Burglary is a crime of opportunity! If you can reduce or eliminate the opportunity, then you can reduce or eliminate your chances of becoming a victim. A famous crime of opportunity is found in the movie Kitten with a Whip. Ann-Margret's juvenile delinquent character chooses to break into the house of John Forsythe's character. She believes the house is empty because the front lawn is littered with at least a week's worth of unopened newspapers.
The FBI estimated that in 2012, the number of violent crimes increased .07 percent, while property crimes decreased .09 percent. While the FBI can't provide numbers for the last two years, Mill Valley has seen an increase in property crimes.
Following are some helpful tips to reduce your chances of being victimized.
Make your house difficult for a burglar to enter. If burglars think it will take too long or be too noisy to break into your house, the chances are that they will try somewhere else.
Rely on a trusted neighbor to keep a spare key and pick up your mail and newspapers every day while you are on vacation.
Organize a Neighborhood Watch program.
Develop rapport with your neighbors. For burglary protection, nothing beats a cautious neighbor who's ready to call 911. Several Mill Valley HOAs are using a private social networking system called Next Door to communicate with neighbors about activity their area.
Install a burglar alarm. The best kind of alarm rings in the house rather than electronically (and silently) reports to a central office. If a burglar gets past your perimeter alarm system, there should be a secondary alarm system inside. One type is a sensor under a rug that goes off when more than 25 pounds of pressure is applied. The other type is a sonic detector that senses motion in a room (best if you don't have pets).
Always lock up ladders and tools. Don't give a burglar the resources to break into your home.
In order to avoid opening your door without knowing who is there, install a door viewer ("peep hole"). Always demand identification from strangers - even repair or sales persons.
If you have workers in your home, do a thorough background check and do not give the workers a key or code to your home. If you have given a key to a worker that you terminated, change your locks. Information on hiring workers for your home can be found here.
Have your valuables and electronic equipment etched (Operation ID) as most burglars will not steal marked property.
Photograph and/or videotape valuables, and keep photos and tapes in a safe or secure place outside your home.
Turn the ringer on the telephone down low. If burglars are around, they won't be alerted to your absence by a ringing phone.
If you are out during the day or night for long periods of time or away on vacation, use an automatic timer to turn on lights and a radio at different times of the day. This is an easy way to disguise the fact that you aren't home. If possible, leave a car parked in your driveway.
If you have recently purchased a television, stereo equipment, or other household item, do not put the empty boxes out in front of your home as they advertise was is inside your home.
Look for clues that people may be casing your neighborhood. A strange person ringing doorbells and asking, "Can I speak to Joe" may be checking to see if anyone is home. Also be suspicious if you see someone sitting for long periods in a parked car near your home. "See Something - Say Something" and call the police if you see anything suspicious in your neighborhood.
Don't keep valuables in your bedroom. Crooks normally make a beeline for the bedroom because they know that people tend to keep cash and jewelry there. Keep your valuables in an unlikely place (but not in the linen closet or the freezer as those are also common hiding places).
Doors, Windows, Locks and Keys
All doors that lead to the outside should be metal or solid-core, 1-3/4 inch hardwood. Most hollow doors can be easily broken through.
Each door should fit in its frame with no more than 1/8 inch clearance between the door and frame. A metal lining on the inside of an exterior door can prevent drilling, sawing, or kicking through.
Door hinges should always be on the inside and designed so that hinge pins cannot be removed from the outside.
Secure sliding glass doors with commercially available bars or locks, or put a wooden dowel or broom handle in the door track. Burglars look for sliding glass doors because they are the easiest to open.
Make sure all doors to the outside have good locks - deadbolt locks with a minimum 1-1/2 inch bolt. Make sure locks are also installed on screen and storm doors, garage doors, cellar doors, patio doors, and any other door that leads to the outside (including second-floor patios and decks).
Locks on doors should be placed at least 40 inches away from windows, glass panels, and other potential openings such as mail slots. Make it hard for a burglar to reach in and unlock your door. Or, install double cylinder, deadbolt locks that need to be opened with a key from the inside as well as the outside.
Make sure windows, especially those at ground level, have good locks.
Glass block windows offer excellent security for basement windows.
The center thumb-turn locks on many standard windows can be easily pried open or reached through a broken pane. For especially vulnerable windows, install key locks or consider installing grates or grilles (but make sure the devices can be easily detached from the inside to allow quick escape during a fire or other emergency).
Never hide keys outside - burglars know where to find "secret" hiding places. A better idea is to leave a key with a trusted neighbor.
Don't place identification tags on your keys or key rings; if you lose them, you give potential burglars help.
Always use the locks you have, on both your home and your garage. Lock up every time you go out, even if it's only for a few minutes. Almost 50 percent of burglars enter homes through unlocked doors or windows.
Shrubbery and Lighting
Make sure all porches and other possible entrances are well lit, with at least 40-watt bulbs. A well-lit house is far better protected than a house without lights. Consider installing motion-activated lights, as they have the added advantage of being startling to a burglar.
Overgrown bushes, tree limbs, or landscaping can provide cover for burglars. Trim plants to the height of porches or windows. Shrubbery which has prickly or needle-like foliage is a good choice for under windows.