Saturday, 15 June 2024 02:51

Security experts share the things you should never, ever do to help prevent burglaries

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Whether you’re going on an extended trip or just heading to work for the day, there are things you may (or may not) do when you leave that can actually compromise your home’s safety.

“[Some] actions, or lack thereof, can significantly increase the risk of a burglary by providing information or access to potential intruders,” Gene Petrino, a retired SWAT commander and co-founder of Survival Response LLC, told HuffPost. “By addressing these vulnerabilities, you can regain control and better safeguard your home against unauthorized entry and possible theft.”

From posting real-time location updates on social media to leaving your key under the front door mat, we talked to home security experts about what they don’t do — and what they do instead — to protect their own homes while they’re away.

1. Posting your real-time location on social media

“[I would never post] that I’m going on vacation, out for the night, to a Taylor Swift concert, etc.,” said Rebecca Edwards, safety expert at SafeWise. “Don’t let the world know your every move.”

She referred back to “Bling Ring,” when celebrities posted on social media that they were at an awards show or on vacation, and teens broke into their homes when they knew they’d be empty.  

Posting pictures of your vacation is safer to do once you return home instead of in real-time updates, advised Kirk MacDowell, home security expert at Batten Safe.

“If you’re going out of town and you want to see friends, social media is fine if it’s person-to-person,” he added. “But I really wouldn’t blast out that you’re going away.”

2. Forgetting to lock windows and doors and turn on the alarm system

“It’s shocking how often people do this and the number of burglaries … that take place because the burglar could just walk through the first door,” Edwards said.

While double checking that your front door is shut and locked may seem obvious, it’s also important to secure entry points we don’t think about as much, like second-story or basement windows, according to Petrino.

“Unlocked or open windows, especially those that are hidden from street view, can be easily accessed, allowing intruders a quiet and discreet way into your home,” he said.

If you do have a security system, make sure it’s armed when you leave the house. Also, adding contact sensors to your windows allows you to conveniently double check if they are open through an app on your phone, Edwards noted.

3. Taking the same route every time you leave home

“By maintaining a predictable routine, you allow observant intruders to plan a burglary around your schedule, knowing exactly when you won’t be home,” Petrino explained. 

He tries to change his routes and times when he departs and returns home to prevent potential intruders from identifying his daily schedule.

4. Leaving tools and ladders out

If ladders or tools are out in the open, this can attract burglars, according to Edwards. Not only could burglars be tempted to steal expensive tools, but they could use them to break into your home. 

Since people often forget to lock their second-floor windows, someone could use a ladder to climb through a top-floor entrance, MacDowell explained. If you do keep ladders outside your home, make sure they are locked up and not easily accessible. 

5. Keeping the porch light on during the day

“If you don’t normally have the porch light on all day and night, suddenly having it illuminated nonstop is a sign that the home may be unoccupied,” Edwards pointed out.

Instead, you can set your lights on timers to give the impression the house is occupied. MacDowell particularly likes Z-Wave or Wi-Fi compatible systems that allow you to turn your lights on and off remotely. You can even set the lights to turn on and off after a particular “event” occurs. 

“Somebody walks up to the front door and rings the doorbell … five seconds later a light comes on inside the home,” he said, noting an example of how you could set things to happen.

6. Letting mail and packages pile up

“I never leave signs that my house is unattended, [like] leaving the mailbox overflowing,” Petrino shared.

MacDowell said he always notifies the post office to put a hold on his mail delivery while he’s out of town. Arrange for someone to stop by to clean up any unexpected brochures or papers that may have been left by your door. And don’t forget to pause subscription services, like newspapers or meal kits, Edwards added.

7. Neglecting lawn care and snow removal

If snow is piling up on your walkway or the grass isn’t mowed for a noticeably long time, this can signal that the house is empty. “An unattended property is a more attractive target because it reduces the risk of confrontation and increases the time burglars can spend undetected,” Petrino said. Hire someone or ask a friend to help water plants, mow the lawn, rake leaves, or shovel snow.

8. ‘Hiding’ a key under the mat or flowerpot

“These common hiding spots are well-known to burglars,” Petrino said. “If an intruder finds a spare key, they can enter your home quickly without the need to force entry, making it less likely for neighbors … to notice something amiss.”

Edwards suggests giving your spare key to a neighbor or friend or using a smart lock with a code. Smart locks are particularly secure because they expire and can be changed, and you won’t risk losing your house key.

9. Leaving your car parked in the same visible spot

“I’ll … ask a neighbor, friend or family member to use my car if it’s parked on the street or in front of my home to give the impression that I’m still coming and going,” Edwards said.

MacDowell parks his car in the garage and tells his neighbors they can park in his driveway while he’s gone, which gives the impression that someone is home.

The bottom line: Make your home look secure and as normal as possible.

Security measures like cameras, motion-sensor lighting and high-quality locks can make your home less appealing and accessible to burgers, according to Petrino. 

Edwards advises making your home go through the motions it normally would even when you’re away. For example, use a smart security system to turn on and off connected devices (like lights and the TV) and have a friend check on the house every couple of days.

“[Do what you] can do to give burglars the impression that your home is occupied [and] that it’s secured,” she said. This increases the odds that “they’ll skip your home and move on to something that seems easier to target.”

 

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