Home Safety: Top Tips to Burglarproof Your House

After years of decline, some cities are seeing a rise in burglary and other property crimes, a pattern that often occurs in a weakening economy. Follow these low-cost and free strategies to protect your home without draining your wallet on an expensive security system.

“There are at least half a dozen free things you can do right now to make your home a less attractive target for thieves,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart, a magazine from the publisher of Consumer Reports. “An alarm system or even a dog can be effective, but so is taking your name off your mailbox and being mindful of your trash.”

ShopSmart consulted with security professionals, experts at the National Crime Prevention Council and on-staff authorities on doors, locks, alarms and more to gather home security tips:

  • Install motion-sensor lights around the perimeter of your home. Outdoor lighting around the perimeter of your home will help stop a thief from approaching under cover of darkness. Look for lights with an adjustable sensitivity setting to avoid false alarms. Cost: $23+
  • Make sure windows and doors are closed and locked whenever you leave the house. This may seem obvious, but they are the entry points in one-third of all burglaries. To reinforce side-sliding windows and sliding doors, put a sturdy bar or board in the track. Cost: Free
  • Take your name off your mailbox. A thief can call 411 with your name and get your home number, then call to find out if you are home. Cost: Free
  • Install a deadbolt with a sturdy strike plate secured by 3-inch screws that go into the frame. A thief might be able to kick in a door that has anything else. Cost: $30+
  • Skip doors with big glass panes or laminate the glass. Thin sheets of plastic will make glass tough to smash and, when it is installed correctly, are invisible. Cost: $9 per square foot, or about $135 for a 3x5 foot window, plus installation
  • Lock up the ladder and other tools in the garage. This will eliminate the chance of a burglar using them to climb in or smash a window. Cost: Free
  • Turn down the telephone ringer when no one is home. Loud rings can often be heard from outside – a dead giveaway that the coast is clear for a burglary. Cost: Free
  • Put lamps and a radio on a timer. This will make a house look and sound lived-in even when you're out. These simple gadgets are sold at hardware and discount stores and are a snap to set up. Cost: $9 to $18
  • Destroy evidence of large-ticket purchases in the trash. A big-screen TV box on the curb could be a big advertisement for criminals looking for a target. Cost: Free
  • Hide valuables in the right places. Putting a key under a fake rock, jewelry in the sock drawer and cash under the mattress are old tricks that will not fool anyone. Instead, stash valuables in a fake wall outlet, above a ceiling tile, in a hallowed-out book among dozens of real books or in the leg of a coffee table. Cost: From free to $25
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