Dreaming of a well-deserved getaway? You're not alone. This year, 70% of us plan to take time off to travel (up from 66% last year), according to American Express research. As you prepare for the perfect trip, make sure "burglar-proofing" is part of your itinerary.
What's the risk?
About one in every 36 homes nationwide is burglarized each year, according to FBI stats, likely by a nonprofessional crook.
The typical burglar is a young, underemployed male, and is likely a substance abuser seeking cash, prescription or illegal drugs, and quick-to-pawn electronics, guns, and jewelry. Although they prefer easy entry (like an unlocked window or stolen key), more than 60% of burglars enter forcibly – breaking windows or kicking in doors. In the eight to 12 minutes a burglar averages inside a home, he usually beelines to the master bedroom, then sweeps through the home office, living room, and dining room.
In a University of North Carolina study of 422 incarcerated burglars, less than one-third reported collecting information about a target before breaking in, and their time from "plan" to "action" was short – usually within a day. They would rethink breaking into a home if they spotted close neighbors, a lack of escape routes, and security measures like barking dogs, surveillance cameras, or alarm signs. In fact, if they noticed an alarm, 60% said they'd move on (though a scary 20% said they'd cut phone or alarm wires). Half said they would bolt mid break-in if they suddenly became aware of an alarm.
Knowing all that, do this
There are a few simple steps you can take that will go a long way in stopping all but the most determined burglars. To discourage vacation break-ins:
- Lock everything. Doors, windows, backyard gates, and garage doors.
- Watch it. Get live video monitoring in or outside your home right from your smartphone. Search "home security apps" for options that let you turn on lights, adjust the thermostat, lock doors, and (no kidding!) yell at an intruder to get out – even if you're a thousand miles away.
- Cancel newspaper, package, and mail deliveries. Uncollected newspapers are a sure sign no one's home. Ask a neighbor to pick up mail and packages or have the Post Office hold them until you're back.
- Set a lamp on a timer. And leave your blinds slightly ajar to give the impression someone's home.
- Light up. Install sensors that turn on outdoor lights at dark or when they detect motion.
- Trim shrubbery that could provide cover. Bushes also can give burglars a boost to an upstairs window.
- Get your lawn mowed. Cut that grass if you'll be gone for more than a week.
- Consider a house-sitter. If you're leaving on an extended trip, invite a niece or nephew who is on summer break from college to stay at your house and give it a lived-in look.
- Save the vacation social posts. Tempting to do while you're in paradise, but better to wait until you're home. Creep-out alert: About half of burglars have some connection to their victims.
For more ideas, read our "Protect your home from theft" consumer tips and see this list of "23 reasons why burglars single you out."