How to keep your home safe while on vacation

Ring has become one of the most popular ways to secure homes. Cory Rubin/The Signal

With summer just around the corner, families everywhere are getting ready for exciting summer vacations. But those vacations aren’t just exciting for you; summer is also a criminal’s favorite time of year.

Burglary rates soar as houses and apartments are left empty while their owners are traveling — and these homes become a beacon for criminals, tempting them to try to get in.

After the holidays, burglaries are most common during the summer months from June to August, according to a study of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program from 2011 to 2017 done by ASecureLife.

The study goes on to conclude that California is one of the top five states to lose the most to burglary even though it is also has the third highest rate of burglary arrests at 22%.

Burglary costs victims an average of $2,416 and the total bill reaches approximately $3.4 billion in property loss for 2017 alone, with the most commonly stolen items being cash, jewelry and guns, per the study.

This is why it’s not only important to be aware and alert, but also proactive when it comes to home security.

The City of Santa Clarita offers various home safety tips online on their Resident Service Center, so here are some of those tips along with some additional insight from Deputy Kevin Duxbury, of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Crime Prevention Unit, on how to keep your home safe this summer.

Lock doors and windows

This is a simple step, yet easy to forget. Make sure to have good locks on all doors and windows and use them, including gates to your backyard or garage doors. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to disconnect your automatic garage door as a thief with a universal remote may be able to open your door.

Remove any spare keys you may have stashed

Keeping a spare key stashed outside your house is never a great idea, but if you’re going on vacation, it might be time to remove it as, most of the time, your hiding spots aren’t as unique as you may think.

If a criminal figures out you’re away, they’re probably going to check your porch (or that plastic-looking rock) for a spare key.

Ask a friend or neighbor to check on your house

Having someone stop by from time to time can not only protect your house, but also give you a little peace of mind while you’re traveling.

Ask them to move some stuff around, adjust blinds or turn different lights on and off to help deter criminals from thinking no one is in the house. If you’re comfortable with them, you should give them a key so they can bring your mail in or in case of emergency. Also, make sure they have a way to contact you in case something does happen.

If you have more than one person coming to watch your house, you should make sure they know about each other, or else one could end up accidentally calling the police on the other.

If not, at least tell your neighbors that you’re leaving so they can let you know if something is amiss.

Don’t tip off criminals with social media posts

Be careful what you say on social media as you never know who is reading your posts. Don’t put anything online indicating that you’ll be gone.

Even if your posts are private, it is safer to avoid it altogether or at least be sure not to mention the exact dates that you’ll be gone.

Curtains closed — or open?

Before leaving for vacation, most would think that closing their curtains would help prevent people from looking inside to see if you’re home, but closed curtains also prevent police, neighbors or friends from seeing in to make sure that nothing has been taken.

Instead, leave your curtains exactly how you usually keep them when you’re home as noticeable changes can actually be giveaways that you’re not home. Closing the blinds halfway or so that only certain areas or rooms are hidden is a good alternative.

You should also move expensive items, like jewelry or laptops, out of plain sight, if they’re visible from the outside.

Simulate a human presence by leaving lights on a timer

Now don’t leave all the lights on in an effort to make it look like someone is home as your electricity bill will not be a pretty sight. Instead, purchase a timer for various lights in your home and set them to turn on at different intervals.

Thieves keeping tabs on your house will notice lights flipping on or off and will most likely assume it’s a human doing the flipping.

A motion-sensor light outside can also deter prowlers, whether you’re home or not. When looking for a way inside, burglars typically prefer dark areas, so motion-sensing lights can eliminate blindspots and scare them off.

Stop your mail

An overflowing mailbox and pile of newspapers on the driveway can be a dead giveaway that you’re not home.

If you don’t have someone coming by to get your mail regularly, place a stop order on all mail and newspapers. You can sign up online to have the USPS hold your mail at your local post office for free for 30 days.

Get some sort of home security system

Having a security system will almost always deter burglars, so not only should you have it but also advertise that you do. There are various different systems that’ll work, so do your research and pick the one best suited to your needs.

Video doorbells can also help you monitor traffic with motion-detecting cameras and can even allow you to speak to visitors in real time through an app.

Ring has become one of the most popular ways to secure homes. Cory Rubin/The Signal

If you have a security system, make sure it is set when you leave the house. You should also remember to check the batteries in case a thief is smart enough to turn off your power or if there’s an outage.

Don’t forget to also alert your alarm company that you are going to be away if possible.

Keep up on regular home maintenance

An untended lawn can also scream “no one is home,” so make sure to make arrangements to have this taken care of.

You should also beware of your trash as it can attract attention if it hasn’t been taken out in weeks. If trash day comes while you’re on vacation, ask a neighbor if they can pull your cans out and bring them back in after the trash is taken. Since they’re already doing it themselves, it’s generally not too much of an inconvenience.

Request a ‘Vacation Check’

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department conducts “Vacation Checks” for those who are going on vacation and want an occasional check.

“They will either have some of our volunteers on patrol or even deputies will just make sure they do a drive-by of the house occasionally,” Duxbury said.

They ask you submit your request no more than a week in advance and provide information on the location, dates, any alarm systems and an emergency contact.

Prevent or report crime by contacting the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station at 661-255-1121 or in case of an emergency, dial 911.

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