By Travel columnist
updated 6/23/2005 3:07:31 PM ET 2005-06-23T19:07:31

Over the past few years, crime in the U.S. has been reported to be on the wane, but it is still the highest of any industrialized nation. And as I wrote in this space just last month, Memorial Day marks the traditional kick-off for yet another season of crime.

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Beginning now, and continuing through the vacation season, an American’s chances of becoming a crime victim are higher than at any other time of the year.

The good news is that most travelers will return from their vacations with no stories of crime to tell. The bad news is that sometimes those stories await those same travelers until they arrive back at their homes where they discover that they have been victims of a home burglary.

Because an unoccupied home can be an invitation for burglars, I thought it would be instructive to review some precautions that you ought to think about taking before leaving home this summer.

  • Lock all doors and windows (duh), and if you have an alarm system, turn it on.
  • Unplug electrical appliances that aren’t necessary.
  • Unplug your garage door opener so that it won’t open accidentally.
  • Use a couple of variable timers to light the interior of your home and to turn on a radio.
  • Have calls forwarded to a friend who will be around while you are away.
  • Arrange for your mail and newspaper to be held or, better yet, picked up daily.
  • Ask a neighbor to put out your trashcans on pick-up day.
  • Arrange for lawn care.
  • If you plan to drive or park your car at the airport, hide or remove from your vehicle your registration information and any other documents that include your address.
  • Alert the police and/or your neighbors of your travel plans so they can keep an eye on your house.

Have a great summer vacation.

Terry Riley, based in Santa Cruz, Calif., is a corporate psychologist specializing in the management of travel behavior. Terry is the author of "Travel Can Be Murder" and "The Complete Travel Diet." He also edits Travel Fox, a satirical news report. E-mail Terry or visit his Web site. Want to sound off about one of his columns? Try visiting Riley's forum.

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