Burglary really is a crime of opportunity. Burglars are on the look-out for a house they can get in and out quickly without being noticed. And the best time to do that? When they're sure no one is home. It's no wonder the US typically experiences an increase in home burglaries during the most common vacation months - June, July, and August.
It seems everyone is itching to get out of the house to enjoy the warm summer weather. It's hard enough to plan a family get away, we don't want you to worry about your home while you're relaxing on your vacation. Whether you'll be away for a day or for several weeks, we've got the keys to keep your home secure while traveling.
Key #1: Don't make it obvious you're not home.
What is the number one trait burglars look for in a target house? UNOCCUPIED. Not only do they not want to get caught, but most are not looking for a confrontation with a homeowner. Fortunately, it's pretty simple to make your home look lived-in, even when no one is there.
Here are the top things to take care of before traveling to make it appear that you're home:
- Mail, newspaper, and package delivery
- Yard maintenance
- Trash bins
- Social media
Action Tips for Key #1
For longer vacations, one of the best ways to keep your home looking lived in is to arrange for a house sitter. If you're not fortunate enough to have someone you trust available to stay at your home while you're away, try asking for frequent check-ins from a neighbor or nearby friend. See if they are willing to help with mail and deliveries; taking out/bringing in trash bins; mowing the lawn or shoveling snow.
Another option is to hire a lawn maintenance service to care for your yard during your travels. To prevent deliveries from piling up, you can put a hold on mail, newspaper, and packages.
Lighting is an important strategy to make it appear as though someone is home. We recommend scheduling lights to turn on and off according to your normal daily routine. Opt for smart lightbulbs or smart outlets. These can be controlled via an app on your phone allowing you to set a schedule ahead of time. Motion activated exterior lights are another great option. If you're low on time or budget, try leaving exterior lights on, especially those that illuminate entry points such as doors and windows.
Regarding social media, experts recommend not sharing information about your travel plans. We all love to share the fun with our friends and family online, but doing so during your vacation is a big red flag to criminals that you're house is empty. We suggest waiting until you return from your trip to post those awesome photos of you and your family. Resist the urge to post, geotag, and check-in during your travels.
Key #2: Don't be an easy target.
The second most desirable quality a burglar is looking for in a target is SPEED. Burglars are looking for houses with easy access and easy escape routes. Once inside, they typically spend less than 5 minutes grabbing small, high-value items that can quickly be converted to cash - things such as jewelry, electronics, and prescription medications.
The top things to consider before traveling:
- Points of entry/exit
- Accessibility of valuables
- Accessibility of tools
Action Tips for Key #2
Secure the Premises
Before heading out of town, the absolute best thing you can do is check that all points of entry/exit are secure. Close and lock every window and door. Don't forget about the garage, shed, and gates. If you have a car parked in the driveway, remember to remove the garage door opener and lock the car.
While you're locking up, stow away your treasures. Lock jewelry, guns, and other small valuables in a safe that's been secured to the floor/wall. If you don't have a safe, try hiding items in an unusual area. For example, jewelry is usually found in the bedroom so try stashing them near the canned goods in the kitchen or with the laundry supplies. Remember, burglars want to be in and out quickly!
Put Away Tools
Don't help a burglar out by leaving tools out that can help them break into your house. Check the yard and put away things that could be used to gain entry - hand tools, ladders, loose bricks/rocks, or "hidden" spare keys.
Deterrents are things that repel would be intruders. According to studies, the top deterrents for burglars are surveillance cameras and security systems. These two items significantly increase the chances of a burglar being caught in action. Be sure yard signs and door/window stickers for your security system are visible as a warning to anyone who steps foot near your residence.
Key #3: Don't stress about it.
It's your vacation, your time to get away, so enjoy it! Keys #1 and #2 are really just common sense ideas with basic tips and are not meant to add any vacation planning stress. But if you're feeling overwhelmed, here are a few ways to keep stress at bay before traveling:
Use a check list.
Here is a handy and very thorough check list from The Art of Manliness.
While you're locking up, take photos to verify your actions. So when you're on the plane and suddenly think "Oh my goodness, I forgot to turn off the stove," you can prove to yourself that you did indeed turn off the stove.
Arrange for a house sitter.
I know, I mentioned that above, but if you're not a planner, then your best bet is to have someone do it for you.
Enjoy your vacation! Safe travels!