Whether you’re planning a Caribbean vacation getaway, or a trip to visit relatives this holiday season, keep in mind that an empty house is a tempting target for a burglar. But with a little common sense and some careful planning, you can reduce the possibility that your home will be broken into while you’re gone.
* Prepare your first line of defense – Use sturdy locks on all doors and windows and secure before you leave. Repair any broken windows or locks. Never operate under the assumption that a burglar won’t find the one that’s faulty.
* Enlist the help of a trusted neighbor – Tell one neighbor your itinerary and your estimated time of arrival and return. That person should have a key to your front door to periodically check on the house, and a telephone number where you can be reached in an emergency.
* Don’t broadcast your plans – Especially in the era of social media, never post your travel plans on Facebook or Twitter. According to a recent article in the New York Times, tech-savvy thieves are taking advantage of the detailed information provided by unsuspecting social media users.
* Never let the house appear empty from the street – Stop your newspaper delivery, and have your neighbor pick up your mail and any packages left on the front porch. Arrange for someone to mow the lawn, rake leaves and clean the yard if you’ll be away for an extended period. Ask your neighbor to place garbage cans at the curb on normal pickup days and put them back after the garbage pickup. If you leave your car at home, park it where you normally would. However, be sure your neighbor moves it occasionally so that it appears the car is being driven. If you’re driving your car, have your neighbor periodically park in your driveway or in front of your house.
* Your home shouldn’t seem empty on the inside either – Plug in timers to turn lights and even a television on and off at appropriate times. Turn the ringer on your telephone down. If a burglar is around, and hears a call that goes unanswered, they’ll know you’re away. Don’t leave a message on your answering machine notifying everyone you’re on vacation. Leave your blinds, shades and curtains in a normal position. Don’t close them unless you would normally do so while at home.
* Don’t give thieves alternate ways to enter your home – Lock garage doors and windows. You should also secure storage sheds, attic entrances and yard gates.
* Don’t leave valuables in plain sight – Consider locking valuables in a bank safety deposit box. If you do leave valuables at home, make sure they are engraved. This simple precaution will allow stolen property to be easily identified and returned to you if recovered later.