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Thaumas P. Ehr, Landscape Architect

Making your Home Unattractive to Burglars.

In 2010, there were about 6,000 burglaries in homes every day nationwide, according to the FBI. More than a third of the time, that burglar went through the front door, and he usually paid a visit on weekdays from 10 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 3 p.m.

These intrusions might not amount to much loss – a few dollars left on a dresser, a TV set or a video camera – but the Justice Department says only about 14 percent of burglaries in single-family houses are ever solved. Once you have had a break-in like this, the feeling of safety you once had in your home may be gone for quite a while.

But this may not happen if you can make your home the least attractive on the block for intruders from the minute that they spot your house.

How do you do that? You want to ensure that your front door looks like the worst possible target. That door needs to be strong-looking, well-lit, with clear lines of visibility for neighbors or passers-by.

Remember that a burglar only wants to spend about 60 seconds getting into your house. So if it looks as if your door will be tougher to get through than that, he’ll be on his way. Start by installing a decorative security screen door with a deadbolt -- a door fastened to the house with tamper proof bolts and non-removable hinges. Although a burglar could get through that door eventually, it will take him extra time to do it.

The main door should be of a solid core or solid wood, and the jamb should be reinforced to make kicking in the door as hard as possible. Then install an up-to-date deadbolt lock with a one-inch throw and upgrade all hardware to Class 2, best for residential use.

You want to take the same precautions on your back door, which is the second most popular entryway for burglars. There are new special latches on the market for sliding glass doors; don’t just stick a dowel in the track. Upgrading to double-pane windows will also deter burglars from smashing their way into your house.

Once burglars get into your home, you want to keep them frustrated. So don’t leave jewelry in the most obvious spot – the top drawer in your bedroom dresser. For bad guys on a quick visit, that could be their first, last and most rewarding stop.

Here are some other measures designed to help convince burglars that your home is not a pushover:

  • Interior and exterior lights left on or that go on and off and noise from a TV or radio are good deterrents. So are barking dogs or the presence of nearby neighbors. All these situations can make an intruder think that he might meet someone else while visiting your house.
  • Most of us know that when you go out of town, you should not let mail or newspapers build up at your home. But you should also get someone to clean up your yard occasionally. Piles of mesquite beans or palo verde pods scattered around can signal that no one is home.
  • In Arizona, your natural landscape can actually be a defense, too. Agaves and cactus next to your windows can deter burglars from trying to work on opening them. Thorny bushes and chollas can also keep burglars from climbing a fence into your yard or cutting across your property.
  • But do trim trees and high dense shrubbery that may hide doors from possible view as neighbors drive by or walk down the street.
  • Do not leave car keys lying openly around your house or in obvious hiding spots in your yard. Burglars in the Phoenix area have been known to pile their loot in a spare car in a garage and take off.
  • Keep your garage door shut and locked when you are on a trip. Never leave it open when you aren’t at home – even for a brief trip to the store.

Many homeowners purchase hide-a-key devices and then put them in their yards with a spare key inside in case they get locked out. But if you do that, hide the gadget in your neighbor’s yard instead. 

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