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Originally published Friday, April 5, 2013 at 8:01 PM

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How to reduce chances of a break-in

Design and use a property’s landscaping and layout as a way to increase security and deter crime.

Special to The Seattle Times

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HomeWork

Q. How can I make my home less vulnerable to crime?

A. With the weather warming up and spring plants starting to blossom we want to throw open the windows and enjoy the fresh air. Sadly, as the weather heats up so does the threat of crime.

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is an approach to deterring criminal behavior that was developed by a criminologist for both commercial and residential real estate. The concept utilizes known vulnerabilities and criminal behavior into designing and using a property’s landscaping and layout as a way to increase security and deter crime. There are three basic principles of CPTED that you can put into practice at your home or office.

Natural surveillance

This is a crucial component of security since most criminals won’t act if they are going to be seen.

Make sure your neighbors or passers-by can clearly see your residence.

Keep bushes and shrubs below ground-level windows and prune trees to above eye level.

Use outside lighting to illuminate dark areas of the grounds around your home.

The idea is to make sure there is nowhere for a criminal to conceal himself in approaching your home. You also don’t want to have valuable items clearly visible through your windows — especially when you are away from home or in the evening when the lights inside your home illuminate the interior.

Stand on the sidewalk or across the street from your home and make sure there are no valuables in sight that could be a big temptation for thieves. If a passer-by can see your expensive artwork or electronics, so can a criminal.

Territorial behavior

This has to do with the overall impression a residential area or business neighborhood makes.

Prevent overgrown landscaping by keeping to a maintenance schedule.

Remove junk and trash regularly and perform routine maintenance. Nothing about your home should give the impression that it is neglected or that you are absent for long periods of time.

Experts say that nine out of 10 home break-ins could be prevented if homeowners would take steps to burglarproof their homes. They will also tell you that light and noise are your greatest weapons. Along with a tidy, well cared for appearance, you can employ a few tricks for times when you are away on business or vacation to make it look as though someone is home.

Use timers on lights, TV and radios to provide sound and light up your home at appropriate times.

Arrange to have your loan mowed.

Ask a neighbor to park in your driveway, occasionally moving the car to indicate coming and going.

Remove any hidden emergency keys you may have on the property and of course never let papers or mail pile up when you are away.

Controlling access helps you manage entrances and define areas by using gates, fences and landscaping. These help send a message that there is one entry point and users must have permission to enter.

Consider adding security strike plates with three-inch screws on exterior doors.

Install secondary locks on windows and sliding doors. A simple wooden dowel is very effective for sliders.

And always remember that security starts at the street so be aware of how criminals would view your property. By following these guidelines you can make sure your home doesn’t have “curb appeal” for criminals.

Joseph Irons of Irons Brothers Construction is a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties’ Remodelers Council. If you have more questions about home improvement send them to homework@mbaks.com. Sorry no personal replies. Always consult local contractors and codes


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