More than 1.1 million burglaries were reported in South Africa in 2012. That’s one every 15 seconds, proving just how easy it is for burglars to gain entry. But before you make a big purchase on a security system, take a good hard look around your home. A few simple, low- or no-cost measures will significantly deter a would-be thief from targeting your home.
Choose a coming weekend and go over these 14 steps—which range from low-effort, no-cost chores to more-involved, pricier projects—to improve your home’s security.
Make home security a habit, with every member of the household—including kids—agreeing to a routine that should include such simple rules as:
Many municipal police departments offer complimentary home inspections. An officer walks through your home and recommends simple, cost-effective changes to tighten security.
This is a fun, useful exercise to do with a trusted neighbor or friend: Allow your neighbor to roam through your house for three minutes, find as many small valuables as possible, and remove them from your house. Let the ersatz burglar demonstrate how easy it is to find valuables. Then hide them from real burglars. That might mean buying a small safe that bolts to the floor, renting an off-premises safe-deposit box, or stashing jewelry and cash in unorthodox places. You can return the favor for your neighbor.
The key under the mat, inside the mailbox, beneath a rock—everybody hides a house key. Problem is, burglars know your hiding places. Instead, give it to a trusted neighbor.
Don’t leave car and house keys and remotes near the door or otherwise visible inside your house. Secure them inside a cabinet or a drawer to keep them hidden.
Post security-company signs or window stickers near all entryways—whether you have a security system or not. Maybe you have signs/stickers on hand from a previous contract with a security firm, or maybe you can get some from a friend. In addition, post a few “Beware of Dog” signs in visible spots, say at the front of the house or on a gate to the backyard.
Don’t store a ladder outside. A burglar, perhaps posing as a handyman or contractor, could use it to gain access to a second-floor window or balcony.
If you don’t have them already, buy and install outdoor lighting with infrared motion sensors and install one near each point of entry. Replace any burned-out lightbulbs and put your porch lights on timers. Find the best bulbs for outdoor uses.
When you leave for work or appointments or go on vacation, you can create a “someone’s at home” look using timers on lights and TVs. No surprise, there are lots of gadgets available. Fake TV, for instance, simulates the flickering lights of a television, and from outside, it appears that someone is watching TV.
Unsecured window air conditioners could provide an easy entry point for a crook. Use an air conditioner bracket, sliding window lock, or corner braces.
If your shrubbery is too tall, bushy, or not well spaced, you’re providing a nice hiding spot for a potential burglar. Trim and prune plantings.
Are the window locks operable? If not, get them fixed or replace them. Also consider installing aftermarket window locks, which let you open the window a few inches while still keeping it secure. Another alternative is to use inexpensive window-break alarms.
Okay, so you’re probably not going to be able to install new doors by yourself over a weekend. But you can inspect your front, side, and back doors. Replace hollow (read: low-quality and easy-to-breach) doors with solid-core (made of wood or metal) or metal-clad doors. Check our buying guide for entry doors.
Sliding-glass doors have a latch to close them but are often an easy point of entry for burglars. To make one more secure, place a wood dowel cut to size or an adjustable safety bar in the interior floor track, or consider adding a floor bolt.
Electric garage doors are not a common point of entry—as long as they are closed.
Locks are the weakest point on a door. Make sure you have a grade 1 or grade 2 dead-bolt lock that penetrates the door frame. It’s not necessary to get one at a specialty locksmith; these can be purchased at a big-box home store. The strike plate—the stationary piece that the bolt enters—must be heavy duty, made of solid metal or brass, with six three-inch-long screws that penetrate the door jamb and the door frame.