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Could your home be an easy target? 7 steps for a safer home that deters criminals

Eight minutes is all it takes for a burglar to break into your home and get away.

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Because thieves know the clock it ticking immediately, experts say they are looking for easy targets. But there’s a reason why 1.2 million burglaries still happen every year.

“(Criminals are) driving down the road, looking at which house they want to try,” Centerville Police Officer John Davis told News Center 7′s Mike Campbell.

Davis is also certified by the State of Ohio as an advance crime prevention practitioner, meaning he’d rather help you stop a break-in before it happens than track down a criminal after it happens.

“You go to work, you go out into the world, you want to feel safe, you want to say this is mine,” Davis said.

A break-in isn’t just frightening, its also expensive, costing the average victim nearly $3,000.

Paul Jones was targeted by burglars when they thought no one was home. Jones said the burglars walked in an unlocked back door at his Dayton house while he was working in his garden from a couple lots away but was within eyesight.

“I had someone, a couple of people come into my house without my permission,” Jones said. “Essentially to scope the place out, I didn’t know who they were. essentially to scope the place out, I didn’t know who they were.”

His home camera system captured the burglary and recorded conversations between those who got inside.

Not only did the people come back and break-in, they later stayed in the home and falsely claimed to Dayton police they had a verbal agreement as tenants. Jones said it took a lot of time, money, and some severe damage to his home before he could evict the burglars that turned into squatters.

While Jones case is an extreme one, Campbell found in his investigation there are seven things you can do right now that can prevent you from becoming a victim.

Talk to your neighbors:

“I’d say get to know your neighbors as much as possible, report as much as possible,” Jones said.

Davis agrees that neighbors and communities looking out for each other is what stops most burglaries. Neighbors were credited with stopping a serial burglar who police said committed a dozen burglaries across several cities in southern parts of Montgomery County.

The burglar was finally caught when alert neighbors called police after catching the man illegally entering a home.

“They’re looking for low-hanging fruit, they’re looking for the easy grab, the high probability of success, the low chance of being caught, that’s their number one goal,” Davis said.

Install deadbolts on doors:

“If I was going to try to get in the house, that is where I would start,” Davis said.

Security experts ReoLink report 56 percent of burglars make their way into homes through doors. Davis, while inspecting a home, found right away the house only had single door locks.

“You’re depending on a one inch by one inch piece of wood to keep anyone from coming in that door,” Davis said.

The house Davis observed was unique and had an outside staircase leading into the home’s basement. It was protected only by a single lock.

“This gives a level of privacy and concealment so this door would be concerning to me,” Davis said.

Lock your windows:

It seems like a simple idea, however 23 percent of burglars get into homes through windows that are unlocked.

“They typically don’t want to break a window because it makes a distinctive sound,” Davis said.

Making sure all windows are locked is a simple way to keep burglars outside.

Cut away hiding spots:

Bushes and low-hanging tree branches can provide easy hiding spots for people trying to get into your home.

Davis recommends homeowners cut away big bushes close to the house to give potential burglars less opportunities to hide.

Even lighting, all around the home at night:

Motion sensor lights are often used, however home security experts say even lighting all around your home are more effective than just motion sensor lights.

Install a doorbell camera:

Home surveillance cameras and doorbell cameras have increased in popularity over the last few years. Davis said he’s more in favor of doorbell cameras as a break-in deterrent because you can answer a knock on your door from anywhere. Davis added most break-ins start with a crook knocking on your door or ringing your doorbell.

But Davis is less impressed with home video surveillance systems.

“I jokingly tell people, if you want good footage of them stealing your stuff it gives us a good investigative tool but it doesn’t stop them, we’d rather make it so they don’t try,” Davis said.

Store valuables in a non-portable safe:

In the event a burglar does make it inside your home, its best to have your most valuable possessions locked-up in a safe that’s not portable or easy to remove.

Davis said the ultimate goal is to make sure thieves simply decide to not target your home at all, whether its an apartment, house, or condo. Davis added complacency and convenience are the biggest enemies and thinking it won’t happen to you means you won’t prepare.

Most police departments in the area have officers trained to do home safety assessments free of charge if you call ahead to make arrangements, Davis said. If your local department doesn’t have anyone available, Davis said to call the Miami Valley Crime Prevention Association to provide someone for the assessment.

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