Tips to deter home break-ins during summer vacations

Automobile Club of Southern California

Special to Valley News

With families taking a record number of summer road trips and vacations this year, homeowners may be asking themselves how to deter break-ins before leaving. Home burglaries typically occur during the summer, while families are away or enjoying more time outdoors, according to insurance industry statistics.

Homes are burglarized about every 15 seconds, and a homeowner loses on average about $2,316 in possessions and damages, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Nearly 8 million property crimes take place annually, with losses of $14.3 billion, according to nationwide FBI crime statistics which also noted that top items consistently taken were cash, jewelry, electronics such as laptops and other portable devices, firearms and medications.

“By taking security precautions when planning their vacations, homeowners and tenants can deter burglaries during the summer months,” Jim Will, vice president of insurance claims for the Interinsurance Exchange of the Automobile Club, said.

“Making your home look occupied and locking it to make break-ins difficult is the most significant deterrent to unlawful entry into a home,” Will said. “Unlocked doors and windows make it too easy for thieves to gain access to homes while families are away. The key to preventing home burglaries is taking simple steps to slow down or thwart entrance.”

Homeowners can also prevent easy access through sliding glass doors as well. Commercial locks or placing a steel dowel rod in the inside door track can prevent an intruder from forcing the door open, Will said. Home security systems also can be a theft deterrent. They can be installed through independent companies.

The Auto Club suggests these tips to help prevent home burglaries.

Never announce your vacation plans on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or personal blogs. Don’t make status updates – even if it’s only to friends and colleagues.

Lock all doors and windows before you leave. Use deadbolts, dowels, locking pins in sliding glass doors and windows to keep them from being pried open. Slowing down a would-be burglar will likely make them seek another home that’s easier to break into.

If possible, install a monitored alarm system in your home. You may be eligible for a discount on your insurance premium after the system is installed. The Interinsurance Exchange of the Automobile Club offers such a discount. Make sure your home insurance is up-to-date and provides adequate coverage if you own luxury goods, jewelry and electronics. Check to see if you need an additional rider or floater insurance policy for those items from your Auto Club or other insurance representative.

Keep the exterior of your home and yard well lit with low-wattage outdoor lighting.

Trim front entrance bushes, including near windows. This eliminates a burglar hiding while breaking in. Having your lawn mowed while you’re on vacation, keeps up the appearance of being home.

Alert your alarm company. If you have a security system in place, make sure the alarm is set properly when you leave.

Close and lock the garage door. Side garage doors should be solid, without any glass and equipped with a strong deadbolt.

Stop package deliveries, mail and newspapers, or ask a trustworthy neighbor or friend to pick them up. Don’t let mail, including bank statements and credit card offers, sit in the mailbox to advertise you’re away and tempt a thief to steal your identity.

Use automatic timers with inside lamps and a radio. Set them to come on at random times.

Remove spare keys from outside your home, especially near the front door or under a welcome mat. Don’t hide spare keys in potted plants.

Keep some blinds up and curtains open to keep up normal appearances. Put away personal documents, and place critical documents in a safety deposit box or leave them with a relative.

Hide expensive jewelry or place in a bank safety deposit box. If you don’t have a bank safety deposit box, consider renting a box. It can be used throughout the year to secure important family and home-related documents.

Keep a detailed inventory of your valuable possessions, including a description of the items, date of purchase, original value and serial numbers and keep a copy in a safe place away from home.

If you’re away from home on “trash day,” ask a trustworthy neighbor to put your trash, recycle and green waste bins out on the street that morning and take them back in at the end of the day.

Neighborhood Watch programs are great deterrents. If your neighborhood doesn’t have one, volunteer to start one with your local police department.

If you’re not on vacation, report suspicious activity in your neighborhood to help protect yourself and your neighbors.

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