14 Ways to Prevent Holiday Season Break-Ins
Quick home security upgrades that could save you and your family from burglaries, robberies, and home invasions during criminals' favorite time of year
For most, the holiday season means family, friends, food—and, of course, presents. But for criminals, the holiday season means something entirely different: the opportunity to cash in on homes full of carefully wrapped gifts, including lots of easy-to-sell electronics and jewelry.
Last year, there were about 1.6 million reported residential burglaries. About 300,000 of those were home invasions, which means one or more household members were present at the time of a break-in, and became victims in violent crimes.
When it comes to home security, the best defense is a good offense. Here are 14 solutions to help you protect your home and family. Got some tips of your own? Share them in the comments section below.
Going away for the holidays? Your home is particularly vulnerable to a break-in. Burglars watch for vacancy signs: accumulating stacks of mail, piles of unretrieved newspapers, and steady-burning or always-off entry lights. You can monitor your home remotely thanks to network cameras like this one. This model allows you to access a live stream of your home on the internet, and the system can be programmed to send an e-mail alert anytime it detects motion. Like many new security products, smartphone apps are available for alerts, too. With built-in recording functionality, if something does happen, you'll have it all on tape.
About $83, D-Link
What happens when that bump in the night is really just Sparky the family dog? This residential motion detector uses digital technology to prevent false alarms, as it ignores anything weighing less than 60 pounds. It can be integrated with an existing security system, or operate independently to alert you of any unwanted visitors within its range.
About $20, DSC
Never be surprised with this wireless driveway alarm, which sets off a doorbell-like chime when a vehicle enters your driveway. Got a long driveway? The alarm can communicate with its base device up to 400 feet away, and can sense metal moving within 13 feet of the wireless device. Model designed to detect moving individuals are are great safety upgrade at pool gates in homes where small children are present.
About $68, Home Depot
Scare away trouble with your very own junkyard dog—minus the mess. This model's sensor works through doors and windows to detect motion in a range of 30 feet, and responds with a realistic barking sound. You'd be surprised how many burglars retreat at the sound of a vicious canine inside. Just make sure the joke's not on you: large glass panes in entry doors create easy, breakable access to inside locks and handles, and will allow burglars to see there's no threat of an animal inside.
About $90, Hammacher Schlemmer
Want the look, but not the price tag or upkeep of a home-security camera? Then consider investing in a decoy, which works to ward off potential buglers by creating the appearance of an extensive, high-tech system. Complete with a blinking LED light, this camera should be mounted outside.
Similarly, home security system signs can be a deterrent to burglars—the Greenwich Study of Residential Security found that homes without indication of alarms were 2.7 to 3.5 times more likely to be burglarized. But stick with a generic sign rather than one branded with a specific company. Many burglars take the time to learn the ins and outs of all the different systems, and can often come up with ways to deactivate or override them.
About $22, Shopping.com
Burglars often get to know the routines of their targets and see a break in that routine as an opportunity to strike. This device is a low-energy way to make it look like someone's home with the television on. The light sensor can be set to automatically switch on when it's dark outside to create a realistic TV-set glow, or you can set the fake TV on a timer to match your regular schedule. (Again, just make sure that a neighbor is picking up your mail and newspapers, as accumulation of deliveries is a big indication you're trying to trick the tricksters.) Equivalent to the look of a 27-inch HD set, this model uses no more energy than a nightlight.
About $30, FakeTV
Keyless entry touch pads have been around for years, but in a high-tech world where password security is often compromised, fingerprint pads give you a little extra protection. The waterproof lock will keep a running record of who accessed your lock, and when.
About $600, Brickhousesecurity.com
Platinum Protection's interactive app is one of the more versatile home security applications on the market. For a one-time $60 fee, you can download apps that let you view live and archived video of your home, turn lights on and off, and control home security systems when you're not at home. Here's a list of other home security smartphone apps for download.
Free download with Platinum Interactive membership, Platinum Protect
Protect your residential windows from a break-ins with shatter-resistant films from Shatter Safe. Shatter Safe's line of laminated window films are designed to keep glass from breaking during earthquakes or forced entry. The clear films also help insulate your home by trapping warm air in and keeping cold out. Visit Shatter Safe for pricing information.
Don't depend on chain locks to prevent kick-ins or forced entry. If you really want to reinforce vulnerable doors—like the garage entry—use a heavy-duty lock like this one. The double steel bars protect your home from the inside out.
About $179, Nokey
Burglars often try to force their way into a home through an open door. Never wonder who's at the door again with this high-definition peephole. It brings your run-of-the-mill viewer into the digital age with a 2.5-inch LCD screen and a panoramic view. You can peek at your entry with the touch of a button, and even zoom in to what's going on outside.
About $100, Tiger Direct
Low-Tech, High-Security Peephole: A 130-degree swiveling viewer (with no LCD screen). About $28, Security Peephole
Local alarms make lots of noise, but they don't call for help when you're in distress. Home security systems from companies like ADT monitor for break-ins, fire, and other dangers such as carbon monoxide, when you're home and when you're not. Pay a one-time installation fee, and your monthly membership connects you to a 24/7 monitoring service.
Starts about $38 per month, ADT
Sometimes, something as simple as a sudden burst of light can scare off burglars. This motion-activated model senses movement up to 40 feet away, and can be set to chime, too. Dusk-to-dawn setting allows the light to automatically turn off in the daytime.
About $38, Smart Home
Need help with the installation? Check out our How to Install a Garage Floodlight Step-by-Step.
Protecting your electronics can protect your family when main power lines go down due to storms—or are cut. A standby generator such as this one from Generac provides enough energy to power a mid-sized home, and switches on automatically when there's an outage.
About $1,800, Home Depot