Live Alone? Single Parent? Keep Bad Guys and Burglars Away
You’re more likely to be victimized, so fight back
If you live alone, you’re not, well, alone. In 2012, more than 27 percent of households consisted of only one person, up 10 percentage points since 1970. An additional 9 percent consisted of a single parent plus one or more children, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The bad news is, criminals are taking advantage of this trend. Single people who live alone are more likely than married couples to be burglary victims according to a study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. And a single-parent household is two to three times more likely to be burglarized as a home with two parents.
If you're the only adult in your home, take these extra safety precautions and sleep better at night.
Related: 5 Smart Choices in Smart Locks
Don't advertise your single status. A stranger staring at your front door probably won't know you're alone — unless you tell them. If you're a woman, use initials instead of a first name on your mailbox and in the phone directory, or remove your name altogether.
When recording an answering machine or voicemail greeting, don't sound like a loner. Say something like “we're not available right now,” advises the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department.
Treat strangers as potential threats. Install a wide-angled peephole in the door. Also consider surveillance cameras and motion sensing lights. If someone comes to your door and asks to come in and use your phone, don’t let him (or her) in. Offer to make the call for him.
When a repairman or technician arrives, ask to see ID before opening the door. If necessary, ask them to slide it under the door. If you're suspicious, call their company to verify their identity. If a cable guy or handyman is coming over for an appointment, arrange to have a friend or neighbor at your home with you during that time.
When it comes to strangers showing up at your door or loitering in your alleyway, trust your instincts. The Asheville, North Carolina Police Department advises, in its own folksy way, “If it don't feel right, it probably ain't right.”
Get a dog (not just a sign). The vast majority of break-ins come to an abrupt halt when the burglar is confronted by the family canine, according to a study by the University of North Carolina. Don't try to fake it — if you put up a “Beware of Dog” sign, get the dog, too. Less than a third of burglars are scared off just by seeing a sign in the window, according to the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at University of North Carolina, Charlotte.
Invest in an alarm system. They may be even more effective than a dog in deterring break-ins, according to the University of North Carolina. Placing a sign or sticker announcing the presence of an alarm system is also effective.
Lock all entrance points. Keep your doors, windows and garage locked at all times. Sounds obvious, doesn't it? Yet in approximately three out of 10 burglaries, the burglar entered through an unlocked door or window according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Install doors and windows that are designed to prevent break-ins. For instance, a solid-core door is a lot harder to smash through than one with a hollow core.
Don’t hide a key under your welcome mat. Proper key control is “key” to allowing you, but not the crooks, reliable access to your home. Locks won't help if you leave a set of keys on a door ledge or in a porch flower pot. Burglars know all about “secret” hiding places, according to the Rockville, Maryland Police Department. Instead, leave a spare with a trusted neighbor, friend or family member.
Get involved. Join (or start) a Neighborhood Watch program. These help home owners, identify and report suspicious behavior in the neighborhood. A Neighborhood Watch can lower local crime rates by as much as 60 percent, according to the Rockville Police Department.