Home Safety

If you're locked out of your home, can you still get in? Through an unlocked window in the back, or using an extra key hidden under a flowerpot or up on a ledge? If you can break in, so can a burglar! A small investment of time and money can make your home more secure and can reduce your chances of being a vic­tim of burglary, assault, or vandalism. Get to know your neighbors. Watchful neighbors, who look out for you, as well as themselves, are a front-line defense against crime. In almost half of all residential burglaries, thieves enter through an unlocked door or unlocked window.


  • Don't hide keys in mailboxes, planters, or under doormats. Give an extra key to a neighbor you trust.
  • If you've just moved into a new house or apartment, have the locks changed.
  • Make sure every external door has a sturdy, well-installed deadbolt lock with a minimum of a 1 1/2-inch bolt.
  • Secure double-hung windows by using key locks or by sliding a bolt or nail through a hole drilled at a downward angle in top corners of the inside sash and partway through the outside sash. Secure basement windows too. The hole should be large enough that the nail or bolt slides in and out freely, in case you have to open the window fast in an emergency.
  • Secure sliding glass doors with commercially available locks or use a broom­stick or wooden dowel in the track to prevent the door from being pried open. Insert a pin in a hole drilled in the sliding door frame that goes through to the fixed frame to prevent anyone from lifting the door off its track.


  • Doors should fit tightly in their frames, with hinge pins on the inside.
  • Door chains are not security devices; they break easily and won't keep out an intruder.
  • Install a peephole or wide-angle viewer in all entry doors, so you can see who is outside without opening the door.
  • Locks aren't effective if they're on flimsy doors. Make sure all exterior doors are metal or solid, hardwood.


  • Clearly display your house number, so police and other emergency vehicles can find your home quickly.
  • If you are going to be away for an extended period, make arrangements to have your grass cut and watered, or your snow shoveled. Have a neighbor leave trash at your curb on garbage collection day and park a car in your driveway occasionally.
  • If you are planning to go on vacation, put lights and a radio on timers to create the illusion that someone is home. Leave shades, blinds, and curtains in normal positions. Arrange for a neighbor to pick up and hold your mail and newspapers, and have them check daily to remove circulars from your doorway and yard.
  • Keep up the appearance of the neighborhood. Broken street lights, abandoned cars, vacant buildings, graffiti, litter and run-down areas attract crime. Work with the local government and your neighbors to organize community clean-up days.
  • Keep your yard well maintained. Store ladders and tools inside your locked garage, basement, or storage shed when you're not using them.
  • Trim shrubbery that hides doors or windows. Cut tree limbs that could help a thief climb into windows.
  • Turn on outside lights after dark to illuminate porches, entrances and yards ­front and back. Consider timers that turn on outside lights, or install motion detectors.

Burglars Can Take More Than Your Property!

Burglars generally don't want to run into their victims. But if they're surprised by someone coming home, or if they pick an occupied home, someone may get hurt.
  • If you hear a noise that sounds like someone breaking in or moving around, quietly call the police and wait calmly until they arrive. If you can leave safely, do so. Otherwise, lock yourself in a room, or if the intruder enters the room you are in, pretend to be asleep.
  • If you see a screen that has been cut, a broken window, or a door that's been left open, don't go in. Call the police.
  • Think carefully before buying a firearm for protection. Guns can be stolen and sold to anyone, or captured and used on you or the police. If you do own a gun, keep it locked up, with the ammunition secured separately, and learn how to use it safely.

Look Beyond Locks & Alarms

  • If your neighbors are ever victims, help them out. Offer sympathy and support.
  • Keep written records of all furniture, jewelry and electronic products. If possible, keep these records in a safe deposit box, fireproof safe or other secure place. Take pictures or a video, and keep purchase information and serial numbers if available. These help law enforcement agencies track recovered items.
  • Look around for things that could con­tribute to crime-poor street lighting, abandoned cars, vacant lots, littered play­grounds with broken equipment, homes that elderly people have trouble maintaining. Help organize a neighborhood clean­up/fix-up day.