Defending yourself: Your home

/ Source: CNBC

Your home is your castle. But you probably don’t have sentries and a moat around yours. While overall crime was down slightly last year, burglaries were up 1.5 percent. As part of CNBC’s weeklong look at personal security, Jane Wells offers these tips on how to make your home safer.

“SUMMER TIME is what police refer to burglar season,” said Burbank Police Sgt. William Berry. “There’s one burglary in this country every 15 seconds.”

Berry has spent a lot of his career picking up the pieces left behind by home burglaries. So we thought he would be a good resource in giving tips to protect your home.

“A burglar’s greatest fear is light, time, and noise,” he said.

And a burglar alarm company.

The home we visited recently with Berry belongs to our producer, Jeff Daniels. And we started with the door. Deadbolts are good, but most only come with one-inch screws — which makes them easier to pound on and break through.

“Every door that goes outside should have a miniumum of 3-and-a-half-inch long wood screws,” said Berry.

Adding a strike plate further reinforces the lock area. But don’t forget the hinges; burglars often go in that way.

“One thing a lot of people don’t realize: windows can be opened and taken out of the track even while the window’s closed,” he said. “What you can do in that case: take the window out, drill a hole, put in a flat-headed screw so that it barely clearls the top of the window. Now the window can slide under it, but it can’t lift up.”

Berry also like the fact that the property is surrounded by lower fences “so your neighbors can see the whole side of the house.”

And burglars don’t like dogs.

“Certainly a dog barking will help,” said Berry.”But a dog alone is not going to prevent a burglary. And if you’re thinking of getting an aggressive dog, that could actually be a liability to you... If you have a dog, great. But if you don’t want a dog, make them think you have a dog. Go to a yard sale, buy a dog house, put the dog house in your back yard, get an old dog dish — not one that’s brand new. You want to make it look like it’s been around awhile.”

Motion detector lights are good, but nothing may help you protect your home better than an alarm system.

According to the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Assocaition, homes without a security system are three times more vulnerable to break in than a home with a monitored security system.

Someday, ADT’s Jay Stuck says, homeowners will be able to purchase closed circuit camera systems for the home. Regular alarm systems have come down in price. But keep this in mind: Some systems are tied into your electrical system, and all a burglar has to do is turn off the power.

Berry says overall, don’t develop predictable patterns. For example, if you only close your blinds or curtains when you’re away, then a burglar casing your house will know when you’re gone.

And, Berry says, if you go on vacation “if you have a second car, park it in your driveway rather than in the garage, turn on a radio in your house, so it appears someone is inside listening to a show.”

Also, have a neighbor pick up your paper and mail, along with any flyers that end up on your driveway. And pay someone to mow your lawn. But in the end, most burglaries happen through the front door.

“They spend a lot of money putting alarm and lights sand locks and latches, and then when someone knocks on their door they open it and go ‘Hi’,” said Berry. “They’ve negated the whole purpose of the security. You should never open the door unless you know who’s on the other side of it.

If you don’t want to buy a real alram system, fake it, though Berry suggests you get real stickers. And then you can pretend to have a camera.