6 Easy Ways to Burglar-Proof Your Home for Free
Thieves in the News
Daily, we see and read news reports of burglaries, sometimes too close to home. What to do? We don’t want to be targets, ourselves, so we must take measures to avoid having our house look like the next place for thieves to try a break-in.
Fortunately, many things can be done that are either very inexpensive, or even free. Of course, part of it starts with where you live. We all know that some parts of town, no matter what town, are best avoided. Sadly, that is not possible for many folks, and it is in those areas, where crime tends to be high, that people also have the least to spend on security equipment.
While the area in which I live is not a bad neighborhood, we are nevertheless on a fixed, low income, and have nothing to spare to buy equipment, so this advice applies not only to those in so-called ‘bad areas,’ but also to many who are retired and living on limited means.
1. Don’t Be Predictable
This is probably one of the biggest, if not the biggest deterrent there is. If you are addicted to strict schedules, and leave for work (or wherever else you go) at precisely the same time every day, and return at the same time, any burglar casing your property knows they can set their watch by your routine, and they know exactly when, and for how long, they have the opportunity to break in.
Instead, vary your routine. Leave at slightly earlier or later times, and if you live near enough to where you work (or volunteer), then sometimes, come home for lunch, or return earlier. Many companies allow flex-schedules for full-time employees, and even trading off days with partners, so this is an option to check with your boss.
Most of the rest of these tips also fall under not being predictable, even though they are more specific than that.
Programmable Automatic Timers
Program up to 28 on/off settings per day!
We had one of these. It worked great--until we lost it--not to a burglar, but in a fire!
2. Leave Lights On When You are Away
But don’t always leave the same lights on all the time when you are away, especially for an extended period such as a weekend getaway or vacation.
For a pretty small investment, you can get automatic timers that will turn lights on and off throughout the house, and at different times. The newer ones can be programmed with variable on/off times, so it gives a more realistic effect of someone being home. These can even be used when you are at home, to maintain that illusion of being active at different times.
If there is someone you know and trust who is willing to either come by a few times a day, and make the house look lived-in, or even stay at your place, that is an even better option.
In fact, leave some lights on all the time overnight even when you are at home. This, again, makes you unpredictable, and a regularly-on light will not be a clue that you are not home.
3. Don’t Be Too Tidy
One major clue burglars look for is an accumulation of newspapers in the driveway or on the front porch. Even if you subscribe to a newspaper, and bring it in every day to read, most of us still get the “throwaway” freebie papers tossed at our doors.
Don’t be in such a hurry to pick them up every time they arrive. Leave them sit, and accumulate for a while. I’m not talking about leaving them until you have enough for pests to make a nest, but just let the weeklies sit there for a couple of weeks, or three, and then pick them up.
Vary this, as well. Pick them up right away sometimes, and other times, leave them lay. If a burglar checking out the area sees that the papers are often left to lie, even when folks are at home, they will not regard that as a reliable indicator of your absence.
Be unpredictable! Never do anything twice at the same time of day or night.
4. Block Your Windows
Of course, when you are not home, it is best to leave your blinds, curtains, drapes, or whatever other window coverings you use, closed. But, also keep them closed sometimes when you are at home.
While it is obvious that your front windows are most at risk for those who wish to get an uninvited peek inside, don’t overlook the rear windows. These are equally important, if not more so, for if a would-be thief gains access to your backyard, he is out of sight of the street, and has plenty of time to snoop around.
Second-story and higher windows are not much of a security risk as entry points. However, be sure never to leave any ladders outside, or you will lose this advantage!
If you have windows in your garage, it is best to use frosted glass, or block them with some kind of opaque material, so no one can see inside there, either. Due to the kinds of activity that happen in garages, curtains are not the best idea.
5. Block Easy Access Points
If you have any kind of side-yard entry to your backyard, block it off with a gate, making sure it is not an easily climbed style. Decorative metal gates might as well be ladders, for all the footholds they offer within the design elements for thieves, or even children, to climb.
A plain wooden gate, with no visible hardware on the street-facing side is a good choice, or if you like metal gates, then a plain, tall, wrought iron gate with only vertical bars and no footholds in the middle is a better idea, as is the addition of spiked tops on the bars.
Cyclone fences are easily climbed, and should be avoided. (I’m sure you don’t want your home looking like a prison yard, anyway, with cyclone fence topped with barbed wire!)
Never leave ladders laying around outside in your yard!
Do you think security systems are worthwhile?
6. Create Some Ambient Noise
Another trick to use is to leave a radio or TV playing while you are away. It should not be loud, but just so anyone trying to listen only hears a murmur of voices, like normal conversation going on.
A TV produces a characteristic flickering that will show through thin drapes, or any gaps in the drapes, so if you go this route, it's best to plug into one of those on/off timer gadgets, to make it more realistic, unless you commonly leave your TV on all day long and into the evening until bedtime. I know some who do.
As for ourselves, we use a wide combination of all these things. First of all, I am “deathly allergic” to schedules, and rarely to anything twice at the same time or in the same sequence. About the only thing ‘on schedule’ in our home are the cats’ meals and my husband’s medications. Everything else happens whenever it happens. I realize this kind of lifestyle may be a challenge for those still working and not retired, but even so, it is possible to make variations.
- Lights on or off? Sometimes certain lights are on in the kitchen for hours on end; sometimes, we have no need of that. Every now and then, we get involved in some TV show or movie, and the light from the TV is the only light on in the house--making it look dark from outside. Of course, this can be a problem when we need to get up and use the facilities, and find it’s dark in the hall, and we stumble over a cat. Total darkness is never a good idea.
- Outside lights? Yes. The outside ‘coach lights’ on our shop, as well as front and back door porch lights are left on all night long. We turn them off when we get up in the morning. Sometimes. If we don’t forget. We're retired, so those lights are on at least 12 and sometimes 24 hours. At other times, a light burns out and is not on in one or another location. Sometimes, we don’t realize this for a few days or a week. It doesn’t mean we aren’t home.
- Inside lights? The light over the kitchen sink stays on all night long, as a safety feature for ourselves, in case we have to get up in the middle of the night. Yes, we turn it on when we are going to be away, and returning after dark. But it is not noticeable in the daytime, and it's always on after dark, anyway. Since it is an open-plan house, this light shows through to the living room as a dull glow from outside, and if the drapes are shut, you can't really tell. But in any case, it is no indicator as to our presence or absence.
- Drapes? Open or closed? The bedroom drapes are always, always closed, because they are a pain in the rear to open. Can’t tell by that. The living room drapes are usually partially open when we are home, but often enough, they are closed, especially if it is hot, and we want to maintain cooling in the house. Or if it is cold, and we want to keep out the gloomy gray of the sky.
- The dining room drapes are half-open if we are not home, for the benefit of the cats, as the cat trees are right in front of that window. But they are often also only half-open when we are at home, because of annoying reflections at certain times of the day.
- To Clean or Not to Clean: I do leave freebie newspapers sit in the driveway unattended for some time.
- Close the Gate! When we leave, we always close the gate to the backyard. That is, if we are going for more than a few moments. Unless it was an emergency. Unless we forget. Unless we are gone longer than we planned on being gone.
- And sometimes we are home all day, and the gate never gets opened at all for several days. You just cannot tell by that.
- Pick up the Mail. The mail gets picked up when it gets picked up. Sometimes it’s right after the mailman drops it off; sometimes it gets forgotten until late in the evening. Again, no clue by that as to whether or not we are at home.
And there you have it. Six ways to protect your home without spending a dime--or at least not very much. Of course, if you have the dollars to invest in a full-blown security system, be my guest.
Maybe You're a Tinkerer? If you are technically and mechanically inclined, feel free to rig up gadgets such as a doorbell that triggers the sound of a large dog barking, and getting closer to the door…or whatever else flips your switch.
© 2015 Liz Elias