At Home, Home & Garden

Home security: For vacation and year round

Home security cameras can help thwart — and solve — break-ins and burglaries.

Summertime, and in the Bay Area during our Indian summers in September and October, homeowners tend to keep windows and patio doors open, leaving homes ripe for burglaries. August is a particularly favorite month for families to get away, before school begins again in the fall.

In more than 40 percent of break-ins, thieves simply enter through an unlocked door or window. The odds of being burglarized a second time are higher because the thief will assume that what was stolen has been replaced. Also, the thief will likely remember those places that were easy targets to possibly hit again.

Burglars generally avoid dogs, noise, or other attention-getting risks. However, alarms are only one part of an effective home security plan since most alarms sound only after someone has entered the home. The following security measures can help your peace of mind while you are traveling to ensure that you enjoy your holiday.

Lighting: Properly illuminate porches, entrance areas, and both front and backyards. Motion-sensored lighting is ideal for areas that you do not want to light up for long periods, and it can also startle burglars when going on unexpectedly, which will hopefully scare them away. Battery-operated motion-sensitive lighting is prevalent in the marketplace these days, requiring no electrical outlet to install. Accent lighting can also make potential hiding spots in hidden or dark areas less appealing to burglars. Set timers to turn lights on and off at different times in various areas of the home when you travel.

Windows: Close and lock basement and main level windows and doors prior to retiring at night, and always when you are not at home. Place a metal bar or wooden rod in the track of sliding doors, and install a pin to prevent the door from being lifted off the track.

Doors: Install deadbolt locks on all doors. Make sure the lock has at least a one-inch draw into the door jamb. Keyless deadbolts are a great option for homeowners who are offering their homes through home-sharing sites like Airbnb. Entry codes can easily be changed and monitored, eliminating lost keys. Your dog walker, house cleaner, and any others who enter your home can have their own code. New home locks on the market even notify your smart phone every time someone enters your home.

Security cameras: Once reserved for mansions only, home security cameras are now commonplace and can be purchased for under $200. Live video streams right to a smartphone or computer, letting you stay connected to your home and to keep an eye on things no matter where you are physically. Imagine the number of wild teenage parties that could have been thwarted had these cameras been around sooner.

Shrubbery and trees: Trim shrubbery that hides doors or windows to lower than eye level to eliminate hiding spaces. Thorny plants such as holly or roses can also provide a deterrent, and they provide curb appeal, too. Trim trees so there is a wide gap between tree branches and upper levels of your house. Gravel around plants underneath windows can also be an unwelcome noise to burglars. If you will be gone for an extended period of time, be sure to have someone water those plants that are visible from the street. Neglected plants shout, “No one is home!”

Ladders: This may seem like common sense, but don’t leave a ladder in the yard that a burglar can use to enter an open second-story window. Also, look for furniture or other items that a thief could possibly use to scale a wall.

Garage doors: If you have electrically operated garage doors, either disconnect or bolt the doors before you leave for extended periods. Always lock the door to an attached garage. Don’t rely on your automatic garage door opener for security.

Mail holds: Never leave clues, such as a pile of newspapers or accumulating mail, indicating that you are away on a trip. If you don’t have a trusted friend or neighbor to bring these in daily, be sure to put a hold on deliveries.

House sitters: Consider having someone housesit for you so that there is visible activity in your home. If you have neighbors you are friends with, ask them to keep an eye on your home while you are gone.

Voice mail messages: Don’t leave messages on an answering machine or voice stating you’ll be away for a while and will return calls when you return.

Facebook: While posting pictures of our adventures and escapades in exotic locales around the world is fun, wait until you are back so that you aren’t announcing that your home is empty and a potential target.

Protect your home and enjoy your summer holiday!


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Julia Strzesieski is the marketing coordinator for Cole Hardware and can be reached at [email protected].