How to prevent break-ins in your home and vehicle

Posted in Auto, Home

A white home with a dark roof is illuminated by indoor lights in several rooms at sunset.

Residential break-ins and burglaries spike over the summer months. As the temperature rises and the weather improves, we tend to do things that make ourselves more vulnerable to theft, like:

  • Opening and forgetting to close and lock our windows, sheds and garages.
  • Leaving our sunroofs open, windows down or convertible tops removed while we’re away from our vehicles.
  • Going on summer vacations with our kids, making our homes a hotter target for burglars.

Practice some preventative measures to help deter potential thieves and keep your property safe. To learn how to prevent break-ins and avoid car or home insurance claims, follow these home theft prevention tips:

Lock up to prevent easy access

The first rule when you’re trying to prevent a break-in is to make sure your home and car are properly locked up. Here’s how to prevent theft at home and around your property:

  • Close and lock exterior doors and windows before leaving your home or going to bed.
  • Install deadbolt locks on all exterior doors and check that the hinges on those doors are inside of your home.
  • Change all the locks before you move into a new home.
  • In addition to locking sliding glass doors, place a piece of wood or steel bar along the track to stop door movement.
  • If you lose your keys or if they are stolen, change the locks in your home as soon as possible.
  • Avoid putting personal information on your house keys that can make your home a target, such as your name and address.
  • Give a spare key to your home to a friend or neighbor you trust.
  • Close your garage door and lock it. Deadbolt the door leading from the garage inside your home.
  • Lock your shed while it’s not in use.
  • Install pins or nails into the frames of your windows to ensure someone from the outside can’t open one and climb in. It’s also an added protection if you forgot you left your windows open.

Here’s how to prevent car break-ins:

  • Close the windows, sunroof or convertible top of your vehicle before you leave it unattended.
  • Never leave your keys inside your vehicle—even if you’re warming it up in snowy or icy conditions.
  • If you work from home or don’t use your vehicle every day, check on it if you park in your driveway or on the street.
  • Car theft and car part theft have been on the rise in recent years. In fact, vehicle theft is up almost 12% since 2019 according to Catalytic converter theft prevention should be a top priority while you’re checking on your car. In many cities across the country, catalytic converter theft is rising in popularity due to the easy access and high resale value for the part.

Don’t be a showboat to help prevent theft

Take steps to avoid advertising your possessions to burglars. In short, they won’t steal what they don’t know you have. Keep your nice items out of sight to deter thieves.

Try this exercise to help protect your home:

  1. Open your curtains and blinds in every room to create as much visibility as possible.
  2. Walk around the exterior of your home to see what’s visible when you look inside the windows.
  3. Move valuable items away from plain view or make a conscious effort to keep those window blinds or curtains closed.

Here’s another tip to protect your valuables: if you just bought a new electronic or cool gadget, you should make sure the box it came in isn’t visible on the curb with your trash and recycling. Consider using a box cutter to cut the box into smaller pieces and recycling the stack of cardboard.

Here are a few more ways to prevent theft in your home or car:

  • Keep your lawn mowers and bicycles stored out of sight and locked up if possible.
  • Don’t leave your garage door opener in plain view inside your car.
  • Use curtains on garage and basement windows for added privacy.
  • In your car, don’t leave valuables such as smart phones, tablets, laptops, wallets, purses, shopping bags and other items in plain sight.
  • Avoid moving items to the trunk of your car or SUV when you are in a public place. Someone nearby might watch you stow your items away and target your vehicle afterward. However, it is better to store your items in hard-to-see spots in your vehicle such as the trunk or covered on the backseat floor.
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Use technology and gadgets to deter crooks

Burglars want an easy target where they can score big and get out unnoticed. Typically, thieves wait to make their move until people are away from their homes or vehicles and nobody is around to witness their actions.

Follow these steps to make your home and car less desirable and more difficult to break into:

  • Trim trees and shrubs near your home to reduce the risk of burglars using them to hide.
  • Add exterior lighting or use motion-sensitive lights in your backyard.
  • Install an alarm system in your home or vehicle and make sure you use it.
  • Add security cameras in obvious spots around your home to deter thieves. This can also help you avoid package theft.
  • For vulnerable windows, use a heavy-gauge metal ornamental grille. Attach it with non-removable screws or fasten it from inside your home.

If you’re taking a trip or are going to be absent from your home, here’s how to prevent break-ins and make it look like you’re still there:

  • Connect lamps to automatic timers that will turn them on in the evening.
  • Leave a television or radio on to make it seem like someone is home.
  • Arrange for the post office to hold your mail.
  • Ask a friend or neighbor to pick up deliveries until you return.
  • Have someone mow your lawn or shovel snow off your driveway and sidewalk if you’re going to be gone for a long time.
  • If you park your car outside, ask a friend to move it periodically to make it look like you’re still at home.
  • Consider letting the police know that you’ll be away from home for an extended time and requesting that they drive by your property to check on things while you’re away.

As you can see, the method of how to secure your home from theft largely depends on your lifestyle habits. Find what works for you to help deter crooks and prevent theft on your property.

Ask the experts in your area

Your local police department knows the ins and outs of burglaries and crime in your neighborhood. Ask for a police officer to conduct an inspection and give you advice on how to improve your security and home theft prevention tips.

You can also find out what crimes are common in your area through online resources. Some cities have an online crime map that shows exactly where reported incidents have occurred.

And finally, get to know your neighbors. If you and your neighbors know each other, then strangers will stand out. For decades, Community Watch Programs have been proven effective in lowering and preventing crime. Do your part to watch out for suspicious activity in your neighborhood to help both you and your neighbors prevent break-ins.

-San Jose Police Department
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