The stronger the security door locks on your home's doors, the more difficult it is for an intruder to get inside.
Make intruders have to work hard to enter your home, and chances are they'll turn their sights elsewhere for that easy payday.
Most burglars are not exceedingly skilled at their game. The majority are teens or young adults on the prowl for an obviously unsecured home.
Few have high-tech lock-picking devices; their tools are usually as simple as their methods - they'll pry open a sliding glass door with a screwdriver, or stand on a patio chair or shimmy up a drainpipe to reach an unlocked window.
The good news is that your antitheft strategies can be simple, too. A few necessary precautions will usually keep all but the most determined burglars from giving your home a second glance.
Since securing your home against intruders begins with the right security door locks, here's what you need to know to help you make the best and safest choices for your home's entry doors.
Doors leading outside are where more than three-quarters of all burglars gain entry, and where your efforts are most likely to have a dramatic impact on your family's safety and your home's security.
Sliding glass doors are the type most vulnerable to break-ins, as their rudimentary locks are easy to pick.
The simplest solution is a metal bar or a length of wood dowelling (a section of broom handle also works) placed in the lower door track.
Determined thieves have, however, been known to circumvent these by lifting the glass panels out of their tracks.
Make it harder for them by adding a pin lock. You can buy one from your local locksmith or at your neighborhood hardware store.
Or, you can do it yourself with a drill and nails.
You can create your own pin lock by drilling a hole through the top of the inside sashes and three-quarters of the way through the outside sash at a slight downward angle.
Slide narrower-diameter nails or eyebolts into the holes with enough of the heads exposed so you can remove them quickly when you need to open the door.
You can remove the nail from the inside, but a burglar won't be able to without breaking the glass. As an added security measure, cover the glass with a polycarbonate glazing.
Take a close look at your front door - nearly a third of all burglars gain entrance here. Your door should be made of either solid wood - at least one and three-eighths (3.5cm) thick - or steel.
Replace any thin, hollow doors, which are a snap for determined thieves to kick open.
Whatever type of door it is, the hinges should not be on the outside, as the pins could easily be removed and the entire door taken off its frame.
If the door has exterior hinges, replace them with hinges whose pins can't be removed.
Make sure the door lock is equally solid. As a rule, a deadbolt should have a 1-inch (2.5cm) throw bolt and an interlocking frame.
And yes, your door lock needs a deadbolt in addition to the keyed door lock knob set. Don't use a dual-cylinder lock - the kind with a key for both sides: This can trap you in the house in case of emergency. If you have one now, replace it.
You may also want to install deadbolt locks on the door from the garage into your home.
If your door has a window or a glass panel, secure it with a decorative grille that has nonremovable screws, or, install over the glass a break-resistant plastic panel.
If a window lies within an arm's length of the door, make sure that the door lock is out of reach should an intruder break the glass in the window and reach inside. Cover the window with a curtain or shade to keep prying eyes out.
Always draw all the shades or
close the blinds at night to prevent intruders from looking inside to
determine what you are doing, whether you are alone - or whether anyone
Can you detect who's knocking before you open the door? If you don't already have a peephole, hire a locksmith to install one in your door when he or she comes to install your new deadbolt door lock.
If you're handy, a simpler - and much less expensive - approach is to buy a peephole and install it yourself.
Choose the type with a fish-eye lens; its wide-angle view will allow you to see almost everything - and everyone - on your doorstep before you throw open that deadbolt and open the door.
Make sure your porch light is at least 40 watts to properly illuminate nighttime visitors.
Secure gate latches and garage and shed doors with sturdy padlocks that are designed to resist prowlers and stand up to rain and freezing temperatures.
Now, consider your "oops" key. Dose the spare that lets you in when you've lost your house keys sit beneath the doormat, in the mailbox, or underneath the potted plant next to the door?
These are the first places thieves look for keys in hopes of easy access to your home. Move the spare to a different, more creative location.
Although most burglaries occur during the day, motion-sensor lights, affixed well out of reach in your yard and around the perimeter of your home, may discourage a nighttime prowler.
And keep your outside porch light on all night. Lights are your least expensive insurance policy against theft, since the last thing a burglar wants is to be seen.
Whenever you'll be gone for more than a few hours, play a radio or the TV. During nighttime hours, keep several indoor lights on timers that have been set to various schedules.
As a finishing security touch, place a sign stating "Beware of Dog" in a prominent place. Whether you have a rottweiler or not, these signs often deter thieves.
Taking the precautions described so far will greatly reduce the chance that your home will be burglarized.
But should it happen, filing a police report will be easier if you've kept a record of your valuables.
A record involves more than just making a list: You'll want to write down such particulars as the price, year, and place of purchase in addition to a detailed description of each item.
This will help the police in the event of a burglary, and it will make it easier for you to file a claim on your home insurance policy.
Be sure that you include serial numbers if the items have any.
In the event that your stolen valuables are recovered, the serial numbers will give police positive identification so they can trace the items back to you.
Photograph or videotape the items for backup, then store this record where thieves are unlikely to look, such as in the garage or in the back of a child's closet.
Better still: Store this information off-site, such as in a safe-deposit box.