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INSECURITY! How To Secure Your Home Against Burglars

Kenyans are increasingly worried by the threat of home burglary and the subsequent emotional and financial impact of a break-in. It is estimated that a home burglary occurs every 15 seconds in Kenya. Having your home broken into results in financial cost to repair and replace property, and has a major impact on how safe you feel at home.

These bad guys are taking a professional, ordered approach to burglary, casing homes for days and doing research about homeowners, neighbours and neighbourhoods before they strike. It is for this reason that we all need to play a smart proactive role in making our homes and community safer.

In order to keep your house and loved ones safe, here are some home security tips from burglars about what every homeowner should do to keep them out.

Secure Doors and Windows.

Entrance doors are obviously the easiest way to gain entry. In many homes, a hard swift kick on the front or back doors will literally drive the door right out of its frame and the thief can just walk in and help himself. Some of our doors and windows at home are usually so weak that anyone can easily break into them by simply popping them off of their frame, even when locked. We should always take extra precaution to secure them since they can be an inviting entry for burglars. Simply take a strong dowel, steel bar or two-by-four and slide it into the back groove. That way, even if people can pick the lock, the rod stops the door from sliding back and opening.

It pays to invest in strengthening these defences. A solid core door with a deadlock, for example, is harder to force, grilles and shutters prevent burglars from breaking in through windows, and a peep hole or lockable security screen can help keep burglars out. Install deadbolts and strike plates in all doors. Also, rekey or replace the locks of your house right after you buy it. This will ensure that you are the only one with copies of your key.

Check The Locks.

It may seem obvious, but be sure to double check that you have locked all of the doors, windows, and the garage. Ensure that your current locks can’t be unlocked with a bump key, a device used by criminals that can open most locks. You should have durable locks such as deadbolts on the doors, too.

Upgrading locks are a great start, but don't forget the screws holding the lock and door hinges in place. The strike plate on your door jamb and the hinges on your door are probably held in place with screws that are about 1" long - just long enough to fasten into the casing lumber.

On a similar note, the glass on your windows and doors should be strong, so they can’t easily be broken. The doors themselves should also be resilient.

N/B: It may seem like a good idea to leave a spare key hidden under a flower pot or doormat in case you get locked out of your house. But that's an open invitation for a burglar to walk inside without any difficulty. Someone could also see you retrieve the key at some point, giving away your hiding place. Instead, give a spare to a neighbor you know well or friend who lives nearby for safekeeping.

Secure Your Yard.

Tall shrubs and overgrown trees are welcome hiding places for criminals to wait until the coast is clear to get into your house. Cut away any tall tree branches that reach upper story windows and protect against attacks from above. Regularly trimming larger bushes and tree branches also eliminates dark shadows that help hide intruders.

Always Keep the Lights on.

Waiting to see if the lights go on is one of the easiest ways to tell if anyone is home or not. You can purchase adapters to plug lamps into, or light switches, that will automatically turn your lights on and off on a timer. The best ones can be programmed to go on randomly, rather than on a timer, which gives a more realistic impression of someone being home. There are also devices that can be controlled remotely if you have a smart system in place.

Install a Security System.

A home without a security system is three times more likely to be broken into. Surveillance cameras will help you keep an eye on all areas of your house. You can buy some outdoor security cameras with night vision and a decent hard drive to record a few days’ worth of video. If you can’t afford the real thing, fake cameras can also work as a good deterrent; just make sure they’re quality fakes and not cheap plastic that thieves will easily identify as dummies. Let your cameras stand out so thieves know they are being watched and move on. Intruders look for the weakest spot of your system and use it, so don’t make it easy.

Illuminate shadowed part of your home and access points with motion-activated floodlights. That’s right, floodlights. If a light flips on, you want a wide viewing area.

Yard security, such as a lawn perimeter alarm, will also deter intruders before they even get close to your home. Alarms will immediately and effectively alert you to an intruder, so you can keep your family and home safe.

Make all aspects of your home security system secure and effective.

Fake Burglars Out.

If burglars can tell that someone is home, there's a greater chance that they won't attempt to break in. Remember, more break-ins occur during the day when many people are at work. For that reason, when you leave the house, create an illusion that someone's still there.

You can leave a light on, along with music or your television for good measure. Of course, if you are going to be burning up that electricity by not turning off lights when you leave, make sure you have installed compact fluorescent bulbs that last longer and are better for the environment. You can also mentally fake them out by putting a home security system sign in your yard. This won't guarantee they won't test out whether it's valid, but it could deter them.

Know Your Neighbors (Nyumba Kumi)

Getting to know the people you live around is one of the most important safety steps you can take. Make friends with your neighbours; get to know their names, the types of cars they drive, or even their dogs. 

Knowing these things will help you notice if something is out of the ordinary and potentially prevent burglars while you are away on vacation. An unfamiliar car or person walking a strange dog could be a criminal casing the neighborhood.

Closer-knit neighbourhoods generally report fewer break-ins because strangers will stick out, and people are more likely to keep a casual eye on other people's security. Neighborhood Watch Programs (Nyumba Kumi) can be very effective at lowering and preventing crime.

If you rent a house or apartment, you have more incentive to get to know your community because renters are 85% more likely to experience a break-in. This may be because renters aren't as likely to watch out for one another or have any sort of community watch programme.

Stay Vigilant!

Although it is nice to know you have people watching out for you in your neighbourhood, you also need to watch out for yourself. If you aren't paying attention to what you are doing, you could unknowingly be rolling out a red carpet for a burglar to waltz through your front door.

While it may seem like a symptom of paranoia, keep your identity and any travel plans on the down low. For instance, you shoyld be very careful with your identities and programmes. Don’t carelessly give away too much details about yourself to the public. Before you leave your house, don't talk about it openly in public because a sinister stranger could be taking note.

Educate yourself as well about crime in your area. Update yourself on the crime hotspots to see if your neighborhood has been hit recently. If you notice a lot of criminal activity in a particular area, that's your signal to pay extra attention to security. And always keep an eye out for suspicious activity in neighborhood. 

A little added effort can go a long way to protect your home and your safety.

Be Less Hospitable.

Dark perimeters and nicely paved driveways just beckon a burglar to take a closer look at your home. Outside lighting is crucial, and listed as one of the best deterrents for keeping thieves away. Look into flood lights that are triggered by motion – nothing’s more off-putting to a bad guy than being in the spotlight. In addition, a gravel driveway or pathway is another way to make burglars think twice. Since you can hear their footsteps, it might be enough to make them feel like your house isn’t worth the risk.

Practice Safe Habits.

Keep the kitchen door or garage door closed so that intruders cannot use it as a means of entry. Many intruders enter households through doors in the garage because they are less likely to be locked or reinforced. If you have a tool shed, make sure it is also well secured. Otherwise, it may provide tools for intruders to use when breaking in.

Have phone calls from your home forwarded to your cell phone if you are not home, so others won’t know when you are gone.

Don’t Advertise Or Showboat.

Many people post that they will be out of town on their social media accounts, broadcasting that their houses will be empty, which is not the way to prevent burglars when you are away. Criminals use social media too.

Secondly, getting a new car or a new 55” television is exciting. People want to showcase their new toys and show their friends, so they post pictures on social media.

After the new products are opened, the boxes are discarded on the curb for trash day where everyone can see. Leaving certain things lying around your yard or in plain sight from the road can unwittingly lure thieves onto your property. For instance, some of us leave their kids’ bicycles carelessly in the compound where anyone could easily walk away with, roll it inside or into their garage. Others after purchasing a new plasma screen television or other pricey electronics or appliance, leave the box out beside the trash bin. That alone tells people you have something brand spanking new that could fetch some decent cash on the street. It may also leave them wondering what other goodies are inside your home. Therefore, if you have to leave the box by the curb, break it down so others won’t know what is in your home. Knowing there are valuables inside or that you have a lot of money will make your home much more enticing target to thieves.

Get Police Help.

Take advantage of a recent trend in police practices called community policing. Community policing involves officers being assigned to neighborhood beats where they make a greater effort to build relationships with the residences. This may include walking instead of driving through or setting up community safety workshops. If the police in your area practice this, get to know the officers who patrol your neighborhood. Successful community policing has been linked to lowered crime and healthier neighbourhoods and could lower the chances of break-ins.


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