Home Safe Home: Essential Improvements to Prevent a Break-in

A burglary occurs every 14.6 seconds in the U.S., according to the 2010 FBI crime clock statistics, found on No matter how safe you think your neighborhood is, you could still be a target. The Washington Post found that the typical residential burglar is a male teen who lives within a few miles of your home. Given that most thieves are amateurs, homeowners have the advantage of thwarting them with a few strategic home improvements:

Upgrade to Stronger Doors
Often burglars gain entry through the front or back door, so your first task is to update to sturdy reinforced steel or fiberglass doors. Thieves often try to kick in doors, so choose a model designed to withstand heavy force. According to Consumer Reports, most doors are kicked in when the doorjamb cracks by the lock strike plate. To prevent this, reinforce the lock strike plate and add a deadbolt that’s at least an inch long.

Add a Loud Alarm
The Washington Post notes that homes with security systems are three time less likely to be burglarized than those without an alarm system. If you don’t already have one, read reviews for security systems online to find one that will be the best value for your budget. Make sure to choose one with an alarm that’s loud enough to be heard by your neighbors. Often the noise and attention from neighbors is enough to send a thief running.

Secure Windows & Glass Doors
Aside from doors, the next most-common entry point for crooks is through first-floor windows. Prevent windows and glass doors from being smashed in by reinforcing all glass with safety film. Safety film is a translucent self-adhesive coating that protects up to 400 pounds of force. Consumer Reports home security professionals recommend using Ultra Safety window film by 3M, which costs $7 to $9 per square foot.

Eliminate Hiding Spots
Tall hedges and dense trees are optimal hiding spots for criminals as they survey your home and plan how to break in. Keep landscaping and vegetation trimmed to prevent these areas from lending cover to burglars. Do you have tall trees on your property? Trim any branches that could provide access to windows or skylights. Consider using decorative rock coverings in your flowerbeds instead of topsoil, which makes it easier to hear if an intruder is creeping around.

Illuminate Outdoor Areas
While most burglaries occur during the day, many occur after dark as well. Add ample lighting throughout your yard to eliminate a prowler’s potential hiding spots. Focus on areas around windows, doors and near any other blind spots such as your side yard. Consumer Reports recommends using compact fluorescent bulbs designed specifically for outdoor use because they are more energy-efficient and last longer than standard bulbs. If it seems too bright or wasteful to use so many lights throughout the night, opt for a few motion-sensor lights. However, for motion-sensor lights, traditional bulbs are a better option given that compact fluorescent bulbs take a few minutes to reach their full brightness.

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