Your home may very well be your castle, but it most likely doesn’t have the protective features of one. After all, a moat filled with vicious serpents, a huge castle wall, and armed knights aren’t really in your budget, and it would be hard to get your wife and the HOA on board.
Nonetheless, your home holds your valuables and more importantly, your loved ones. A private residence is an appealing place to invade and loot, and you want to keep those treasures safe. Without the right security features in place, your home will remain vulnerable. To prevent that, follow our 7 home security tips.
Most years, over 15 million homes in the United States are impacted by property crimes. These are crimes that occur in urban, suburban and rural areas alike. They can (and do) occur in all neighborhoods, from low-end to high-end communities. Regardless of where you live, the bottom line is that you could very well be the next victim of a property crime. Luckily, if you follow these simple home security tips, you can decrease your chances of suffering a home break-in, and increase your peace of mind.
The 7 Best Home Security Tips
In order to deter property crime, you need to think like a criminal. If you were picking out a home to break into, you would certainly choose a home that seemingly had the least amount of risk associated with it. Here are a few home security tips and tricks you can use for securing your home:
- Get a Home Security System (or fake it)
- Get a Scary Dog (or fake it)
- Make your Home Look Occupied
- Creatively Landscape
- Reinforce Entry Points
- Create a Community
- Hide Your Belongings
1. Invest in a Home Security System – or Fake It
A home security alarm typically has sensors that go off as soon as a door or window is opened. This type of home security system usually has a motion sensor inside the home, and many also have video surveillance as well. This means that authorities would likely be contacted as soon as you gain access to the home. Neighbors would peek out their windows to see why the alarm was going off and video cameras would be capturing your face. Even if you managed to get away, you could easily be identified and prosecuted.
With this in mind, you can see why security systems are so effective at deterring crime. The only downside to a home security system is the cost. There is a sizable expense associated with the purchase, installation, monitoring and maintenance of the system.
SimpliSafe Home Security – No Monthly Costs
Maybe it’s because I’m cheap, but for some reason I just can’t bring myself to spend some ridiculous amount every month for alarm system monitoring. I use this Simplisafe system (with the optional auxiliary alarm) because a monthly monitoring plan is not required to use it.
It took me awhile to find a professional grade system that didn’t require a monthly fee for monitoring. This one fits the bill, and is completely customizable too (you can buy individual system components and add to the system anytime). If you want more information about the SimpliSafe company, you can have a look at their Twitter page, @SimpliSafe.
While investing in a security system is the best idea, you can still enjoy some of the benefits, by faking the presence of a system.
Alarm System Yard Signs and Stickers
Buying alarm monitoring yard signs and sticks for your front and rear windows and doors can be an excellent deterrent. Potential criminals may see these signs and stickers and immediately move onto the next house, without pausing to confirm that you actually have a monitored security system installed.
Fake Security Cameras
Imitation security cameras are a great deterrent because the last thing any would-be criminal wants is evidence of who committed the crime. If they believe you have security cameras, it will likely strongly encourage them to move on to another house that is less protected. Place your camera’s in a place that is visible. The best places for installing a imitation security camera are near your front door, back door, garage, and side yard.
If you do have a faux system in place, tell no one. You may trust your next-door neighbor Dave, but do you trust his brother whom you’ve never met named Rob (ha, you know Rob, the Robbe- oh nevermind)? You never know who will talk about you, so do your best to keep your ‘insecure security’ a secret.
A word of warning: some burglars may see those home security signs and know that it means your house probably has more valuables than your neighbors’ homes. Take this into account when planning your security.
2. Make Your Dog’s Presence Known
Consider doing the following:
- Have an exceptionally large dog bowl where it can be seen as soon as entering your backyard.
- Use a “Beware of Dog” sign.
- Buy a large, intimidating looking choke collar and hang it near the water bowl.
A dog can be almost as effective at preventing a home burglary as an alarm system which is why this is one of the top home security tips I can give you. Some dogs are friendly and lovable and will immediately lick anyone who enters your home. Others are more protective of their owners and of their property. They may bark fiercely when your guests arrive, or even when someone walks into your yard. Regardless of which type of dog you have, you should do your best to convince potential criminals that you have a large intimidating dog.
A critical aspect of home security is about making criminals think twice before targeting your home. Criminals don’t necessarily have to walk up to your home and start tinkering with the door or window to determine if a dog is inside.
Instead, they may spot an exceptionally large food and water dish on the back patio. They may also see a “Beware of Dog” sign on the fence, and a large spiked choke collar hanging near the food bowl. You may even have a front porch mat that says “Wipe Your Paws.” These are all signs that you may have a mean dog inside, and this may be enough to make a criminal move onto the next house even if they don’t hear barking.
3. Give the Illusion of Someone Being at Home
Consider doing the following:
- Installing motion activated exterior lighting.
- Using simple timers to turn lights and TV on/off throughout the day and evening.
- Avoid letting newspapers and flyers build up outside your home.
- Installing a smart video camera system at your front door that will alert you when motion is detected.
- Consistently parking in the garage so others wont know when you’re home or away.
The most common time of day when property crimes occur is in the middle of the day when most people are at work. Specifically, this is between the hours of 10 am and 3 pm. Many people commonly use motion-activated lights on their driveway to deter crime at night. They also use smart home technology to turn the lights and TV on and off at night when they are not at home, or they use timers to accomplish the same task on a dime. While these efforts are great at deterring nighttime property crimes, what are you doing to give the illusion of someone being at home during the day?
There are several strategies that may work well to give the illusion of occupancy while you are away at work. For example, running a TV or a radio during the day may work well. Make sure the volume is loud enough for people to hear when they approach the home, but avoid making it so loud that your neighbors complain.
You can use a special video camera on your front porch that instantly alerts you to movement. Double the benefit by installing the same type of camera on your back porch. Some of these video cameras let you communicate via your smartphone to people who are on your porch, and this gives the illusion that you are inside. You should also void letting flyers, newspapers, and other debris pile up on your porch or driveway.
Something sneaky that I prefer to do is this: keep my vehicles in the garage at all times. Not only does this protect the vehicles from sun and weather damage, but people never know when I’m home because of this. It may seem counter-intuitive to have an empty driveway, but I can assure you it’s not. Unless you’re being closely watched, no one will be able to tell whether you’re home or not.
4. Focus on Your Landscaping
Consider doing the following:
- Cut back or remove thick vegetation around your doors or windows.
- Utilizing thorny varieties of plants around your lower level windows.
Criminals typically want to get inside your home as soon as possible, and they want to do so without being detected by your neighbors or other passersby. The primary entry points to your home are through the doors and windows. When there is a clear line of sight between neighbors or passersby and your doors or windows, criminals have no cover to hide behind. On the other hand, if you have thick vegetation or other landscaping features that block the line of sight to your doors and windows, criminals have more time to get in and out of your home without detection.
With this in mind, you can and should trim back all thick and tall vegetation. You may even go a step further by installing shorter, thorny, or prickly shrubs in front of the windows. This is also when a motion-activated yard light can be handy. Installing landscaping lighting at night that specifically focuses on your vegetation as well as the lower perimeter of your home is also effective.
Or of course, you could always get that moat and drawbridge.
5. Reinforce Your Home’s Primary Entry Points
Consider doing the following:
- Install ANSI/BHMA certified door locks.
- Installing more than one dead bolt.
- Use window tinting film on your windows to help make them shatter resistant.
- Reinforcing your door with a larger strike plate.
- Reinforcing your door by using longer hinge screws.
If your home’s doors and windows have the same locks that the home builder installed, you may want to make an upgrade. It is easy to think that all locks are the same, but this is not true. Some locks can easily be picked by a skilled burglar within seconds with basic tools, such as a credit card. Others require more time, skill and advanced tools. Installing more than one lock is also a smart idea.
Use ANSI/BHMA Certified Door Locks
Look for door locks at your local hardware store that are labeled as having “ANSI/BHMA Certification.” These locks have been tested and audited for high levels of security. Look an ANSI rating of “Grade 1.” These are the highest quality and most secure locks.
Use a Reinforcing Door Latch Strike Plate
Another great way to increase your home security, is to install large strike plates for your door latches with extra long screws. Most door strike plates give way when a door is kicked. The reason is because they are only attached to the casing of the door and not the frame of the house. Using extra long screws (3 inches or more) will secure these large strike plates to your home’s frame (by going through the casing and into the wall) making it much more robust. You can also add long screws to your hinges as well to increase their strength as well.
High Security Door Strike Plate
This is the strike plate that I use on my front door. This simple steel plate is an excellent way to reinforce your doors. Not only does it wrap around both the deadbolt and latch holes completely, but it also connects the two holes together with solid steel. It also includes super long 3 inch screws for increased strength.
If you have a fenced in backyard, still be cautious to lock your back door, even the sliding glass doors.
Remember that locks are not the only security measure that you can take to protect your doors and windows from penetration. For example, you can apply a sun-protectant (tinting) film over the windows. While this can help you to save money on energy costs, the film can also make your windows shatter-resistant. You can also get rid of all glass inlays in your doors or use reinforced glass. Even glass near the doors can be a source of entry, so remove this glass or make it shatter-resistant.
6. Get Close with Your Neighbors
Consider doing the following:
- Building a friendship with your neighbors.
- Discussing home security with your neighbors.
- Advising your neighbors of who normally comes and goes from your home.
I know this isn’t 1985, and we aren’t all friends with our neighbors, and we should be. Make your neighbors your friends, and look out for one another.
A strong community is awesome for borrowing a cup of sugar, watching each other’s children, or even watering your plants during vacation. Be friendly, and make an effort to become friends. You’ll be surprised by how pleasant (and useful) it is to have good friends that close.
Believe it or not, your best neighbors when it comes to your home’s security, are the old grouches.
Cranky Shirley, who is quick to tell you about your limbs that fell in her yard, will be equally protective of your home if you first befriend her with some blackberry cobbler, vanilla ice cream, and some company. Should anyone ever be unfortunate enough to try poking around your house while you’re gone, she won’t hesitate to confront them, call you, or alert the authorities (or all of the above).
If you’re having trouble connecting with your grumpy neighbor, try some of these tips:
- Wave, smile, and say hi when you see them (this works wonders).
- Offer to help with yard work.
- Ask if they need anything from town before you go on a grocery run.
- Check in on them when they’re sick.
- ‘Accidentally’ make too much food, and invite them over for dinner.
- Do your very best to see things from their perspective, and do what you can to be more accommodating.
- Ask if they’d like to have a community garden with you in your yard or on the property line (this one is very effective).
7. Hide Your Belongings
Consider doing the following:
- Utilizing a safe that is bolted to the floor or wall (or both).
- Hiding your valuables in creative areas.
Each of these important steps can help you to deter crime on your property. However, in the event your castle’s security features are breached, you need to ensure that your treasures cannot be located or accessed. When you think like a criminal, you would understandably head straight to either a home office or a master bedroom. Criminals know that’s where most people keep their jewels, cash, and other valuables.
You may then spend time searching the rest of the home and take anything that you can quickly stuff in a bag. Don’t make things easy on any potential criminals. Put a little effort into making your valuables hard to access or just plain hard to find.
Use a Safe
Hiding your valuables in a small, fireproof safe is not ideal because the criminal can simply take the safe with him to open later. A mounted floor or wall safe is a better idea. There are other alternatives to try as well.
Personally, I have this 700 pound safe bolted to both the floor and my wall, which is always locked unless I’m at home and using it. When I’m at work, it keeps my basics protected, as well as important official documents, such as titles, deeds, and certificates. However, if I will be leaving for more than a day or two, I can also use it to lock up my spare vehicle’s keys, and electronics.
If you’re looking for a slightly smaller safe, check out the review that John did of his Bighorn Classic 19ECX Safe from Costco.
Sneaky Hiding Places
Rather than keeping your jewels in a jewelry box on your dresser, keep them in a much more unusual area. Would a criminal think about checking the top shelf in the pantry? Another idea is to hide items in their typical room and in a more unusual storage space. You may keep a roll of emergency cash hidden in an old work boot in your closet, or stuffed inside a curtain rod. Cash in your undergarment drawer or under the mattress is a bad idea. Too many people use those locations and criminals know to look there.
Also, if you prefer to keep cash at home, store it in at least two different locations. When the neighborhood girls roll up to your door with their little red wagons and delicious cookies, you don’t want to reveal your cash hiding place to them (and their watchful parents). Keep a small amount of cash in an obvious place, such as your wallet, or a drawer by the front door.
Protecting your castle doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. By performing a few of these home security tips, you can do more to protect your home and create peace of mind. Which tips are your favorite? Did I miss anything? Tell me about your home security tips and tricks in the comments below.