Home is the place where we are supposed to be able to close the door on the outside world and shut out noise, commotion and worries. Home should be the place where we can feel safe.
Too often, uninvited intruders disrupt that calm. Unwelcome access to our homes makes us fear for our safety. Even more than the financial losses that can occur during a burglary, the emotional loss of violation takes so long to recover from -- if recovery is even possible.
One victim of a burglary (who asked not to be identified) said that she felt "violated" knowing that a stranger went through her things, touched items that held precious memories for her, viewed photographs that showed the story of her life and took valuable possessions simply because he could. Although it's been over a decade since this woman experienced this burglary, she still shudders when she thinks of it.
There are steps we can take to minimize our risk without becoming paranoid and without forsaking our daily routines. Many local police departments caution residents not to "invite" attention by not making your house look empty: Use outside lighting on the same schedule as when you are home; put indoor lights on timers when you are away; stop mail and paper delivery for extended times or have a trusted neighbor make the pickups for you; arrange to have the lawn mowed and the snow shoveled if you will be away for several days; leave a radio on at "conversation level," and don't leave helpful notes on the door such as "gone shopping" or "on vacation, deliver packages to..." Don't leave valuables in places that are visible through your windows. Be careful not to advertise you are away from home via social media; take all the pictures you want on your trip, but wait until you are back home to post them. If you do plan to be away for an extended period of time, contact your local police department and fill out a security-check request, which will include the dates you are away, who has authorized access to your home, what cars are in your driveway and contact information for you and a local neighbor who has a key. They can use this to schedule an occasional police drive-by and to know if something appears amiss.
Lock your doors even if you will only be gone for a few minutes; it is a good idea to keep your doors locked even while you are at home and especially if sleeping. Remember to lock your windows, too. Unlocked windows provide easy access: Opening a window is less of an obstruction than breaking the glass would be. If you leave a window "open," make it less than an inch and use a screw in the frame to prevent it from being opened more. You can also find a variety of window security devices at hardware stores that can lock the windows closed or in place. Replace doorknob button locks with deadbolts; install solid doorframes and metal doors; lock your garage door and the garage door into your home (especially if a garage door opener is used from your vehicle). If you have an enclosed deck or porch, lock the outer access door as well as the entry to your house so that you do not provide privacy for a burglar who's breaking into your home. Keep hedges and bushes trimmed so that they do not obscure possible broken windows from a break-in. It's also suggested that you plant thorny bushes in front of ground-floor windows as a deterrent to would-be intruders. Leaving a key with a trusted neighbor is much more secure than hiding a key under the doormat, flowerpot or nearby rock. Replace your locks if your key is ever lost.
Call alarm and home security companies for information on services, plans and pricing. Be aware that many municipalities require permits for monitored systems that automatically call 911 as well as monthly fees. You can also install alarms on windows and doors that will sound only in and around your home. There are DIY video surveillance equipment packages, some of which can be monitored by you via Wi-Fi, but make sure your home Internet network is secured.