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 and the South Pasadena Police Dept. are urging homeowners to protect their homes and deter break-ins before they leave. Although slippery steps and falling paint cans worked in the movie “Home Alone,” they are not enough to outwit today’s would-be bandits. However, there are other affordable devices to prevent home burglaries.
In the U.S, approximately 1.5 million home burglaries occur each year, with nearly 76,000 residential break-ins reported in five Southern California counties (Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura), according to 2018 FBI crime statistics. Home burglaries spike in the weeks leading up to the holidays when thieves are tempted by homes full of gifts. Break-ins also take place while people are out-of-town on holiday trips. A homeowner loses an average of $2,416 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 can block burglary attempts. Pet door locks are also available to block entry via small pet entrances.
“By taking security precautions when planning their holiday vacations, homeowners and tenants can deter burglaries while they are away,” said Claudia Rodriguez, Vice President of Insurance Claims for the Auto Club. “Making your home look occupied is one of the most important steps to take to prevent the bad guys from entering,” said Rodriguez.
Other layers of break-in and theft protection 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:
- Never announce holiday travel plans on any social media platforms – even if it’s to friends, family and colleagues.
- Make sure holiday gifts, expensive electronics and other valuables are not visible from outside your windows.
- 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. Lock the house side gates, according to South Pasadena Police.
- Remove ladders, tools and other objects from the outside of the home that could be used to assist a thief in gaining entry to your home. These items can be stored in a locked garage or outdoor shed.
- If possible, install a monitored security alarm system with visible lawn and window signage. Make sure the alarm is set properly before you leave. You may be eligible for a discount on your insurance premium if you have an alarm installed.
- 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 representatives.
- Video cameras, driveway motion detectors and smart home doorbells can also be theft deterrents.
- Keep the exterior of your home and yard well-lit with low-wattage outdoor lighting.
- Trim bushes near windows and keep the lawn cut to maintain the appearance of being home.
- 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.
- Use automatic timers with inside lamps and leave a radio on. Set lamps to come on at random times.
- Don’t store spare keys outside your home, such as under mats or in plants.
- Keep some blinds up and curtains open to keep up a normal appearance.
- Make sure your dog or pet door is locked and cannot be used by a thief to enter your home.
- Know your neighbors including all members living in the home and what vehicles they drive.
- Take notes of any suspicious people or activity in your neighborhood and report it to police.