With millions of burglaries in the United States each year, this type of theft is not exactly a rare occurrence. Here, test your home-security knowledge and find out whether your dwelling is a relative fortress or an easy target.
When do most burglaries occur?
While cover of darkness is a big plus, burglars actually strike homes more often in the daytime. According to the FBI, for all residential burglaries with a known time of day in 2005, more than 60 percent took place in daylight. (For commercial structures, that number is closer to 40 percent.)
Which are the most common entry points for a burglar?
Tunneling and roof drops may get burglars into museums, but residential thieves are far more opportunistic. They look for easy entry points: a flimsy back or garage door, an open window or a side entry hidden from the street. Picking the front-door lock isn't out of the question, either.
What's the most common way of forcing entry through a door?
Entry is all about speed. Getting a door off its hinges or slicing through it might take a while and increase the chances of getting caught. More often than not, the weakest point of a door setup is a low-grade strike plate, which can detach from a wooden door jam with one powerful kick.
When it comes to door locks, which strike-plate setup is the most secure?
A heavy-duty strike plate will provide the most protection, but only if it's secured appropriately. No need to get too high-science here. The longer the screw the better -- the farther they penetrate the doorjamb, the harder it will be for a thief to kick the door open. Four 3-inch screws (not nails) into the door frame will prevent a lot of forced entries.
Where's the safest place to keep a spare key?
If you keep your spare key under the doormat, you might as well save yourself the bending over and just tape it to the front door. Same goes for the planter box, the door frame and the hollow plastic rock. While hiding a key outside your house can be relatively safe if you get creative (taped to a high-up, climbable-tree branch, perhaps?), the only truly safe place for it is with a trusted neighbor. Strangers can't get to it there.
Where should outdoor lighting be brightest?
Few burglars will be coming in through the roof. And while perimeter lighting is important (it's ideal to be able to see out 100 feet, or 30 meters, from your house), the most crucial spots are the entries and the pathways leading to them. That's where the action will have to be for a burglary to happen. If you have sufficiently bright illumination there, not only will you be able to see a threat, but would-be thieves might decide to go elsewhere to avoid the lights.
What's the most common way people reduce the effectiveness of an alarm system?
Day or night, code or no code, once an intruder triggers the alarm, damage has already been done. For an alarm system to work as a preventive measure as opposed to only after the fact (which is no small thing -- it can make a burglar hurry and let the police know pretty quickly that there's a problem), potential thieves need to know it's there beforehand. The sign has to be displayed prominently outside the house, even if that gets in the way of landscape aesthetics.
Where should you store your alarm pass code?
You want it to be close -- a false alarm can wake up the entire town -- but not so close that someone triggering a real alarm can turn it off. In case you forget the alarm code, it should be written down and stored somewhere in the house where it can be accessed easily by people who know its location and not easily at all by strangers. (Taped next to the keypad is definitely out.)
How should you mark your valuables for identification?
If a burglar does get the better of your home's security setup, the next big concern is getting your stuff back. Chances aren't great the small valuables thieves go for will be recovered from whatever pawnshop probably has them, but those chances increase if you engrave information that makes the property easily identifiable. Not your Social Security number -- that'll just give the burglar the added bonus of identity theft. Your driver's license number is a good choice. It's not so easy to impersonate you that way.
Who should know when you're going out of town?
It's important for people to know when you'll be gone so they can keep a watchful eye on your home (if a light goes on at a time you haven't pre-set, it might be good to call the cops). "People," however, does not mean your 300 social networking friends, which may or may not include potential thieves who are watching your status for an opportunity. Tell a couple of trusted neighbors about your plans and about how your light timers are set. They may even do you the favor of parking in your driveway every now and then to simulate occupancy.
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