9 Ways to Prevent a Home Burglary

Written by Anita Alvarez
Updated October 14, 2015
home security
Alarm systems can provide an extra sense of security while homeowners are away. (Photo by Katie Jacewicz)

Burglars may target your home during the holiday season. Follow these tips to thwart their plans.

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The possibility that burglars can target your home is real year-round, but it's especially problematic during the holidays.

Unlike you, thieves aren't busy celebrating. Instead, they're busy casing homes in neighborhoods that are commonly empty during Thanksgiving, when people take to the road to gather with friends and family.

For families celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah or another seasonal occasion, the risk of an invasion while you travel is heightened, as thieves are looking to seize the opportunity to invade a home and steal your new gifts.

FBI crime statistics reveal just how susceptible homes are to burglaries:• Homes make up 73.9 percent of all burglaries, according to FBI records, while commercial properties only account for 26.1 percent.• In 2013, 2,159,878 burglaries occurred.• More than half of all burglaries involved forcible entry.• The estimated loss for property totaled $4.6 billion.

Take these steps to keep burglars away

1. Don't leave a spare key outside in an easy-to-find place.

2. Burglars prefer unoccupied homes. When you leave, use lights and timers to make it appear as if you are home.

3. If you're leaving town, request that the post office holds your mail. A stuffed mailbox is a sure sign that you're out of town. Alternatively, ask a neighbor or house sitter to bring in the mail every day while you're gone.

4. Make sure you don't schedule deliveries while you're out of town. A FedEx package left on your doorstep for days also shows that the house isn't occupied. Ask a friend or neighbor to swing by your home occasionally to make sure nothing seems out of the ordinary while you're away.

5. Install a security system. Often, sounding an alarm is enough to prompt burglars to move on.

6. A burglar will evaluate your home to assess whether it's easy to access. If you keep the Christmas tree right in front of a window, for instance, its location makes for easy access to gifts simply by breaking a window. Put the tree in a place that's not easily seen from the street.

7. Make sure doors and windows are always locked. It's particularly easy for homeowners to forget about windows, and unlocked windows are one of the easiest ways for burglars to gain access to a house.

8. Flimsy, single-pane windows are easy to break through, too. Replace old windows, especially those on the ground level. In addition, avoid running Christmas lights through a window, which can give thieves instant access to your home.

9. Avoid putting gift packages on the curb, because that allows thieves to see the expensive items you've purchased. Instead, dispose of packaging by breaking boxes down and sandwich them between nondescript cardboard.

Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted Nov. 4, 2013

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