Burglar stealing TV
Forget the Joneses – don’t ever advertise your valuables

The deadbolt one of the most revolutionary home security measures ever invented. With its introduction in the 1960s, home burglaries began a steady decline as homeowners began to taking residential security into their own, capable hands. By the 1970s, most homes had installed a deadbolt lock and burglaries had plateaued to a record low.

Fast-forward 35 years, and an estimated 25 percent of homes in the United States now have some sort of electronic security system. Even more, neighbors pool resources to hire private guards; homeowners install reinforced glass; motion detectors warn of an approaching intruder; and lock technology has progressed beyond even the mighty deadbolt.

And yet. The FBI Uniform Crime Reports recorded an estimated 2.18 million home break-ins in 2011. Worse yet, police often have a hard time apprehending thieves, as burglars have gotten progressively sneakier to combat smarter security technologies. But if that makes it sound hopeless, fear not. There are many, many steps you can take to discourage thieves from breaking into your home – and most can be done in a day and require only a small investment of time and funds.

1. Be Home

Most burglaries happen during the day when your family is at work or school. When you step out for the day (or night), take care to create the illusion of someone at home. You can leave lights or the television on a timer, or purchase products that simulate the sounds and sights of indoor activity.

2. Lock Up

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a whopping 40 percent of all home burglaries are not forced entries – thieves simply walk into 4 out of every 10 homes via an open door or window. If no one is at home, always lock all your doors and windows. Install deadbolts (this one still rings true!). Secure sliding glass doors.

3. Secure the Garage

Keep your garage doors closed, even when you’re home. If you tend to forget to hit the close button, install a timer close; it’ll close your garage doors automatically after a certain amount of time open. (There’s an override for times when you really do need them open.) If you’re going away for an extended period, disable your door opener or padlock the door’s bolt holes to prevent a burglar from easily rolling up the door and walking in.

Burglar Entry through Door
40 percent of burglars enter through an open door or window

4. Don’t Be the Biggest House on the Block

This rule applies not only to real estate, but to home security, too. You don’t want the biggest, flashiest, most expensive home in the neighborhood – it’s sure to be a target. Likewise, don’t show off. If you buy a new television or expensive sound system, don’t leave the packaging box sitting on the curb. Don’t let your children leave bicycles and other toys sitting in the front yard. Etc. etc. In other words, don’t advertise your belongings and their worth to potential intruders.

5. Hide and Go Elsewhere

Don’t make your home the easiest target on the block by providing convenient hiding spots: keep trees, bushes and shrubbery away from doors, windows and other entry points. You can still have attractive landscaping, of course, just keep border plants manicured so that they provide no cover for burglars. If you’re attached to the idea of shrubbery around the home, choose thorny plants that would be quite inhospitable to an hiding intruder.

6. Know Thy Neighbor

Friendly neighborhoods report a lower crime rate, in part because strangers simply stick out. Make friends with your neighbors – Nosey Nelly next door can be your best burglar deterrent. Offer to keep and eye on each other’s homes, or to sound the alarm if necessary. A Neighborhood Watch program is also an excellent way to build budget-friendly crime-prevention.

7. Close the Curtains

Windows are beautiful, letting light and air filter into your home, but they also give burglars an easy way to inventory possible booty. Make it a habit to close your blinds or curtains when you’re not home, and especially at night when interior lights make it hard to see outside but very easy to see in.