The typical lock in most homes will not provide protection against break-ins. A professional burglar can usually enter your home with no more than a plastic credit card or a thin screwdriver. Give your doors the best resistance to forced entry by installing dead bolt locks and a reinforcing strike plate with 3-inch screws. If you secure your doors with double-keyed dead bolt locks, make sure you have ready access to the key from inside if an emergency demands you exit quickly.
\Arrange to have newspapers, magazines, mail and other regular deliveries stopped. Ask a neighbor to pick up any flyers that are thrown on your drive or lawn. Old newspapers and overflowing mail are a clear indication that you're not home. Also make arrangements to have your lawn mowed. Ask a neighbor or hire a landscape service to assure it will be done regularly.
Buy and use a few inexpensive electronic timers. Don't set the timers so all the lights are turned on or off at one time. Or, use random access timers that automatically change the time your lights go on and off each evening. Burglars watch for unusual patterns, such as total darkness in your home. Variations in lighting patterns look more natural to an outside observer.
Give a trusted neighbor the dates when you'll be gone, phone numbers where you can be reached, and your trip itinerary. Ask your immediate neighbors to contact the police if they spot unusual activity around your home. Don't leave a message that you're on vacation on your answering machine message. Just say you can't answer their call right then, but suggest leaving a message. Manymachines can be set up so you can retrieve messages even when you're away from home. Answering machines that don't give away your plans are a good idea, since a phone ringing on and on can also be a tip to burglars that no one's home.
Store small valuables such as silverware or jewelry in a safe deposit box. Hide TVs, stereo components, computers, VCRs, or other large valuables in an inconspicuous closet. The idea is to keep expensive items out of view from the street or yard.
Protect sliding glass windows or doors with anti-jimmy bars that can be laid in slider tracks to prevent them from being opened. You can also install a second lock on the sliding panel of the door. Pin door hinges on exterior doors so they can't be removed, even with the hinge posts out. Also, make sure you protect storage sheds with a heavy-duty lock. Locks with steel-reinforced shanks are more difficult to break than other types. If you have a door with glass panes, install grille work or take other measures to prevent a thief from breaking the glass, reaching in and opening the door from the inside.