Q: My neighbor’s home was broken into while at work last week. Now I’m worried that one day I will come home and find that my residence was broken into. What can I do to help safeguard my home?

A: It’s true that anyone can become a victim of crime, but there are some very basic things that you can do to deter criminals from choosing you. People generally think of their homes as safe havens where the outside world cannot get to them, but statistics constantly show the opposite. Do what you can to make your home as safe as possible. It all starts by becoming more active with your neighborhood.

One of the best ways to ensure that a burglar does not target your house for a break-in is to make your entire block a highly secure area. This involves working with your neighbors so that everyone watches out for each other. Think of your block as a mini community, and you can rely on your neighbors to keep you safe just as much as they can rely on you. Let a trusted neighbor know when you will be on vacation so they can keep an eye on your home.

Meet the people who live nearby, and get to know their names, what cars they have and exchange phone numbers. Keep a list of this contact information near a phone so you can call anyone on your block, should the need arise. Join the Neighborhood Watch in your area, or if one doesn’t exist, consider starting one. Work with the Santa Monica Police Department to help watch over everyone in your neighborhood.

Once you get to know the people around you, you will be better prepared to notice strangers who seem to be hanging around a lot. Seeing someone you don’t know walk down your street once is not at all unusual, but if that same person were to be lingering and going back and forth on your block frequently, they may be casing the neighborhood and looking for a home to break into.

Similarly, if you note an unfamiliar car that is spending a lot of time driving on your street, it could be an indication that criminals are looking for potential targets. Warn a neighbor if you see someone looking at their home, and don’t be afraid to call the police to report suspicious behavior.

Even a well watched neighborhood can be struck by crime. A burglar looks for the easiest target possible, so it is up to you to make your house difficult to burglarize. Also, remember to keep exterior and interior lights on during the night. Criminals prefer to operate under the cover of darkness and will gravitate towards a home that has no lights on at all.

When you go out for the night, keep a television on or play a radio inside the house. This will give the appearance that someone is still home, which is a great deterrent to criminals.

Q: Now that I’m familiar with my neighbors, what can I do to make my home less of a target?

Criminals have developed methods of breaking into almost any home or building, but even a highly experienced law breaker will only devote a very short time to getting inside. The longer it takes for them to make their way in, the better the chances are that someone might see them and call the police. You can take steps to make it not worthwhile for a criminal to choose your house by beefing up your security measures.

Burglars look for any easy entrance to a home. A pet door, busted window or unlocked point of access will let them get in quickly. Walk around your house and examine it to make sure there are no vulnerable points that law breakers can use to force their way inside. Immediately fix broken windows, busted locks and any other part of your house that is not secure.

Other areas to reinforce with extra locks and deadbolts are the front and back doors. A criminal may take the time to break or disable one lock on a door, but they will think twice about messing with one that has multiple security devices. Glass sliding doors can also be better secured with a security bar. A solid bar will prevent a door from being opened, and it cannot be moved from the outside. You can also find steel pins that lock into place at the bottom of a sliding door to make it impossible to open. Also, install a second lock on the window. You can find them at any retail location that sells hardware products, and they do not cost much.

Hiring the services of a professional security company that will install an alarm in your house will be reassuring, but can also be costly. Not only will your home be monitored at all times, but criminals will also be discouraged from attempting to break in when they see the signs and window decals that inform them of the alarm.

The SMPD will come out and conduct a security survey at your residence free of charge to help you better secure your residence. Call Community Relations at (310) 458-8474 if you have any questions about scheduling a security survey or setting up a Neighborhood Watch group in your area. You can also call your Neighborhood Resource Officer for assistance. The police department’s website www.santamonicapd.org has all of the NRO contacts and is full of ideas to help you make your home and neighborhood safe.

This column was written by NRO Richard Carranza (Beat 1: Coastal, Beach and Pier areas). He can be reached at (424) 200-0681 or richard.carranza@smgov.net.

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