Planning For Safety In Your New Home
Crime is down in MoCo. The Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) reports that the number of crimes was 3.5% lower in 2018 than in 2017. Property crimes, such as burglaries and car thefts, were down 11.1%.
But that doesn’t mean our homes are immune to criminal mischief. And if you’re shopping for a new home, it makes sense to think ahead about the steps you can take to protect your investment and your family.
We talked to MCPD’s Sherif Almiggabber, a community enforcement officer, and he said years of experience have shown that common sense precautions often matter most. For example, he said, during vacations cancel the newspaper and have a trusted neighbor retrieve the mail. If you have sliding doors, install a safety bar in the interior floor track. And if you like dogs, think about getting one.
“Don’t underestimate dogs,” officer Almiggabber said. “They can be better than an alarm system.”
Here are a few recommendations, courtesy of MCPD and others, on how prospective homeowners can plan for keeping their new homes secure:
- Change all the locks. It’s the first step for new homeowners. It’s impossible to know whether former owners gave keys to house cleaners, handymen or neighbors.
- Secure all doors – including the front door, which is the entry point in about 1 in 3 burglaries. Solid wood or metal doors are more secure than hollow doors. Consider installing a peephole. If you have a mail slot, make sure someone can’t reach inside with their hand or a tool to unlock the door. A video camera and other home security gadgets can provide additional security.
- Reinforce windows. Keep them locked when you leave the house or go to bed. But window locks can be broken. On accessible windows, try window pin locks and consider installing sensors that sound off when windows break. Plant thorny bushes beneath first-story windows. Don’t forget curtains over basement and garage windows to keep valuables out of sight.
- Take precautions before leaving town. If you’re going on vacation, don’t broadcast your trip on social media. Cancel the newspaper and the mail. Ask a neighbor to scoop up any flyers. Don’t put your keys under your doormat, in the mailbox or under a fake rock; it’s best to leave a key with a trusted neighbor. Or use a combination lockbox that’s kept in an out-of-the-way place. If you’re taking your car, have a neighbor park in your driveway or in front of your home.
- Protect your garage. A burglar can easily jimmy the latch. If you have an attached garage, always keep the door down. Unplug the garage opener when you go on vacation. Even better, for an easy DIY project, drill a hole in the track above a roller and use a padlock to secure it. Always lock the interior door that leads from your garage to your living area.
- Keep up with your landscaping. Dense trees and thick shrubs are prime hiding places for invaders. Tree limbs should be no lower than 6 feet from the ground. Keep shrubs between 2 - 3 feet tall. Thorny plants are good in vulnerable locations. Don’t forget to keep your yard well-lighted, particularly in out-of-the-way spots. Consider asking your neighborhood association about additional street lights to benefit the community.
- Take advantage of technology. The best home security systems are simple and affordable. Lots of options are available, and it’s best to install your system before moving in. While audible alarms notify the burglar, monitored alarms notify the police. Wireless systems are available if you prefer to avoid hard line installations. Make sure to use signs and stickers to let troublemakers know you have an alarm; that’s been proven to deter thieves. You can also install security cameras with mobile apps that allow viewing from your phone at any time.
- Vow to make connections with your new neighbors. It feels good to make friends. But you and your neighbors can also watch each other’s homes while on vacation. You can also work together to keep your street clear of litter or other signs of neglect that invite bad behavior. And if your new neighborhood lacks a crime watch program, contact MCPD (see number below) to help you start one.
- Be a trickster. Throw burglars a curve by keeping a few lights or the TV on when you leave the house. (Yes, we know this uses electricity, but it might make sense in some circumstances. Consider timers to limit energy use.) And even if you don’t have a dog, there’s nothing wrong about putting out a “Beware of Dog” sign or even leaving a dog bowl by the back door.
- Get a safe. It's an affordable way to secure treasured jewelry, important documents and other sensitive information, Remember a portable safe can be carried away, so consider one bolted to the floor or wall. Make sure its fire-proof and waterproof.
Every home is different, of course. Officer Almiggabber strongly recommends that new homeowners call police to request an individual security assessment. In our district – District 3 – the number to call is 240-773-6800.