A man’s home is his castle, and as such, you want to feel secure in your own home.  According to the most recent statistics released by the FBI, property crime, on the whole, is down .6 percent with burglaries down a whopping 3.4 percent. While this is excellent news, the fact remains that home burglaries are one of the most common types of crime: in 2014, for example, the FBI estimated that nearly three quarters of the 1.8 million burglaries committed that year involved a private home. The take-home lesson: never let down your guard. Most burglaries are crimes of opportunity where a would-be thief sees an opening for criminal activity. What can you do to increase your home’s security and thwart would-be burglars?

1. Lock It Up

Most burglars are looking for an easy entrance. About 30 percent of burglaries happen with an offender entering an open or unlocked door, and one much-cited statistic suggests that almost a quarter of burglars gain access through a first-floor window. So just locking your doors and windows is an easy first step toward a more secure home. Here are some tips for denying burglars entry:

  • Whether you rent or own your home, ensure that the locks are changed when you move in. You do not know who has had access to the keys prior to your occupancy.
  • Some burglaries are a result of forcible entry to the home, so consider upgrading the home’s entry doors and locks to be more secure.
  • Install locks on all first floor windows. If you’re handy, this may be a DIY task, but if you’re not, have a professional install them.
  • If you’re the sort of person who likes to have your windows open, you can still keep them secure by using an adjustable window bar or window wedge.
  • Any open entrance to your home can be an issue. Open garage doors allow passersby to view valuable tools and equipment. Open entry doors allow casual visitors like delivery persons to view electronics and valuables from the doorway.

2. Install a Home Security System

Homes without a security system are 300 percent more likely to be broken into, and property losses are greater from break-ins into an unsecured home. More than 18 million homes have some type of home security system, so you may want to consider getting one yourself.

Monitored Security Systems. Monitored security systems are generally installed by a professional company and monitored by that same company off-site. For a monthly fee, these systems can detect signs of a break-in, fire, high levels of carbon monoxide, or other problems and contact the authorities for you. These systems have the advantage of 24-hour monitoring by a professionally trained staff.

DIY Security Systems. The advent of the smartphone has led to all kinds of home automation systems previously not possible, including home security systems. DIY security systems usually rely on the home internet to transmit alerts to your smart phone. When you receive an alert, you can then access your home’s security cameras and assess the problem. While these systems may be significantly cheaper than a professionally installed system, DIY systems lack round-the-clock monitoring.

3. Keep Up With Your Landscaping Duties

You may love the look of a wild rose bush growing wild outside your bedroom window, but so do a burglars as it may allow them to get into your house without being seen. You can landscape to deter burglars, too, so consider your options:

  • Cut back shrubbery that obscures your windows, as mentioned above. And if you have a hedge or other plant barrier that prevents your home from being seen from the street, reconsider it.
  • Some shrubbery, however, can deter burglars. Stiff, thorny bushes that nevertheless allow your neighbors to see your windows are ideal.
  • Trees that grow close to a wall or roof may give a burglar access to the upper stories of your home, which is less likely to be secure.
  • Putting a gravel border around your house may deter burglars by guaranteeing that they’ll make noise if they come close to the wall.

4. Keep the Lights On

Indoors and out, a simple light is one of the best crime deterrents there is. Thieves love to work alone and under cover of darkness.

  • Use floodlights outside to light up entryways, driveways, and the home’s perimeter.  If you prefer not to have the lights on all the time, use motion sensitive lights that turn on when someone moves near them. Thieves tend to flee when the spotlight is on their activities.
  • Use a light inside the home to ward off thieves. Most thieves want to be alone to do their work. If they think that someone is awake and at home, they will move on to another target.

5. Store Your Valuables Off-Site

If a burglar does gain access to your home, he or she is looking to make a quick exit with your best possessions. Jewelry, electronics, cash, personal identity documents, and other easily carried items are high priority targets for thieves. They know to look in the normal hiding places: sock drawers, under the beds, and in your freezer. Consider storing some of your most valuable heirlooms and documents in a safe-deposit box at your local bank.

6. Keep Your Travel Plans to Yourself

When traveling for work or on vacation, social media can be a fun way to keep in touch with folks back home. But when you share a vacation photo or complain about the hassles of travel, you may also advertise to all of your followers that your home is empty. Better to communicate with your closest friends and family privately via text and phone call and wait until the trip is over to share it on social media.

In the same vein, you’ll want to hide any physical signs that you’re not at home. To keep your home safe while you’re away:

  • Use timers to turn lights in your house on and off on a set schedule so it looks like someone’s there. If you don’t have timers, even just leaving on a single light will help.
  • Be sure to have your mail held using the quick and easy online form at USPS.gov.
  • Stop newspaper subscriptions while you’re away.
  • Have a neighbor come by to check on your house and pick up any stray evidence that you’re gone, like delivered packages, free papers, or phone directories.

While home burglaries have declined in recent years, you must continue to keep your guard up and use common sense to make your home as unattractive to thieves as possible.