying visitors than a door chain. Sliding glass doors present a special problem because they are easy to open, but there are locks designed for them. A broomstick in the door channel can help, but don't depend on it for security.
Locks. Deadbolt locks are best.
Windows. Key locks are available for all types of windows. Double-hung windows can be secured simply by "pinning" the upper and lower frames together with a nail that can be removed from the inside. Consider iron grates or grilles for windows at street level. For windows opening onto a fire escape metal accordion gates can be installed on the inside.
Here are some "home security habits" to develop and practice:
Remember special vacation tips. This is a clear giveaway that the owners are not home. When going on vacation leave blinds open in their usual position. Have mail and packages picked up, forwarded or held by the post office. Lower the sound of your telephone bell so it can't be heard outside. Arrange to have your lawn mowed or your walk shoveled. Stop newspaper deliveries. Ask a friend to pick up "throw away" newspapers and circulars. Use automatic timers to turn lights on and off in your living room and bedrooms at appropriate times. Consider connecting a radio to a timer. Tell police and dependable neighbors when you plan to be away and join with your neighbors to keep a close watch on what's happening in your area; working closely with them is a good way to prevent crime.
Confronting a thief in your home is frightening. Follow this advice:
Cooperate and stay as calm as possible should you find yourself face-to-face with a burglar.
Report any losses to your insurance representative promptly and accurately. Don't forget to check your household inventory.