HOME PROTECTION Keep your property safe from burglars
Several precautions can be taken to ensure that your house deters thieves.
Your family vacation needn't be a coming home party for burglars.
While you cruise the highways, hoodlums may patrol your neighborhood streets for homes that look dark and not lived in.
Before you load the car with belongings, take time to protect the items you leave behind.
There are obvious precautions to remove telltale signs you're gone. Stop daily delivery services so newspapers don't pile up at the door or mail won't overflow the postbox.
According to Jim Young of Housedoctors.com, "vacation planning is really a lot of common sense stuff. You walk through the house room by room and decide, 'how can we do the best job of protecting our property?'"
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department also suggests you exhibit signs of life. Ask a trusted neighbor to water potted plants and vegetable or flower gardens. Prying eyes know homeowners seldom allow plants or carefully tended gardens to wither.
As long as you're asking for neighborly help, give the neighbor your itinerary, cell phone number and e-mail address.
Ask, too, to have circulars removed from doorknobs or check for package deliveries. (Don't forget to thank them with a bottle of wine or other gift upon your return.)
The illusion of occupancy
Houses perpetually dark mean the lights are off and nobody's home. Young advises the use of variable timers to turn lamps on during evening hours.
Plug the TV into a separate timer for late evening hours; the blue cast from the screen (bring the volume up a notch) is a sign of household normalcy. Usually, curtains are open but it's OK to be closed in the TV room. Position boxes of cereal, nonperishable snack foods or tableware on kitchen tables in plain view.
Pluck spare keys from beneath door mats or other hiding places. Store jewelry and other valuables in a safe deposit box.
It won't hurt to have a third set of watchful eyes to keep track of things. If your community is small enough, tell local police you'll be gone, or hire local security services to drive by your home on a short-term basis during evening rounds.
Higher up on the protection scale are housesitters and electronic security services. You could pay $40-$75 per night for someone to stay at your home. That price moves upward if they are in the home during daylight. In-home security is a good idea not only for vacation trips but as year-round protection. If you already have a security service, call them with your vacation timetable.