While there's much worry and fretting about the selection of just the "right" gun for home protection, too many families neglect other areas that are just as important—or maybe even more important! While it's good sense to have a plan in place to protect your family in case of a home invasion, it's even better to keep the bad guys out in the first place. From literally "hardening" the target with locks and security systems, to engaging in subterfuge to fool a potential criminal into passing your house to look for an easier target, having a bag of tricks is just as important as having a good quality defensive firearm at hand.
1. Look Cared-For The average burglar looks for targets of opportunity. If a potential victim's house looks easy to break into, then he'll look at it more closely. Your first goal is to make sure your home looks like a tough nut to crack, and it's surprisingly easy to accomplish this. The first step is keeping a general appearance of being "lived in." Make sure the outside is neat and orderly: bushes trimmed around windows, mail and papers picked up, garden hose neatly stowed, yard presentable. If a potential thief sees this, chances are good he may move on. You see, most burglars don't want anyone to be home when they come in; they don't want to risk a confrontation. If the house looks occupied, they're more likely to take a pass.
If newspapers are piled on the porch, mail hanging from stuffed mailboxes, porch lights on in the daytime, window blinds closed during the day and a sense the house is being ignored—you've just hung a flashing welcome light out for a burglar.
2. Visible Security Systems An obvious security system (cameras, signs, etc.) is a huge plus. "Smile, you're on camera!" signs get any criminal's attention, and that alone will likely cause them to keep walking. Frequently, the mere appearance of a security system is enough...although it's better to have a real one that's activated and used, some homeowners find that simply having a security sticker is a deterrent. In some parts of the country, security bars on windows and doors make sense, and obviously help keep burglars out.
3. Make Them Guess If You're Home If you're not at home during the day, make them think you are. Leaving a TV on (or one of those "flickering light" gadgets imitating a TV), a radio or music playing may fool a burglar. Changing your blinds—up, down, halfway, etc.—from day to day shows someone may be home. (NB: If you have a blind open, make sure you're not showing off your new 50-inch flat-panel TV, jewelry sitting on a dresser or your alarm keypad!) If you're out at night, a few lights on around the house, a flickering TV and porch light on says "Hey, we're home"...even if you're not.
4. Monitor People Who Enter Your Home If you have workmen in the house, monitor them, and keep valuables out of sight if possible. Limit their movement in the house and make it clear you're competent, have good locks on your doors, have an obvious alarm system and stay in control of things while you have strangers in your house. Don't look like easy prey.
5. Not Everyone With a Clipboard Is Legit Don't assume that just because someone at your door in a uniform, it means they're legitimate. Savvy burglars will dress like a city worker, cable installer, landscaper, and so on to go about their business unnoticed. Unless you've actually scheduled for work to be done, assume a guy claiming to be working in the neighborhood is suspicious. Ask for ID, don't volunteer information and if anything looks or sounds strange, it probably is. Listen to your gut feelings- they're usually right! Before you let anyone in whom you're not expecting, call the company they claim to be from (use a phone book or Internet search to locate the number, not any paperwork they may have on hand), and verify their bona fides.
5. A Family's Best Friend A dog is one of the best security devices there is. Burglars always say if they see evidence of a dog, they stay away. Even a small (but vocal) dog is good. Anything that causes a ruckus keeps a burglar at bay. No dog, no problem: Put "Beware of Dog" signs out anyway.
6. Lock Up Even When You're There Lock your doors and windows when you're gone and when at home. If you leave windows slightly open for ventilation, make sure they can be secured in that position. Keep a bright flashlight next to your bed. Not only will it be useful should your power ever go out, it's also a big help in identifying potential burglars. Be innovative, and never hesitate to take whatever action is needed to stay safe.
Final Thoughts Keep in mind that you're simply trying to make your house less inviting. These tips won't necessarily stop a very determined burglar, but in almost every case, a common-sense set of precautions will cause the vast majority of them to move on to easier pickings. Another important point is that hardening your own personal awareness is just as important as hardening your home. It's critical to keep aware of what's going on around you, to have a plan—and the tools needed—in case something goes wrong, and to listen to and believe your gut feelings. Staying away from trouble is much easier than trying to claw your way out of a dangerous situation. Think ahead, and plan for the unexpected.