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HOME SAFETY : Elements of Doubt Keep Burglars at Bay

May 21, 1994|From Associated Press

At first you don't notice the empty space where the TV and VCR used to be. What catches your eye is the overturned end table, then the littered floor and the scattered fragments of a crystal lamp your mother adored.

Statistics from government crime reporting agencies show that residences account for two out of three burglaries in the United State. Several million occur yearly, with roughly one in six of the nation's 55 million homes taking a hit. Losses average $1,250 per household.

Forcible entry occurs in 70% of these cases. Most of the action takes place from 6 p.m. to midnight and when the weather is pleasant and warm. Doors--front and back--account for the most popular means of access at 63%. Windows place a distant second, just one in four.

Police and other experts caution that there's no perfect or fail-safe security system, only levels of deterrence. The more, the better. In home security, the same rules apply as for street crime--the less vulnerable a target appears, the less likely it is to be attacked. Most criminals prefer the path of least resistance.

Some of the most effective deterrents are the easiest to implement. Common sense measures, such as leaving lights on when you're not home, and having your lights work on timers, are effective because they place doubts in a would-be burglar's mind, or somehow tip the odds against an easy job.

After lights, your best deterrent may be a growling dog. Even a "Beware of Dog" sign on the premises is better than nothing. The crook may think it's phony, but you've planted a doubt.

A real dog isn't likely to remain behind when you leave home for a vacation. But a home security system stays on the job as long as there's electricity, or batteries to feed it.

There's no lack of home security products and alarm systems on the market. The products come as simple as a one-size-fits-all rotary timer for lights and appliances. Or, they can be as comprehensive as a home-automation program in your personal computer.

Trouble indicators include eardrum-piercing alarms and disorienting strobe lights.

External sirens and flashing lights can signal an alert outside the home. Some top-shelf systems even phone or radio for help.

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