Preventing Break Ins- Home Security While on Vacation

Don’t advertise to the world that you are away from home when you go on vacation.

Status Quo vs. Out of the ordinary

Thieves cruising for an easy home shopping trip look for the obvious signs that you are away from home. If you take some simple precautions, you can keep the fact that you are gone, a family

Leaving the porch lights OFF!

Don’t deviate from your normal patterns. Usually when people are at home, their porch light is off and the interior lights are on. The only time your porch lights are on is when you are waiting for someone to get home.

Therefore, when people leave all the lights off inside their house, and leave only the porch light on outside their house, it is a Day-Glo bright, neon-light announcement to burglars in your neighborhood that you are away from home.

It’s true, having been in the security alarm installation business for over 10 years, we found that although thieves and burglars are lazy, (they don’t want to work for a living, they would rather steal your things than work to earn their own), they’re not stupid.

When going away, leave your porch lights off, and get a timer that you can plug into your front room lights. The timers are inexpensive and easy to use, just set the lights to turn on automatically in the evening and off at the time you usually retire.

This gives the appearance that you are home and watching TV, or going abut your regular schedule. This is also a nice touch, when you come home from a hard day of work, the light is on to greet you, rather than an empty dark house. There is a great deal of security in being able to walk into a well lit room.

Outside security lighting

Outside your home, post security lights (lights that have a motion detector in them), they only go on if they sense motion. This way, your yard or driveway is lit when you get home, if there are any people walking around your house you will know because the security lights will automatically go on. If you choose solar powered security lights, you don’t need to run wires to the device.

House Care

If you have a house sitter, leave instructions on plant care and watering, but don’t forget to have them bring in the mail, and newspapers from the yard.

Nothing says “We’re Gone” like newspapers piling up that are usually taken in on a daily basis. Same thing with mail overflowing out of the mailbox, and this can also lead to mail theft, so make sure someone is bringing it in every day or so. If you want to stop mail service for vacations, the post office usually needs a week or two notice, so plan ahead if you wish to temporarily stop mail service at your house while away.

Don’t forget to have the house sitter take out your trash cans on the appropriate day, and especially to retrieve them from the curb. The presence of trash cans on the curb after pick up day is also a clear notice that you aren’t at home.

If you do not have someone to house sit, put your sprinklers on automatic timing so your yard doesn’t dry up. When otherwise well tended yards begin to turn brown, even to the casual observer, it is obvious that you are not at home.

Tricks of the Trade

There’s a code among thieves, but it certainly IS NOT one of honor. The code insures that while they are incarcerated, they pass along the tricks on how to get past a security alarm system and other home security devices. So, to level the playing field, let me teach you some tricks of their trade.

First of all, don’t give them easy access.

Most residential burglaries are not break-ins at all, but rather, instances when the residents left a door or window unlocked. Believe it or not, if you will keep the main entry doors, both front and back, locked and the windows that are accessible from the ground floor, locked, you’ll be assured that most of the burglars will pass by your house.

As I said they’re lazy, they’re not stupid. If you leave a ladder leaning up against your house, it is a clear invitation to burglars to access the second story window, so remember to put away ladders, scaffolding and other building components that may be used to climb into the second-floor windows.

Burglar alarm systems

The Local Alarm: noisy and ineffective

There are two types of burglar alarm systems. One is called a local alarm system and it does not ring through to a central station monitoring company, who will then call the police if a dispatch is necessary. It merely makes a lot of noise. This type of alarm system is supposed to scare the burglar off without costing you money to pay to monitor the system. The problem is, the burglars know this. How? Because the central station monitoring company must first call the customer, to make sure the alarm is not a false alarm. (False alarms are the one big problem the security industry faces.)

When a burglar hears the alarm siren, if the phone does not ring (the Central Station calling the resident), they know it’s a local alarm, and that the police aren’t coming.

They take their time, make a sandwich, maybe grab a shower, then haul off all your stuff.

The Monitored Security System: What it does and does not do for you

These systems are connected via phone line, to the central station (CS) whose computer’s are being watched or “monitored” by people round-the-clock. The job of the CS operator, in the event that the system is indicating an unauthorized break in, is to contact the residents first, then a list of responsible parties. Responsible parties are people who have the keys and the entry code to the system, so they can go disarm it and reset the alarm, if the break in should be real.

If the CS operator doesn’t get an answer at the residence or RP list, they dispatch the police, who then go to your house. The burglar knows that if the alarm siren sounds, then the phone rings within the next two minutes, they know the police are on the way.

A smart thief will also know the approximate “response time” of the police in your city. It can take from 15 minutes to four hours to never, depending on how busy the police are at the time of the call. The thief may still have time to get the easy to hawk items, like TV’s, VCRs, leather coats, jewelry and watches.

The best of all possible worlds, especially with the high incidence of false alarm problems the police have with residential burglaries, is to have a monitored system with a company that offers patrol service with their monitoring package. The patrol system offers unarmed security response teams who can verify a real break-in and then call the police, so there are no false alarm charges brought against the home owner.

Home Grown Security-Tips for Do-it-Yourself-ers

Securing your windows

You can buy screw down security window locks at home-improvement stores like Home Depot, if you have aluminum or metal frame windows. These are easy to install, relatively inexpensive and keep the window from being opened beyond a certain point.

Barring that solution, you can cut dowel rods to the length that you want to leave your window open or vented. Leave the dowel in the window frame track, this will allow your windows to be open for air, without allowing them to be open far enough to climb through.

Foliage to protect your home

Rose bushes or cactus, flowering bougainvillea or other flowering foliage with stickers can be grown near ground floor, easily-accessible windows. This makes it highly unappealing for a burglar to use that entry point,. They don’t want to injure themselves while they are helping themselves to your TV and VCR.

Make friends with your nosy neighbors!

If you have neighbors who are retired, and love to watch the goings on in the neighborhood, you may have a built-in security guard. Give them your cell phone number, and ask them to call you if they hear or see suspicious activity around your house while you are gone.

Or you can start a neighborhood watch group in your neighborhood. The added presence of the police cruisers, and more awareness on the part of your neighbors, creates a more secure environment.

Six-foot fences

If you build a six foot fence around the perimeter of your house, it will deter many burglars from entering the property. I guarantee you, most burglars will not carry their loot over a six foot fence.

Scare Tactics

Post a “Beware of Dog” sign, even if you don’t own a dog. You’d be surprised how many thieves are afraid of guard dogs.

Effective security takes time, but it’s worth the effort.

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