Knowing what your home looks like to a burglar can give you some very valuable information about keeping your home safe. Here are 10 tips for "casing" your home as a burglar would, and identifying security weaknesses that could make your home an attractive target.
1. The front of your home makes a statement
If you have a front gate, the simple act of leaving it closed gives the impression you're security-conscious. If your front door has both a regular lock and a deadbolt, that also indicates security consciousness.
2. Try to look into all ground floor windows, whether curtains are open or closed.
Can you see a calendar clearly? Can a burglar peek in and see the events marked on your calendar -- like appointments and vacations -- clearly stating when you won't be home?
3. Ground floor windows can be just like storefront windows to a burglar.
When you peek into a living room or den window, can you see electronics, laptops, and other valuables? At Christmas, can you see the pile of presents under your Christmas tree?
4. If possible, climb onto your deck railing.
Does it give you a view into or direct access to the second floor? Many people are less vigilant about locking second story windows, yet these windows may be accessible via deck railing or other "climbable" structures.
5. Is a stack of mail easily visible through ground floor windows?
Not only can a thief gain access to a lot of valuable personal information from your mail, he can quickly learn enough about you (such as your first name) to concoct a plausible story should he meet up with a nosy neighbor, such as "Allison asked me to feed her cat while she was away."
6. If there is a security system decal on a window, make sure the security company is still in business.
An experienced burglar will know that certain security companies are no longer in business, and that any leftover security equipment is at worst a noisemaker.
7. Walk under motion sensor lights at night and note where they are aimed.
They should be high enough that a burglar can't easily reposition them. Also, you should know that over time, weather can alter the orientation of motion sensor lights such that they may not be aimed where you think they are.
8. Screwdrivers, crowbars, and bolt cutters are often used for forced entry
Are any of these tools readily accessible in a shed or an unlocked garage? Garages themselves are often jackpots for burglars, because many tools are both valuable and portable, and people are often more lax about securing garages.
9. If your name is on your mailbox, seriously consider removing it.
A name and a street address can yield very valuable information about you, particularly to a burglar with some online search skills.
10. Finally, "case" your social media presence.
Do you share information about appointments, vacations, or your work schedule? Burglars use Facebook and Twitter too, so it's imperative that you use security settings to your advantage and avoid announcing anything that would indicate you're not at home. Even "checking in" at your favorite restaurant can alert a social media-savvy burglar that he has an hour or two window of opportunity.
Being able to look at your house through the eyes of a burglar can give you insight about where your home security is strong and where it is weak. Some people will even deliberately lock themselves out (with another family member inside the house) and see for themselves how easy it would be to get back in. Know and address your home's particular security vulnerabilities, use physical security in the form of high-quality locks, and consider installing a monitored home security system to give burglars every reason to go somewhere else.