Imagine: You wake up in the morning and notice that your wallet is missing. Or let’s say you pad down to the kitchen to make your morning pot of coffee and discover that someone has rifled through your belongings.
That’s exactly what happened to a few people in Wisconsin last summer. Early one morning between 3:00–4:30 a.m., burglars entered three different homes in the Cottage Grove area while the homeowners were still asleep. Stolen items included wallets, purses, credit cards, laptops and other electronic devices.
Now, you’re probably wondering how these greedy thieves gained access to so many homes so easily without getting caught. They weren’t highly trained professionals, nor did they use any high-tech equipment. No — they simply walked in through an unlocked door.
In fact, studies have shown that the majority of burglars enter homes through an unlocked door or window. Which means something as simple as locking the exterior door could have prevented some of these burglaries, and the victims could have avoided a lot of hand-wringing.
Today, I want to review five common home security mistakes that make your home an easy target for a burglar looking for a crime of opportunity. Starting with…
1) Leaving doors and windows unlocked — Unless you live in Mayberry, I strongly recommend always locking your doors and windows. The reality is burglaries can happen anywhere. Even if you live in a small town where everyone knows each other, don’t be complacent when it comes to home security. I have a relative who used to live in a small town of 1,000 residents, and they regularly left their doors unlocked — until one day someone entered their home and emptied their medicine cabinet. So trust me when I say a home invasion can happen anywhere.
2) Too much visibility inside — You should have curtains on all your windows and keep them closed at night and whenever you are gone. If a criminal can see into your home, they can pinpoint the location of any valuables inside and determine if anyone is home. This is especially important at night. When it’s dark and the lights are on, it’s incredibly easy to see inside from outside. So always make sure your windows are covered when you are at home and away.
3) No exterior lighting — I’m by no means an electrician, and I know installing new lights can be a bigger project than most people want to tackle. However, you can buy battery-operated or solar-powered lights that you can drill into the side of your home. Or, even easier, ones that you can simply peel and stick to the exterior of your home. Criminals use darkness to their advantage, so the more lighting you have around your home, the more risk the criminal takes of being seen. Since they aren’t very expensive (you can buy quality lights for around $20), I recommend putting them all around your house so there are no dark spots at all.
4) Hiding a spare key — When I was a kid, I would get locked out of the house sometimes because I forgot my key. Like a lot of people, my family hid a spare key in a fake rock that I would use to get in. Looking back on it now, this spare key rock appeared wildly out of place. It was a small rock that sat by itself and looked like it was made of plastic. Nowadays, many people still leave a spare key outside, but criminals know all the tricks. Consider other options if you keep a spare key under the doormat, in a fake rock or buried in a planter. These hiding places are not as inventive as you think they are.
5) Leaving things outside — My neighbor has a large ladder in his backyard leaning up against his shed. Every time I see this ladder, I think about how a burglar could use it to gain access to the second floor of his house. Criminals are often desperate and will use anything they can find to help them commit their crime. If you leave your shed unlocked or tools lying around your backyard, remember that not only can these items be stolen, but they can also be used to get inside your home.
A home security system complete with cameras is probably the best crime deterrent, but don’t forget these common security lapses. Because no matter how great your home security is, a simple mistake like an unlocked door gives a criminal unfettered access to your home — and you’ll quickly learn you don’t live in Mayberry.