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11 Tips to Keep Your Home Secure During Spring Break Travel

March 12, 2012

Farm Bureau Financial Services offers tips to help you prevent the risk of burglary

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa (March 12, 2012) — Are you planning a spring break getaway? Sadly, at the same time you’re enjoying your holiday, thieves often are hard at work targeting the homes of people who are away on vacation.

Burglary affects almost 3 million households each year, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey.1 And property loss from burglary crimes in the U.S. really adds up. In 2010, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), victims of burglary offenses suffered an estimated $4.6 billion in lost property, with overall average dollars lost per burglary offense at $2,119.2

“Most property taken in a burglary is never recovered,” says Dan Pitcher, General Manager, Farm Bureau Property & Casualty Insurance Company and Western Agricultural Insurance Company, “The good news is that by taking a few simple steps to secure your home before leaving for spring break, you can reduce the chance of burglary, as well as your financial exposure, should a home invasion occur.”

11 tips to increase home security

1. Burglars typically break in when it looks like people are away from home — at work, running errands or on vacation. You can create the illusion that someone is home by using timers to turn several lights on and off at specified times. Connecting a radio or television to a timing device adds to the illusion.

2. According to the FBI, of all burglaries in 2010, 60.5 percent involved forcible entry, 33.2 percent were unlawful entries (without force), and the remainder (6.3 percent) were forcible entry attempts.3 Before you hit the road, make sure doors and windows are closed and locked. Secure sliding doors by placing a strong dowel or steel bar into the back groove. If you have a window air-conditioning unit, add a stopper to the frame to help prevent the window from being jimmied open from the outside.

3. It's easier than ever to contact the post office to place your mail on hold for the duration of your trip via the Internet or telephone. It's also wise to place a hold on your newspaper for the time you’re away. Or, ask a neighbor, friend or family member to collect your paper and mail each day; you’ll be able to pick everything up with one convenient stop when you get back home.

4. Share the details of your trip with trusted neighbors so they can keep an eye on your home, remove fliers left at your front door, and put your trash container curbside on trash day to reinforce the idea that you’re at home. Research shows that crime is reduced when neighbors watch out for one another.4

5. Once your neighbors are on alert, avoid talking about your travel plans with others, especially when you’re within earshot of strangers. This includes providing details via Facebook and other social media and on voice mail. The time to share photos and anecdotes from your trip is once you’re safely back home and can protect your property.

6. It's in the best interest of the community to help prevent crime. Let local police know you’ll be away. They can drive by your home to keep an eye on things. Many police departments also provide home-security evaluations and are happy to suggest ways to improve the security of individual homes.

7. Leave your valuables at home, but make sure they’re locked away in a safe or file cabinet. You’ll need identification and credit or debit cards for travel, but remove your Social Security information and extra cards from your wallet before departing. Store these in a locked safe or file cabinet, as well, to prevent ID theft.

8. If you like to keep a spare key hidden outside, put it into a combination lockbox. Avoid placing the lockbox in a flower pot or other common hiding place. And make sure your keychain doesn't have an address or other identifying information that could make it easy for others to find your home and break in if the keys are lost or stolen.

9. Overgrown shrubbery can serve as a hiding place for criminals waiting until the coast is clear. Keep bushes and tree limbs trimmed to eliminate shadows and areas of cover.

10. Look into adding a home security system. Alarms, combined with other security devices, such dead bolts, security lights and window locks, can help reduce burglaries. Security devices will slow down potential burglars, making them more vulnerable to discovery.

11. Check your homeowners insurance policy to make sure your coverage is up-to-date with your current needs. Typically, you can adjust coverage with a simple phone call to your agent. Don’t forget to update your home inventory and store it with other valuables just in case the unexpected occurs while you're away.

For more information about protecting against potential financial losses to your home and personal belongings, contact a Farm Bureau agent.

1Truman, JL. 2011. Criminal Victimization, 2010. NCJ 235508. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Washington, D.C.
2,3Crime in the United States 2010. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Accessed Feb. 28, 2012.
4Holloway, K, T Bennett and DP Farrington. 2008. Crime Prevention Research Reviews No. 3: Does Neighborhood Watch Reduce Crime? U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, Washington, D.C.

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