MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Warm weather is finally here, and you might be planning your summer vacation. Here are a few tips — some you might not have thought of — for making sure your possessions are still there when you get back:
1) Do not post about your vacation on Facebook until after you get back. If that takes more discipline than you can muster, at the very least keep your location status off any public social networking pages. Many burglars use these sites to identify “safe” targets.
2) Make your home look lived in. A light on a timer is a great first step. You can buy a small device called “FakeTV” that simulates the light output of a television, making it look like you are home watching TV each evening. The effect is so convincing that your neighbors may later ask if you really went on vacation.
3) Don’t leave obvious signs that the house is unoccupied. Stop the mail and paper, or have a neighbor take it in. Arrange for lawn care as needed. And don’t leave notes on the door! (“Dear thieves …”)
4) Make your home hard to get into. You need good locks. Your hidden outdoor key is probably not as cleverly hidden as you think it is. So, get to know your neighbors, and leave the key with them. Let them know you will be gone, and have them keep an eye out during your absence. If you have an alarm system, by all means use it. Amazingly, many people forget to set the alarm. Conversely, do not think that an alarm system makes you invulnerable. Burglars can still cause you a great deal of misery in a smash-and-grab robbery, leaving before the police can respond. Park a car in the driveway, but be sure to take out the garage door opener first.
5) Remove obvious temptations. Take a walk around your property and make sure you cannot see any easily pawned valuables through uncovered windows. Are there any ladders left out, or particularly easy or well-concealed access points?
6) Prepare for the worst. If your computer were stolen, what might the consequences be? For most of us, this would be dire indeed. So, back up and password protect. Make a quick run-through around the house with a video recorder, listing off the valuables. This could save a lot of hassle with the insurance company if you should need to file a claim.
7) Strike the right balance. Only you can make the trade-off between security measures and the burdens they impose. You may wish to place irreplaceable items in a secure location, such as a fireproof safe. This can include expensive jewelry, family photos, and financial records. Your insurance policy is up to date, right? Also, label your possessions with your name. An engraver is best, but a Sharpie is a lot better than nothing.
The good news is that only two out of a hundred homes will be burglarized in any given year. The bad news, and this is intended to jump-start you into a bit of action, is that for those two homes that are burglarized, the effects of the intrusion are often devastating. The average burglary costs $1750, and a whole lot of peace of mind. Ask anyone who has had a break-in; they never look at their home quite the same again.
Security is a mindset, and need not be a great burden. Fortunately, your security measures do not need to be perfect. Most crime is opportunistic, and if the guy down the street failed to take a few simple precautions, his house (poor chap!) is more likely to draw the attention of the thief than yours. And frankly, there are no measures that can stop the most determined criminals. So, just take a few simple steps to improve your odds and peace of mind. It will make your getaway that much more relaxing.