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Smart anti-crime tips for the holidays

After seeing our story about the Fairfax County man who was wounded by an armed burglar last week, the fine folks at Broadview Security, formerly known as Brink's Home Security, sent us these tips for securing your home when you're not there, for the holidays or any time. The tips go beyond "leave a light on," and provide some good ideas you probably haven't thought of before. So read, memorize and implement. What are you waiting for?

-- Burglars look for occupancy cues like outdoor lights burning 24-hours a day, piled up newspapers, or advertising flyers hanging on the door knob. Use an inexpensive light timer when you are away and ask a neighbor to keep the front of your home clean of papers and other materials.
-- Burglars know to look for the hidden door key near the front entrance. Don't hide spare keys under rocks, in flowerpots, or above door ledges. Instead give the spare key to a trusted neighbor.
-- Burglars prefer to enter through unlocked doors or windows. Sliding windows that are not secure can be seen from distance. One holiday problem can occur when exterior holiday light extension cords are run inside through a window and prevent it from being secured. Hire an electrician or handyman to install an exterior outlet for your holiday lights.
-- Don't leave descriptive telephone answering machine messages like, "You've reached the Wilson's...we're away skiing for the holiday...please leave a message." Burglars love to hear that they have plenty of time to break in and completely ransack your home.
-- Cut the release cord handle off your electric garage door openers. It’s easy to push the top of your garage door in enough to put a wire hanger in and hook the release handle. By pulling on the handle, a burglar will override the screw or chain drive and be able to manually lift the overhead door. Once protected by the privacy of your garage, entry to the home is inevitable. Be sure to leave just enough cord so that you can use it from inside if needed, but not enough to reach the top of the overhead door.
-- Place timers on a few of your inside lights to give the appearance that someone is home. It is always smart to vary the time every few days so that a pattern is not realized, if you are being cased.
-- Don’t leave a purse, wallet or laptop on the counters that can be seen from a window. This may trigger a forced entry.
-- When traveling, put your office address and cell phone numbers on your luggage tags. Using a home address will allow a baggage handler to know that you are not home.
-- Remove all address information from your parked car at the airport. Anyone who breaks into your vehicle would know you are not home and have your address and garage door opener.
-- Also, do not program your home address into your GPS device as burglars can use this to get to your home. Instead, program the address of a business or gas station nearby.
-- Burglars appreciate knowing that you have expensive gifts inside for them to steal. After the holidays, don't pile up empty gift boxes from your new computer, DVD player, or stereo receiver on the street for the garbage man. Break them down or cut them up to conceal the items better.
Copyright 2009 Broadview Security, www.broadviewsecurity.com.
-- Tom Jackman

By Tom Jackman  |  December 24, 2009; 12:30 PM ET
Categories:  Fairfax , Personal Safety  
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