Prevent home break-ins with strategic landscaping and good practices instead of menacing — and maybe less effective — measures
By Julie Kim / Courtesy of Houzz.com
I recently moved to a home in a very urban — some might say gritty — neighborhood of Los Angeles. Since nothing calms my baby more than a walk around the block, I spend a great deal of time wandering around my neighborhood on foot pushing a stroller. As a pedestrian, I started to notice countless “Beware of Dog” signs, iron bars bolted against windows as guards, menacing wrought iron and chain-link fences lining the entire perimeter of properties, and tall hedges obscuring houses from public view.
I understood the purpose of these security measures, but I wondered about their effectiveness in protecting the residents from crime. I wondered if there were subtler, friendlier and, dare I say, more visually appealing strategies for promoting safety at home and on the streets.
A Washington Post feature, “The Anatomy of a Burglary,” uncovered interesting details about the typical American burglary: Burglars prefer to spend no more than 60 seconds breaking into a home; most burglaries occur between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and last eight to 10 minutes, and the typical house burglar is a male teen who lives within a few miles of the home, not a professional thief. Clearly, strategies for deterring break-ins should consider that most burglaries are the quick, disorganized work of an amateur.
A police officer interviewed by the Sun Sentinelsuggested that landscaping and lighting are more critical to securing your home than replacing doors, locks and windows. The article referred to an approach called “Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design,” which uses natural surveillance, territorial reinforcement, access control and “target hardening” to deter crime.
Increase visibility by trimming all bushes and hedges to 3 feet or shorter. Anything taller and you create a hiding place for criminals. Lower shrubs also increase visibility for your neighbors and pedestrian onlookers, who can report fishy activity.
Interestingly, police officers at Tulane University have indicated that an ideal target for a criminal is a house surrounded by large hedges and shrubs, because they block visibility from the street and neighbors’ homes.
Cover the ground near your windows with gravel. The loud crunch of footsteps on gravel is enough of a deterrent for a burglar to search for another target.
Plant low, thorny bushes beneath your windows. Bougainvillea, barberries, roses or any prickly specimen ought to deter break-ins. Yuccas and other large succulents are a lower-maintenance option.
Make your home appear occupied when you are away. Leave your car in your driveway or carport, turn on your radio or TV loudly using a timer, and ask a neighbor to pick up your newspaper, mail and flyers attached to your door every day if you are on vacation.
Request a free survey of your property from your local police station. Most stations will survey your property for potential weaknesses if you ask.
Install a security system. The Washington Post feature revealed that homes without security systems are three times more likely to be broken into than homes with systems. Prominently displaying a sign on your front lawn might be enough to deter some criminals, even if it is fake.
Light up dark exterior corners with motion-activated lights.The Sunforcesolar-powered LED motion-activated light is ideal for outdoor use. It frightens would-be trespassers, who think a person has switched on the light. No need to worry about connecting a power source or about the batteries’ running out, either.
Be a good neighbor. Rather than shutting out your neighbors with “Beware of Dog” signs and tall hedges (which don’t seem to work well anyway), befriend them and become one another’s allies. Maintain upkeep on your own property and show your neighbors that you care, and watch them follow suit.