Burglars are, among other things, experts at quickly identifying and assessing the security of your house; that's their job. Research suggests that if prowlers think it will take more than five minutes to break into a residence, they'll move on to another one. The key to making yours safer is to add multiple layers of security, from the edge of the yard to inside your closets.
1. Make sure that exterior doors are sturdy.
All outside doors—not just the front—should be made of metal or thick hardwood, and all should have sturdy frames. (Frames without enough support around the strike plate are easy to break with a sharp kick.) Security consultant Michael Silva recommends installing heavy-duty strike plates in all exterior door frames, and fastening those plates to the frame with screws that are long enough to reach into the surrounding wall studs. Install security studs on doors with exterior hinges. From a security perspective, doors with glass components are like windows; see tip 8.
2. Don't leave a key outside.
Prowlers know that many people stash spare keys outside, and they know the most common hiding spots. Instead, leave a set of keys with a trusted neighbor. If you must leave them outdoors, use a combination lockbox attached to something strong.
3. Use your locks.
You'd be amazed at how many people leave their windows and doors unlocked. In San Francisco, nearly 50 percent of daytime burglaries involve entry through unlocked doors and windows. Lock everything when you're away, even windows on upper stories. Speaking of which: Don't leave ladders outside or in an easily accessible garden shed. If you have exterior "climbers"— pipes and the like—replace them or install security barriers.
4. Add more locks.
If a burglar makes it into your house, he or she will make a beeline for the places where valuables are most commonly hidden. Consider protecting rooms and closets where you store yours by installing additional dead bolts on interior doors. (As with exterior doors, these locks will only be effective if you use them.) Rooms protected with such interior security can also double as safe rooms in case of intrusions when you're at home.