Top Mistakes that Make Homeowners Prime Targets for Burglars

Every year, over 2 million homes are violated by burglars. That's a burglary every 15 seconds! Here are the top mistakes home own­ers make:

Mistake #1: Leaving the bur­glar alarm off when you're running out for a few minutes. Nearly all the houses robbed have expensive alarm systems-and more than half the time, the alarms aren't turned on!

Mistake #2: Posting detailed alarm signs. When you post a sign that identifies the alarm company, you've just given the burglar the in­formation he needs to disable the alarm. All the burglar has to do is buy a diagram of how that particular system is wired.Better: Buy a generic sign from a home-supply store that simply says "This House Is Protected By An Alarm System."

Mistake #3: Hiding valuables in the bedroom. It's the first place bur­glars look-the underwear drawer... under the mattress...high closet shelves, etc.Keep money or jewelry you rarely wear in a safe-deposit box. Hide other valuables in places where burglars don't think to look -in the garage, for example, or above removable ceiling tiles. Or hide valuables in the freezer or in fake soup cans made for this purpose.

Mistake #4: Getting a big dog. A 100-pound Rottweiler or German shepherd might look scary, but bur­glars know better. Most big breeds, unless they are trained as guard dogs, aren't barkers. What you want are "yappers," small dogs that make a lot of noise. Breeds such as Chi­huahuas are better deterrents than large dogs.

Mistake #5: Hiding windows with landscaping. Tall bushes and shrubs allow burglars to jimmy windows without being seen. Keep all bushes trimmed to below win­dow level.Also, don't count on thorny plants to prevent entry. Professional thieves routinely wear gloves and 2 layers of clothes-and carry cutting tools to remove any thorny obstacles that may get in their way.

Mistake #6: Leaving the lights on. A light that stays on all the time is no more of a deterrent than a dark house. In fact, it helps burglars see better once they're inside.Better: Use timers that turn lights on and off in different parts of the house at different intervals. Elec­tronics and home-improvement stores sell motion detectors that turn on lights or appliances if some­one enters the house. They cost about $20 each.

Mistake #7: Having newspaper and mail delivery stopped when you go away. You may trust your mail and newspaper carriers, but the fact is that you don't know who else is getting the information. So keep your plans quiet. Have a neighbor or close friend pick up your paper or mail. Ask them to drop by at different times of the day. The more activity burglars see, the less likely they are to target your house.