Theft-proofing your home
5 Tips Home Edition: Make it hard for burglars to get in. Here's how.
By Gerri Willis, contributing columnist

NEW YORK ( - Suntan lotion...check. Bermuda shorts...check. Now that you're packed and ready to hit the road, make sure your most valuable asset will remain safe and sound.

Today's Five Tips Home Edition will tell you how.

1. Know the stats

There were over 2 million burglaries nationally for the 2004 year, the latest year that stats are available, according to the FBI. Most burglaries happen in July and August - exactly when many homeowners are off on their summer vacations. In fact, most communities will experience a 10 to 18 percent increase in home burglaries during the summer, according to the Burglary Prevention Council.

Southern states had the most burglaries, followed by the Midwest, the West and finally the Northeast. The average home loss totaled over $1,600 dollars. The most common time for a burglary to happen was during daylight hours from 6 am to 6 pm. Burglars spend no more than 60 seconds breaking into a home, so you'll want to make it as hard as possible for them.

2. Unplug your garage door

Before you pull out of the driveway, disable the electric garage door opener and make sure the door is locked securely. If you have manual lock make sure you use it. While it might be rare, you don't want someone with a universal garage door opener gaining any access to your garage and your home.

In some cases, it's even easier to break into a garage than into the house. Remove the tools, the ladder, the sledgehammer or the ax you may store in the garage. If a burglar does make it into your garage, you don't want these tools making it easier for them to break into your house.

3. Make your yard burglar-unfriendly

Take a walk around the yard. If you see shrubs or trees that provide sufficient cover to a would-be burglar, you'll want to trim them. Keep these bushes far away from the house. You may also want to plant thorny bushes, like firethorns or rosebushes, closer to the windows.

Pay special attention to your first floor windows. Over 60 percent of burglars come through a window that should have been locked, according to the National Crime Prevention Council. People that break into homes usually find an opening that should have been closed, says Tom Kraeutler, host of the radio show, "The Money Pit."

4. Follow the light

Burglars want to blend in as much as possible. So consider investing in motion detector lights for the outside and light timers for the inside of your home.

With a motion-sensitive light, an intruder is bathed in light the instant he steps into your yard. You'll also want to use light-timers on lamps near the front and the back windows. This way you'll be able to create the impression the home is lived in. You can buy them for as little as $20 to $50.

5. It's not just thieves

While you're on vacation, the last thing you want to think about is coming home to what could be a disaster. Before you leave, turn off the main water valve, says Kraeutler. If a pipe bursts while you're away, you could return to a pool of floating furniture.

Make sure you also unplug your appliances, like your TVs, computers and toaster to avoid fire hazards. Even if you have these items turned off, the circuits are still active.


Gerri Willis is a personal finance editor for CNN Business News and the host for Open House. Send your questions, your comments and your own ideas to us at 5tips@cnn.comTop of page

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