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How to prevent a burglary

(ran East, South, Beach editions)

The Burglary Prevention Council, a national non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of residential burglaries, offers these tips to safeguard your home.

The most inviting opportunity for a burglar is a window or door that is not properly secured. Thieves not only spot open doors and windows, but also look for weak, vulnerable locks. Doors should have deadbolt locks with a 1-inch throw and reinforced strike plate with 3-inch screws.

Always lock the doors to an attached garage. Don't rely on your automatic garage door opener for security.

Create the illusion that you are home by using timers on lights, radios, and televisions. The most effective way to prevent a burglary is to stop potential thieves from even approaching your home.

Another method of deterrence is to keep the perimeter of your home well lighted. Installing a low voltage outdoor lighting system and floodlights around your porch, garage and other areas are cost-effective ways to discourage intruders.

When going away on a trip, assume that a potential burglar could be watching. Never leave any clues that you are gone. Stop mail and newspapers or at least arrange for them to be picked up so that they don't accumulate. Ask a neighbor to park in your driveway or parking space to make it appear that you are home.

Some homeowners have a tendency to close all shades and blinds when they go away. Whether you'er gone for a short period of time or on an extended trip, it's better to leave some shades and blinds open in order to maintain a normal, everyday appearance.

Never leave a message on your telephone answering machine informing callers that you are away from home. A message stating that you will be home at a certains time leaves your home vulnerable in the interim.

Bushes and tree limbs that hug your house serve as hiding places and/or ladders for burglars. Keep all shrubbery and tree limbs trimmed and away from the house. A lawn that is well manicured will help detract burglars from their mission by implying that you pay close attention to your home.

If your community does not have a neighborhood watch program, consider starting one. Statistics show that these programs help. Consult your local police department for assistance.

Perform a security check on your home regularly. Look for areas where a burglar could access the house or characteristics that make your residence a target. Identify these vulnerable areas and take steps to eliminate opportunities for the burglar. Contact your police department to determine if it offers free security inspections.

Source: Prevention's Guide to Personal Safety, St. Petersburg Police