Writer: D'Lyn Ford
LAS CRUCES -- Millions of homes are robbed each year, but most burglars don't operate alone. Studies show they sometimes get a little help from careless homeowners, said a consumer education specialist with New Mexico State University.
"Burglars tend to avoid homes where they are unsure of the occupants' movements," said Susan Wright with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service. "They also fear getting caught and leave quickly if homes are hard to enter."
Homeowners can do a number of things to protect their property, according to crime prevention experts. Most of the recommendations cost little or nothing and are simple to accomplish.
First, invest in a deadbolt that requires a key to lock, Wright suggested. Spring locks are too easy to pick. In addition, use locks or latches already on storm and screen doors.
"Don't put your name on your mailbox," Wright warned. "This gives thieves an easy way to look up your phone number to check if you are home."
People can put decals on their windows that warn burglars their houses are protected by an alarm system. Some insurance companies will furnish warning signs.
"Don't publicize absences ahead of time," Wright advised. "Arrange for someone to check for newspapers and mail on a daily basis. Tell only your close neighbors and friends that you will be away, and leave your destination and itinerary with someone."
Solid garage doors are less attractive to burglars than those with windows. If the garage door has windows, put up curtains or paint the windows so burglars can't peek in to see if a car is inside.
Use automatic timers for radios and lights around the house, Wright suggested. Set them so they will turn on and off at random times in different rooms.
"If you have a telephone answering machine, record a message that you cannot come to the phone at the time and will return the call when you can," Wright said. "Never leave messages saying you're not at home."
People who keep valuables in their homes should choose two hiding places, she said. One should be easy to find and the other should be difficult to locate. Hide some cash and a few small items in the easy-to-find place. A burglar may assume that all valuables have been found and stop looking.
Hiding valuables in the refrigerator, freezer or medicine chest is not a good idea, Wright said. Also, avoid hiding items in the master bedroom. It is one of the first places burglars look.
© 2013 New Mexico State University Board of Regents
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