No one can guarantee a burglar never will break into your home, but there are a variety of things you can do to make it much more difficult for thieves to invade your dwelling.
The steps you can take range from simple solutions -- such as remembering to lock your doors whenever you leave -- to installing sophisticated alarm systems. Criminals tend to pick homes that are easy to enter. Your goal should be to create enough barriers to discourage intruders, says Pete Moraga, a spokesman for the Insurance Information Network of California.
In 2010, the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimated that a burglary takes place every 15 seconds somewhere in the U.S.
Part of burglarproofing your home is having a good home insurance policy. The nonprofit Insurance Information Institute notes that standard policies typically provide coverage for clothing, furniture and other personal items, if they are lost to theft or damaged in a disaster.
5 ways to burglar-proof your home
1. Work with your neighbors.
Chris McGoey, president of McGoey Security Consulting in Los Angeles, says one of the best ways to keep your home safe when you're gone is to have concerned and attentive neighbors watching your property. To build a support network, you'll need to establish relationships with your neighbors, particularly the ones who live in the homes adjacent to yours.
If your neighborhood doesn't have a local Neighborhood Watch group formed to protect the neighborhood, consider starting one by contacting your police department. Work to create friendly, cooperative relationships, regardless of whether you live in a house or an attached home, such as an apartment or condominium.
2. Install a security alarm.
One of the best things you can do to protect your home is to install a burglar alarm system and use it properly, McGoey says.
Many people don't learn how to use their alarms correctly, and they may give up after sending out false alarms that trigger responses from the local police department, he explains. Make sure the security company that installs the alarm sets the indoor motion detectors properly, so your dog or cat doesn't accidentally trigger the detector, he adds.
Once you install an alarm, don't forget to put up a sign outside your home warning potential intruders that it is protected, he adds. Typically thieves will move on to a less secure home if they see a sign announcing that your property is protected by a security system.
3. Make sure your doors are secure.
Richard Weinblatt, a former police chief who serves as dean of the School of Public and Social Services at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis, says homeowners often fail to consider the strength of their doors. Decorative glass panels may be attractive, but burglars often simply break through them to reach inside and unlock doors, he adds. If your door is made of flimsy wood or the frame surrounding it is weak, burglars easily can force it open.
Also, no lock, no matter how strong, will compensate for having a weak door.
"The lock can be great, but if the door is not up to security standards, you can kick it down," Weinblatt says.
4. Trim back shrubbery near doors and windows.
Burglars don't like to be seen. Having a tall hedge surrounding your home that hides your windows and doors from your neighbors' view may allow burglars to find ways to break in without being observed or interrupted.
Frank Scafidi, a spokesman for the National Insurance Crime Bureau, says it's important to trim back any trees or shrubs that create potential hiding places for burglars near doors or windows.
However attractive lush landscaping may be, it's not worth having if it makes your home a target for burglaries.
5. Don't post your vacation plans online.
It's a good idea to tell your neighbors or the local Neighborhood Watch captain when you're going on vacation, but sharing this information with everyone who is part of your online social network can be a mistake, Moraga warns. It's fun to post photos of yourself enjoying your trip, but this could be a tipoff for Internet-savvy burglars who like to rob houses when the owners are away.
"Keep in mind we live in an age of social media," Moraga says. "You don't want to post information about your whereabouts that others can find and learn that nobody is at home."