Don’t waste your money on a fake rock designed to hide a house key. In fact, don’t bother hiding a house key anywhere outside your door. Burglars know it’s a common practice.
“The whole mindset is wrong. Why are you hiding a key? Because you are going to lose it. It’s stupid to think potential burglars aren’t going to look around,” said Chris McGoey, a national crime prevention expert who has been in the industry for 40 years. His website crimedoctor.com has lots of practical advice.
Instead, give a house key to a trusted neighbor, McGoey suggests.
But being in touch with neighbors should go way beyond that. Neighbors should watch out for each other. When someone is out of town, they can make sure the house looks lived in by picking up stray palm fronds and brochures left on the door and parking a car in the driveway.
“You want to engage your neighbors. That’s one thing we have lost in this country,” McGoey said.
McGoey also advises against buying gadgets such as soft drink cans designed to hold jewelry and cash. A better approach is to make your home as burglar-proof as possible by taking a hard look at how a burglar might get in. While outdoor lighting is a good deterrent, the fact is most burglaries occur in the daytime.
Burglaries are the most common threat to our homes. The FBI says a burglary occurs somewhere in the United States every 15.4 seconds.
“Think of your home as a box and the doors and windows as being openings to that box. Burglars will enter through doors or windows accessible from the ground. Just closing and locking these accessible openings when you’re away is a basic burglary prevention step,” McGoey said.
If a potential burglar sees a house with a burglar alarm, solid doors with deadbolt locks and entrances that are visible from the street, he’s likely to choose an easier target. Keep the garage door shut. Dogs are a deterrent also. Have an alarm system that works, and use it. Have a sign on the lawn or a sticker that says you have one.
“Most burglars will try to get in through the front door. They will ring the bell or knock, just to see who answers,” McGoey said.
If no one comes to the door, then the burglar will try to open the door. If you’re home, look through the peephole, and ask who it is. Never open the door to anyone you don’t know.
“The top advice is to have good locks and a solid door. The first thing that some burglars do is try to kick the door open. Most doors will simply fly open. They have inadequate locks and strike plates holding the deadbolt in place,” McGoey said.
McGoey suggests holding a “burglary party” where your family or close friends pretend to be burglars and try to locate your valuables.
“That’s when it becomes apparent to you that they will go right to your bedroom dresser drawer to the jewelry box,” McGoey said.
As far as where valuables such as jewelry or cash should be hidden, a less obvious place such as the kitchen or a second bedroom is better. Cash, jewelry and guns are the top three items stolen in home burglaries.
If you have a lot of valuables, consider a safe deposit box or a home safe. A home safe is designed to keep the smash-and-grab burglar, nosey kids, dishonest babysitter or housekeeper from gaining access to important documents and personal property. A home safe needs to be anchored into the floor or permanent shelving.
Make a list of valuables. Everything should be photographed and any serial numbers on items such as electronics should be recorded. If your possessions are stolen, it’s up to you to prove you owned them.
Ask your insurance agent what your coverage is. Usually an extra rider is needed for jewelry.
Credit cards should not be left lying around, and those you do not need should be shredded.
“In a lot of neighborhoods, people leave their garage doors open all day. You could probably walk straight into their house. If it weren’t for stupid people, there would hardly be any crime,” McGoey said.