Let's do a home or apartment security audit.  If you're in a home, go to the front of your home and stand on the sidewalk.  What do you see as you review your home with the eye of a security expert or – and I hope this is a stretch for you – the eye of the home break-in specialist?  As I have done with my clients in person, I will stand now with you as my client.

  • Is there any sign of a security system or awareness?  Are there alarm company signs, cameras, lighting that is motion-sensitive from dusk to dawn?  Is there good visibility of the doors and windows to your home?  If you have any deficiencies in these areas, they can be easily fixed, usually with little cost.  If you have a gardener or do it yourself, trim your shrubs to provide a good view of your windows and doors.  If you can't install an alarm system, buy a sign that says you have one.  Many break-ins happen at the back of the house, and this is a good place to install a keypad that is visible from your back door or window.  These keypads are battery-operated and have a red LED light that gives the appearance of an armed security system.

  • Do you allow mail, newspapers, or other unattended items to stack up?  They tell the would-be intruder that you are either gone or inattentive.  If you travel, have someone maintain the normal duties such as mail, newspapers, and trash bins.

  • Now walk to your front door.  What type of front door do you have, solid wood or one with windows?  If you have a door with glass in it, install a dead bolt with an inside key (but be sure you keep the key close by in the case of an emergency).  If you have a solid wood door, then use a dead bolt with a turn on the inside.  The best type of security is solid wood with a peephole, to see who is at the front door before you ever open it.  The big mistake people make is to open the door before they know who is there.  This is very important if you have children; train them early not to run and open the door.  When my daughter was four and five, she always wanted to dash for the door when the doorbell rang.  I taught her that was forbidden.  Today, my daughter is thirteen and has traded running to the door for running to acting auditions!  Together we have developed a child safety program called Boagie Bear Detective Child Safety, an organization that trains children through characters, books and songs.  It soon will be introduced into the school systems.

  • Now we are ready for windows.  Studies have shown that a large percentage of the time, a criminal who breaks into homes finds an unlocked door or window, or a broken window lock.  These are things we, as home residents, don't see a lot; out of sight is out of mind.  If you have a lock that isn't working, replace it.  It's so much cheaper than the consequences of failed security.

  • One of the reasons our homes are broken into while we are away is because they appear unoccupied.  I've had remote homes that I didn't get to a lot and at all of them I have nighttime lighting inside my home that comes on for a few hours each night.  One of the things I've discovered in my many years of protecting people and property is that lighting and good visibility are big deterrents to crime.  Remember, most criminals don’t' want to be caught, and if your home or business looks secure, they'll go elsewhere.

  • Now walk with me through the rest of your house and check all the windows and outside doors.  Pay special attention to your bathroom windows.  This is another place that is a prime entry point for the criminal; they're often left open or they have defective locks.  (Also, while you are making this inspection, check your smoke detectors to ensure that the batteries are working.)

  • We're now at the back of your home.  Check all doors and windows using the same procedure as for the front door.  Look around.  Do you see areas where someone could hide and have time to break into your home undetected?  If you can, change it.  One of the most important protections for the back of your home is lighting.  All-night, low-wattage lighting costs only a few cents each day.

If you have performed this basic audit of your home, apartment, or business, you have started to change from living as a potential victim to living in a safer environment.  Congratulations.  Your family will thank you, if not now, at some time in the future.  Also, when you travel and they're home, you can now have a higher level of peace of mind about their safety.  Most of us will never be the individual targets of terrorists or criminals, but my motto is, "Plan for the worst and expect the best."  I have found in my work protecting people's lives and property than when one is really prepared, the bad things tend not to happen.  The assault comes when one is unprepared.