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Protecting your property from burglars

People are pouring into the Pacific Northwest, drawn by the breathtaking scenery, job opportunities, and progressive culture. But what many people don’t realize is that Seattle also has twice the rate of reported property crimes as New York, and Tacoma’s rate is even higher.

That doesn’t mean you should avoid Seattle and Tacoma; but it does mean you should take precautions to dissuade burglars from making off with your property!

A security camera is a start, but it can only do so much. If you are the victim of a crime, a camera might be able to tell police when the crime happened, and might give investigators a glimpse of who they should be looking for.  But as we have seen over and over again, a camera won't always stop a criminal, especially if they can't see it.  An alarm, on the other hand, might be enough to make a would-be burglar think twice.

"60% of burglars said they would  move on if they saw signs of a alarm," says PEMCO Insurance Quality Analyst Kristine Zewe. "Half would run out mid-burglary if they became aware of [an alarm]."

But just like a lock on your door, security alarms can't protect your home unless they're activated.

"The trick with burglar alarms is to set them every time you leave." Zewe says. "More than half of homes have alarms, but they're used only about 50% of the time."

Zewe says keeping the garage door closed, even when you are at home, and locking doors and windows are a few more good ways to make a potential burglar move along.

"About 40% of burglars enter without force, going in through an unlocked door or window, or using a stolen key." Zewe says. "So the first rule is to lock up everything - all windows, doors, storage sheds - and make sure anyone who has a key to your home will safeguard it as carefully as you would."

Zewe says you shouldn't count on seeing a burglar spying out your home before they strike.  In fact, researchers studying convicted burglars found more than two-thirds of them did not collect information about their targets before breaking in.

"The truth is, most home burglaries are poorly-planned crimes of opportunity," explains Zewe. "The typical burglar is a young, under-employed male with a substance abuse problem. He's looking for cash or easy-to-pawn items like electronics, guns, and jewelry."

A burglar is also looking to stay hidden as much as possible. Zewe says you can make that difficult by trimming back trees and bushes around your home, and putting lights on every corner of the home. She recommends installing motion-sensing lights over the back and side yards for extra security.

Finally, make sure you're taking precautions even when you leave home.  If you are planning to take a trip, make sure to put your mail and newspaper deliveries on hold.  A stack of newspapers or an overstuffed mailbox are easy signals to a burglar that a home may be empty.  Zewe also recommends putting a few lights on a timer so that your home is always lit up at night, just like it would be if you were there.

"You don't have to turn your home into Fort Knox," Zewe says, "but do take common-sense steps that make you an unappealing target for burglars."