Tips on how to bur­glar-proof your home

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Max Siegel­baum

Bum­bling Christ­mas bur­glars are an Amer­i­can cin­ema sta­ple. And for good rea­son.

Po­lice and home-se­cu­rity ex­perts say they see a spike in res­i­den­tial break-ins and thefts dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son.

“The hol­i­days pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties for crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity,” Den­ver Po­lice Depart­ment spokesman Doug Schep­man said.

Homes left empty pro­vide ideal con­di­tions for bur­glars seek­ing an eas­ier break-in, Schep­man said. The hol­i­days also bring a surge in mail theft.

It’s dif­fi­cult to pre­vent be­ing bur­glar­ized, but Schep­man and pri­vate se­cu­rity ex­perts say there are sim­ple steps home­own­ers can take to re­duce the at­trac­tive­ness of their homes to thieves.

“Sur­vey the perime­ter of your house and imag­ine you’re a crook. How would you break in?” said Sofia Aguilar, a 22-year-vet­eran of the se­cu­rity in­dus­try and co-owner of A-1 Se­cu­rity Sys­tems in Den­ver.

Since Thanks­giv­ing, so-called porch ban­dits have made off with pack­ages left on doorsteps at a rate of about one per day, ac­cord­ing to Den­ver po­lice. Be­fore then, since Jan­uary, an av­er­age of two to three pack­ages were re­ported stolen each week. Po­lice and se­cu­rity pro­fes­sion­als rec­om­mend send­ing pack­ages to an of­fice or closely track­ing them on­line to make sure some­one is present when they ar­rive.

“When we look at the data, we do see a slightly higher amount of bur­glar­ies in the win­ter months than in the sum­mer months,” said Tim Krebs, com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager at Pro­tect Amer­ica Home Se­cu­rity, a na­tional se­cu­rity com­pany.

A dark house with news­pa­pers pil­ing up out front, no car in the drive­way and no an­swer at the door­bell is at­trac­tive to crim­i­nals, Aguilar said. She rec­om­mends can­cel­ing news­pa­per de­liv­ery for a few days if you’re trav­el­ing.

A Univer­sity of North Carolina study found that a car in the drive­way, signs for a se­cu­rity sys­tem and lights in the house were some of the most ef­fec­tive de­ter­rents for bur­glars.

If you’ll be away from home dur­ing the hol­i­days, ask a friend or neigh­bor to watch your place.

“Drive in and out of the drive­way to make tire tracks in the snow, mak­ing it ap­pear as though some­one is at home,” Schep­man said.

Also, “arm your sys­tem. If you have an alarm sys­tem, use it,” Aguilar said. “A lot of peo­ple don’t.”

There are a slew of new gad­gets that can be in­stalled to keep homes safer. Lights can be switched on and off from a smart­phone app. Home­own­ers can in­stall a cam­era and mi­cro­phone in their door­way to ob­serve and speak to peo­ple on their doorstep. Garage doors — a com­mon exit point for thieves when they’re leav­ing, Aguilar said — can also be con­trolled and mon­i­tored re­motely us­ing cell­phone apps.

But the best home se­cu­rity ad­vice is per­haps the most sim­ple.

“One thing in the greater metro area that al­ways amazes me is that peo­ple don’t lock their doors,” Aguilar said. “Lock your doors.”

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