If you’re about to leave for vacation, the last thing you want to think about is that a burglary takes place in the U.S. about once every 18 seconds.
The good news? Thanks to greater awareness of home security tips and more sophisticated technology, such property crimes dropped a whopping 48 percent between 1993 and 2015, falling another 3.4 percent in the first half of 2016 alone. Analysts say homeowners are getting smarter about home security, and that’s apparently paying off; for example, in one study 60 percent of convicted burglars reported that the presence of a home security system motivated them to seek another house to burgle.
Further, some recent advancements in home security technology are impressive. Consider the following:
- Remote monitoring systems offer real-time videos and photos of your home, some with the ability to turn security systems on and off and send you alerts in case of intruders, fire or toxic carbon monoxide fumes. Smart cameras can store video footage in the cloud for later review.
- Smart locks can be remotely locked or unlocked through the use of Wi-Fi or Bluetooth in your key fob or smartphone. Others only unlock after reading your fingerprint patterns. Some can connect to home appliances to automatically turn them down for energy savings in your absence.
- Facial-recognition home sensors can be programmed to recognize family members and trigger alarms when someone without authorization is inside your house.
“Technology has radically changed the way we protect our homes,” writes Janet Miller in the Huffington Post. “What was previously only possible in sci-fi movies is now gradually becoming reality. The digital revolution has made its way into our homes.”
That said, you might also consider these lower-tech measures for warding off criminals as you vacation:
- Install quality locks. They’re not foolproof, but dead bolt locks tend to be the hardest to get past — especially double-cylinder dead bolts.
- Use timers for your lighting system. Leaving lights on unnecessarily boosts your electric bills. Today’s technology allows for devices to randomly turn on and off to confuse anyone with nefarious purposes surveying your home. Note that about a third of offenders try to gather information about homeowners before attempting burglaries.
- Ask the post office to hold your mail. Even kindly neighbors may not retrieve it frequently enough to fully protect you from mail theft. In an average year, the USPS responds to some 27,000 fraud complaints, and overall some 15.4 million U.S. consumers were victims of identity theft or fraud in 2016. Typical scams involve the theft of checks, credit cards or personal information that allows criminals to apply for fraudulent credit cards.
- Remember to cancel other deliveries. Packages and newspapers piled on your porch can be a dead giveaway to bandits.
- Move the hidden key. Many homeowners hide spare keys in obvious or easy-to-guess locations (under nearby planters, fake rocks or doormats, hanging on easily viewed nails, around door frames, etc.) Leave your spares with a trusted neighbor instead.
- Mow your lawn. Shaggy grass, overgrown shrubbery, dead flowers or sticks and leaves scattered after a storm can all be indicators you’re elsewhere. Hire someone to take care of all that while you’re away.
- Pull in your trash bins. Bins left curbside for more than a couple days indicate lack of use. Ask a neighbor to pull them back up to your house.
- Arrange for a dog sitter instead of a kennel. A barking dog can be a major deterrent to criminals; convicted burglars report awareness of dogs within a home as a deterrent similar to security systems. “Only a small percentage of burglars will proceed with the event when confronted with dogs,” reads the report.
- Lock up your pet entryway. You may be surprised at what a determined burglar can accomplish by either squeezing through, widening the space or using a wire or other tool to reach up and unlock your door. Either lock it or block it with something heavy.
- Lock your backyard. It’s often more vulnerable than your front yard because it’s out of sight from neighbors and passersby. Provide a challenge to would-be thieves by locking gates and preventing access as much as possible.
- Keep your keypad clean. Accumulated fingerprints on your entry keypad can clue criminals in to possible codes. Wipe down the surface before you leave.
- Turn off your garage door opener. Otherwise, a burglar could open it through a universal remote, then break in to the door of your house unseen.
- Zip your lip about time off. Most people don’t need to know your house will be unoccupied, and you should especially guard against alerting people on social media — after all, you know your friends, but not your friends’ friends. Post vacation pics and comments after you get home, just to be on the safe side.
Your best solution in keeping your house secure may be a solid security system combined with cost-free, common-sense measures. Give some thought to how you can best protect your house on your next vacation so you can enjoy your trip stress-free.