With a record number of travelers – about one-third of Americans -- planning to gather with family and friends this holiday season, the Automobile Club of Southern California is urging homeowners to protect their homes and deter break-ins before they leave. Slippery steps and falling paint cans are not enough to outwit today’s would-be Home Alone bandits but there are other affordable devices to help prevent home burglaries.
In the U.S., 1.5 million home burglaries take place annually, with nearly 16,000 residential-break-in reported in Los Angeles, according to 2016 FBI crime statistics. Home burglaries spike during the weeks leading up to the holidays, when thieves are tempted by homes full of gifts. Break-ins also take place while families are out-of-town on holiday trips. A homeowner loses an average of $2,316 in possessions and damages in a home burglary, according to the U.S. Dept. of Justice.
Holiday home break-ins are easily preventable with one simple step – locking doors and windows. According to home security surveys, 64 percent of homeowners and renters don’t lock all their doors and windows before leaving home. Additional simple devices like window locks and sliding door rods block burglary attempts.
“By taking security precautions when planning their holiday vacations, homeowners and tenants can deter burglaries while they’re away,” said Claudia Rodriguez, vice president of insurance claims for the Interinsurance Exchange of the Automobile Club. “Locking your home and making your home look occupied are the most important steps to take to prevent the bad guys from entering your home,” said Rodriguez.
Other layers of break-in and theft prevention include smart home features like front door cameras used through mobile apps and home security systems with yard signage displayed.
Auto Club tips to help keep your belongings safe and your spirits up during the holidays:
1. Never announce holiday travel plans on any social media platforms– even if it’s to friends, family and colleagues.
2. Make sure holiday gifts, expensive electronics and other valuables are not visible from outside your windows.
3. Lock all doors and windows before you leave. Use deadbolts, steel rods, dowels or locking pins in sliding glass doors and windows to keep them from being pried open. Slowing down a would-be burglar will likely make them seek another home that’s easier to break into. Don’t forget to lock your garage door and double-check that garage side doors are locked, too.
4. If possible, install a monitored alarm system in your home with visible signs. You may be eligible for a discount on your insurance premium after the system is installed. The Interinsurance Exchange of the Automobile Club offers such a discount.
5. Make sure your home insurance is up to date and provides adequate coverage if you own luxury goods, jewelry and electronics. Check to see if you need an additional rider or floater insurance policy for those items from the Auto Club or other insurance representative.
6. Video cameras, driveway motion detectors and smart home doorbells can also be theft deterrents.
7. Keep the exterior of your home and yard well-lit with low-wattage outdoor lighting.
8. Trim bushes near windows and keep the lawn cut to maintain the appearance of being home.
9. If you have a security system in place, alert the company and make sure the alarm is set properly when you leave.
10. While away, stop package deliveries, mail and newspapers, or ask a neighbor or friend to pick them up. Don’t let mail, including bank statements and credit card offers, sit in the mailbox to advertise you’re away and tempt a thief to steal your identity.
11. Use automatic timers with inside lamps and leave a radio on. Set lamps to come on at random times.
12. Don’t store spare keys outside your home, such as under mats or in plants.
13. Keep some blinds up and curtains open to keep up normal appearances.
14. Hide expensive jewelry or place in a bank safety deposit box.
15. Keep a detailed inventory of your valuable possession in a safe place away from home, including a description of your items, date of purchase, original value, and serial numbers. Take photos and videos of your rooms and their contents.
16. If you’re away from home on “trash day,” ask a neighbor to put your trash and recycle bins out on the street that morning and bring them back in at the end of the day.
17. Neighborhood Watch and NextDoor.com are great for theft information sharing and deterrents. If your neighborhood doesn’t have a watch, volunteer to start one with your local police.
18. Report suspicious activity in your neighborhood immediately to protect yourself and your neighbors.