Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on October 27, 1997. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Lived-in Look Helps Turn Burglars Away
By Amy Woolfolk
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The holiday season brings joy to most families, but every year the spirits of some are dampened when a burglar strikes the home.
Dr. Frances Graham, extension housing specialist at Mississippi State University, said creating a "lived-in look" is the best way to deter burglars from an empty home.
"If you leave your house looking as if someone is home, you have taken a big step in protecting against burglary," she said.
The specialist offered tips to make the home look occupied.
- Install timers on lights, radios and other items so they will be on at various times.
- Do not leave lights on 24 hours a day; this is a sure sign the house is empty.
- Closing all the curtains is another clue to vacancy.
- Keep the garage door down. If the house does not have a garage, have a friend come and move cars around. This gives the appearance that homeowners are coming and going from the house.
Graham also suggested stopping delivery of newspapers and mail. If delivery is not stopped, have someone pick them up daily. A collection of papers in the driveway or mailbox alerts passers-by to an empty house.
Graham recommended notifying the neighborhood patrol unit or a trusted neighbor when the house will be empty for several days.
"If people you trust know that you are away, they can keep a close watch on your house for you," she said.
The specialist also gave these tips for defending against burglars.
- Lock all doors and windows when leaving home for any length of time. Dead bolt locks that extend into the door jam are best.
- Keep shrubbery trimmed away from windows and doors. Overgrown plants may aid burglars by concealing entrances to the house.
- Do not hide a key outside the home. If a spare key is needed, leave it with a trusted neighbor or friend.
"Hiding places for keys have become well known," she said. "Burglars know to look under doormats, above door frames and around flower pots for spare keys."
So when leaving home during the holidays, even for just a few hours, to protect against burglars, leave the home looking as lived in as possible and always lock all entrances.