In about the time that it takes to sing the traditional birthday song, a not-so-happy event can be occurring in your home or one near yours. In the United States a home is burglarized every 14 seconds. Even more alarming, 60 percent of the time the home is occupied, according to the FBI.

With statistics like that, how do you avoid becoming a victim in your own home?

Crime prevention experts say locking up is the key deterrent.

"You'd be surprised how many people don't lock their front doors. It's just like, oh I'm running down to the market so they leave out the garage, so they forget about the front door," said San Diego, California Police Officer Bob Van Wulven.

Some crime statistics report that burglars are seemingly rather lazy. They're looking for the easy way into your home -- an open door or an unlocked window. The highest percentage of break-ins occur through unlocked front doors during daylight hours.

"It's a grand opportunity [for criminals] that people are leaving," said Carlsbad, California Police Crime Prevention Specialist, Jodee Sasway.

According to Crime Doctor, Chris E. McGoey, a professional security consultant, July and August are the peak months for burglaries. The low is in February.

Despite the boldness of burglars, some residents still have a nonchalant attitude about protecting their home. "Don't be complacent," warns Howard Feldman, President of Pioneer Security Services, Inc. "The thought of having a break-in in the house or a fire, you know, like cancer, is so unpleasant to think about that people just don't think about it and therefore they believe by putting their heads in the sand it's not going to happen," said Feldman.

But in fact, Feldman says, "There's a 75 percent chance that their home will be broken into, at least once, over the next 20 years."

Feldman's company provides home security systems. He says they can reduce your chance of a break-in.

"We don't solve the burglary problem; we just move it from one neighbor to the next. We displace it; that is if we put a [home alarm] sign up on house 'A' the burglar sees the sign and generally will move to house 'B' -- the unprotected house," said Feldman.

However, it's important to remember that, "A security system alerts you if there's an intruder. It's the physical security of your house that keeps [criminals] out," said Sasway.

An open window, even on a second-story floor, for instance, can attract burglars.

Other safety tips include:

  • Lock everything up when you leave your home.
  • Make sure your lock is a good deadbolt.
  • Install a locking security screen door.
  • Use blocking devices, such as a wooden dowel in the track, on sliding glass doors.
  • Use an alarm system.
  • Display alarm decals in highly visible locations.
  • Know your neighbors, even exchange phone numbers in case of emergencies.
  • While on vacation, stop newspaper circulation so papers don't pile up indicating the home is vacant.
  • Use light timers for lights inside the house.
  • Install motion-detection lights for exterior areas.
  • Cut back your landscape so that big bushes aren't blocking windows and other entryways, making easy hiding places for criminals.
  • Secure windows with through-the-frame pins.

Keeping your house safe requires educating everyone in the home about the importance of remembering to lock up. Taking preventive measures now is far better than trying to fix the emotional and physical damage that's caused by burglary.

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