Common Sense Tips for Everyday Safety

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Thursday March 27, 2014

In the wake of a series of community forums held in response to increased crime rates in South Burlington, residents asked how they can protect their homes from potential break-ins. Regardless of the uptick in crime, we can and should take simple measures in personal safety and securing our residences, as a regular practice--and not out of fear, but out of common sense and good habit.

With the help of Patrick Benner, the coordinator of Neighborhood Watch groups in South Burlington, and Police Chief Trevor Whipple, The Other Paper has complied a list of easily applied safety measures, along with suggestions for taking home security to the next level through purchase and installation of safety devices.  

Doors

Lock all doors at night, and when you are away.  Even when you are at home, it is good practice to keep doors locked.

For sliding doors, wedge a long, sturdy plank or pole in the track so if intruders manage to get through the lock, they can’t move the object blocking the track.

For added security:

Invest in a deadbolt for added security. Double cylinder door knobs are also effective since a key is needed for both the interior and exterior. However, in the event of a fire or other emergency you must have a key readily accessible to unlock the door to exit. 

• Option: Kwikset Signature 980 Series Smartkey Commercial/Residential Single-Cylinder Deadbolt, available locally for under $35.


Windows 

Lock all windows, especially at night and when you are away.

Remove air conditioners and window fans: these can be pushed in easily and serve as a hassle-free entrance into your home.

For added security:

There are several lock options available at nearby home improvement stores, such as  locking pins and hinged wedges for double-hung windows. 

• Option: Hinged Window Wedge.

Lighting

Keep a porch light on at night and keep at least one light on in the house, whether or not you are home. This not only provides visibility for neighbors keeping an eye on the neighborhood, but it makes your home look occupied. 

For added security:

Timers: Use programmable timers to trigger lights and radio to come on at irregular intervals making it seem like the home is occupied; a motion sensor light in the front and back of the home is another good security option.  

• Option:  Utilitech 15-Amp Digital Residential Hardwired Lighting Timer. 


Alarm Systems and Cameras

• Those who want added security may consider a reliable alarm system and/or cameras. Some alarms and cameras offer mobile phone compatibility, granting access to video monitoring, interactive security, energy management and home automation.

• Furry Alarm Systems: If you have or desire to bring a dog into your life, they may also serve as effective quick alarm systems when they sense suspicious behavior.

• Option for alarm: Iris Safe and Secure Kit, $179, Lowe’s.

• Option for cameras: IRIS USA Digital IP Security Camera with Night Vision (indoor), $129; IRIS USA Digital IP Outdoor Security Camera with Night Vision (outdoor), $149;

• Professionally installed alarm systems offer the next level of home security. Winooski’s Neighborhood Watch groups researched local alarm companies. Contact PJ Benoit dit Labriere, Winooski’s Neighborhood Watch Coordinator for details: weavernhw@gmail.com or 802-497-1011)

Around the Residence

Trim trees and shrubs on your property that can be used to hide behind or used as a way of getting into your home. A well maintained exterior makes your home look lived-in.

Keep bicycles, tools, and other valuables locked away and out of sight. This includes tools intruders could use to assist with entering your home, such as a ladder.

Close curtains when you are away.

Don’t leave keys under the doormat; consider keeping it in a key safe.

• Option: GE Interlogix Portable Push Button Key Safe, $34.99.


Tips

If you will be away: have someone pick up mail, shovel the driveway, and check the home occasionally. 

Additionally while you are away, put things where they don’t belong. “Don’t keep your valuable ring in the jewelry box on top of your dresser,” Chief Whipple says. On the other hand: “Who’s going to check in my cupboard next to the cereal for it?” A common place where intruders search often? Top drawers.

• Keep rarely-used items in a safety deposit box at the bank

• Take an inventory of your most valuable items such as electronics, jewelry, automobiles, power tools, etc. Record the model number, serial number, value, brand name, and description. Take photos and/or a video of your home and items. Store this information in a safe place.

• Insurance Coverage: consider homeowner’s or renter’s insurance for property replacement coverage and liability; having an inventory list is helpful to keep with insurance information.

Vehicle Safety: 

Remove valuable items from your car. Don’t just cover them - a blanket covering objects inspires curiosity, thus providing enough incentive to break-in and enter.

If you are shopping and must leave items in the vehicle, store them in the trunk. 

Remove or store away papers with identification information. 

Always lock your vehicle and roll up the windows.

Never leave keys in the car.

• Never leave a vehicle running while unattended.• Park in well-lit areas. 

Be aware of your surroundings around your car, and provide full attention (texting or rummaging through a purse while walking through a parking lot could identify you as a target).

For an expert opinion, contact the South Burlington Community Justice Center which can administer a “car report card” where trained volunteers conduct visual checks to see if your car has vulnerabilities. Your “report card” is left with the vehicle.

As a Neighbor and Individual:

Be aware of your surroundings and be alert to norms and changes.

Report suspicious activity. Idling cars, people walking door to door, suspicious or peculiar body language, anything that seems out of place could be a lead. Even if it isn’t, it’s comforting for the neighborhood and heightens attention in the area if police receive a similar call from another residency.• Know your neighbors and regular routines and behaviors. 

Always make calls to the police in the safety of your home, and out of clear sight of the suspicious person(s). Calls remain anonymous. Keep yourself out of danger and do not become a victim. 

Join your Neighborhood Watch group. Even if you cannot make meetings, being on the e-mail list or conversing with neighbors who are tuned-in will provide you with timely information. Folks can also subscribe to NIXLE (www.nixle.com) and receive notifications from local law enforcement and other local municipal agencies.

SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent