Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions

Maryland Community Crime Prevention Institute

What To Do
...Before the Burglar Comes

Not if he comes, but when he comes. Because, he is coming. Down your street. And looking for easy targets.

He's looking for easy targets because he's not a professional, as a rule. He's an amateur. And so he must find easy targets. And he does. Enough easy targets to make residential burglary one of the fastest growing crimes in recent years.

This brochure is designed to help you avoid making your home look like an easy target. There are simple, basic security measures that will make your home less inviting and, in so doing, lead the burglar to look elsewhere for an easier target.

By day, leave drapes and shades in normal position-the way you have them when at home. (And don't leave easily movable valuables in sight close to windows!)

At night, leave on some inside lights-bathrooms and hallways, for example.

Consider buying automatic timers that turn lamps on after dark, then off a few hours later or at dawn. These timers can turn a radio on, too, so your home sounds occupied.

Never leave garage doors open-especially with no car in sight. This is like a WELCOME sign to burglars. And closing garage doors is something to do every time you leave- even if only for just a few minutes. When leaving for longer periods, don't forget to remove easily stolen objects like a power mower, garden hose, lawn chairs, bicycles and the like from your yard and keep them safely locked up.

Keep an eye on your neighbors' homes, get them to do the same for you.

If you see something suspicious-movement inside when a home should be empty ... a strange car or truck in the driveway ... a loiterer ... call your local law enforcement agency immediately. Make a reasonable effort to get a good description and license number-without endangering yourself. Burglars have been known to use a truck and openly carry off valuable possessions. If neighbors haven't mentioned moving, be suspicious. Police would rather you called than wished you'd called.

For information on how to set up a formal Neighborhood Watch in your area, contact your police or sheriff.

Many homes are guarded only by spring-latch door locks. Often these were installed before burglary became such a threat. (Also, older doors and frames may have become worn, leaving a pronounced gap that allows easier jimmying. So be sure to check them, too.)

To see if you have these inadequate locks, try this test. Open your front door part way. Then push the button or twist the knob that is supposed to lock it when it is closed. Now try to push in the bolt that sticks out and would normally fit in the hole in the door frame if the door were closed. If the bolt yields, with only the resistance of a spring behind it, you have the wrong kind of lock for that door. Ask a locksmith about a one-inch deadbolt lock.

This type of lock should be installed on every door that opens to the outside or garage. The strike plate that the bolt goes into should be fastened with screws at least three inches long. Be sure that locks are firmly screwed into solid wood-not just into a light door jamb. The longer the screws and the longer the lock bolt the safer your home will be.

Besides good locks, it's also a good idea to have a one-way peep-hole in your front door so you can find out who's outside without opening your door to a possible dangerous stranger.

Most windows come equipped with latches that do not provide ideal security. To secure double hung windows, window pinning is recommended.

To do this, drill a hole at a downward angle through each top corner of the inside sash of the window, and 3/4 of the way through the outside sash. Insert a 5/16" eyebolt in each hole. The bolts should fit loosely enough in their holes so that they are easy to insert and remove.

To secure windows (or glass doors) that slide sideways, you should do two things. First, screw a wood or metal bar of the proper thickness inside the upper track of the window.

This will prevent the window from being lifted out of its track. Second, to prevent the window from sliding should the lock be defeated, install a "Charlie Bar" or similar device with a retaining bracket.

For more information on how to secure your residence, contact your police or sheriff about a free home security survey.

Any locksmith can change the tumblers in your outside door locks quickly and inexpensively. So when you move into a home or apartment, have it done. If you lose a key, change the lock tumblers.

Don't be generous in passing around extra keys. One might end up in the hands of someone you don't trust. Don't leave an "emergency" key under the door mat, on top of the door frame, or in any other "hiding spot" so well-known to burglars.

Keep car keys and house keys separate. This way your house keys are never left in the possession of a stranger when you park your car at a restaurant or parking lot.

Never have a name or license tag attached to your house keys. If keys are lost or stolen you could have an unwelcome visitor very quickly!

Burglars often try to find out if anyone's home by phoning. If you get several suspicious "wrong number" calls or "nobody-at-the-other-end" calls, tell the police.

Warn family members, especially children, to give out no information by phone-especially about who is home, who is out, how long anyone is expected to be out.

Make it harder for burglars to "case" your home by phone by avoiding names on mailboxes or on doors. Your name on display only makes it easier for the burglar to look your number up in the directory.

This isn't just to guard against robbery by force or threat of force; sometimes burglars who have no intention of using force will first try to get in under some pretext so they can scout out valuables and study locks, windows and other means of entry.

Ask repairmen and others who claim to have business inside to show positive identification. If you have the slightest doubt, telephone their superiors back at work, getting the number from your directory. If you wish to help a lost or stranded motorist or deliveryman, you make the call while he waits outside.

When you do admit a workman or salesperson you were expecting, do not leave them alone at any time.

If, despite your precautions, a burglar does get into your home, don't give him a "bonus" of cash or easily- carried jewelry.

Never keep large sums of cash around the house. Keep valuable jewelry that you don't often use in a safe deposit box.

Keep a dog at your house if you can. Your dog needn't be big or ferocious.

If he makes noise (and most dogs will) that may be enough to cause a burglar to look for easier-and quieter-pickings.

Spread the word to one person-a trusted neighbor who can keep an eye on things while you're gone. And let newspaper mention of your trip be confined to details after the fact.

When gone, stop newspapers and other deliveries.

Or, have a good neighbor pick up papers and mail for you. Arrange to have the lawn mowed and walks shoveled.

If you'll be away from your home for an extended time, tell your law enforcement department. No, they won't put a guard at your door-no police system in the country has manpower enough to do that for every vacationer.

But they may take runs past your home from time to time, alert for signs of suspicious activity. And every extra precaution helps.

Operation identification has effectively reduced burglary wherever it has been properly implemented. Your valuable property is marked with your driver's license number and a window sticker that warns would-be burglars of the risk of entering your home. Call your police or sheriff about Operation Identification.

Will these precautions, and the tips given here, guarantee your home to be burglar safe? No, short of making your home into an armed fortress, there's no way to do that. But these basic security precautions will make your home less inviting as a target. And that's the whole idea! So share them with friends and neighbors.

For more information, contact:

Maryland Community Crime Prevention Institute
3085 Hernwood Road
Woodstock, MD 21163-1099
1-800-303-8802 or 410-203-1006

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Revised: March 4, 2002
(C) 2002 Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions
of Public Safety and Correctional Services
Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services