In lots of cases, it’s easy to talk about home security. You’re talking about an alarm system; you’re talking about cameras. Securing the stuff inside your home: pretty straightforward. But what about securing your outdoor assets — the kids’ bikes, the top-dollar gas grill — and securing the outside of your home? That can get a little more tricky. And what about things that may be visible from the road: your front porch furniture, for example?
Luckily, you don’t have to cede your brand-new barbecue to burglars, or your patio cushions to thieves (sadly, this is an issue in many areas). There are lots of different ways to secure both your outdoor assets and the outside of your home.
Lights are the simplest way to keep your yard and property safe and secure. It’s true that crime thrives in the dark: thieves and other ne’r-do-wells don’t want to be seen. So lights are your first line of defense to secure your property: both to keep safe the stuff you’ve got outdoors and as a first line of defense in general.
But at the same time, you don’t really want to just illuminate all the goodies you’ve got sitting around for the pickings. So rather than just, say, leaving your carport and porch lights on, you have to be smart about it: motion-sensor lights are best. Dimmer lights do a better job than one giant bright light, says Dengarden.
Of course, you want to position motion-sensor lights on all approaches and paths into your home, so they turn on when you come home in the dark — that’s just convenient. But you also want to make sure you position them in places you don’t regularly enter: the patio, for example, or the back gate.
Family Handyman also recommends positioning lights around “the darker areas of your yard, and around trees and bushes.” They say that, “Ideally, it’s best to mount motion sensing lights 6 to 10 feet above the ground and position it so that most movement will occur across the sensitivity zone rather than directly toward the detector.”
Now, we know you can’t go around moving your trees for security purposes. But you do have control over whether or not to cut them down, and where to place bushes and hedges. Burglars, in general, like yards with lots of cover. That means getting rid of obvious hiding spots in the yard — especially spots that are difficult to monitor via security lights. You need to keep everything trimmed — unkempt bushes tend to be taller, and give burglars a place to hide.
While it may look pretty to have a line of high bushes close in tight to the house, some could offer an easy avenue for thieves to wiggle behind without being seen. Consider some thorny foliage close to windows, or use bushes that would make entering an open window a real struggle.
Make sure you also keep all trees trimmed and well away from the house. It seems farfetched, but you don’t want a tree to allow access to the roof, which someone can walk or climb across to an unprotected or even open second-story window. Keep all sturdy trellises away from the house for the same reason: as a teen, I once broke into my own old house that way when I had forgotten my key.
You need fencing that people can see to the other side of, not something that people can hide behind. A tall, wooden fence might be initially hard to get over, but once you’re over, no one knows what you’re doing — you or a burglar. On the other hand, a light, railed fence you can see through provides no hiding places, and can be topped with finials that make it difficult — or vastly unpleasant — to climb.
The Guardian reports that, in a survey by Co-Op Insurance, loud, barking dogs were second only to cameras as a burglary deterrant. Station KGW sent a survey to 86 inmates serving time for burglary in Oregon; they mostly said that big, loud dogs would keep them away. Reported KTVB, one inmate said, “Dogs are a deal breaker for me … Big breeds, home protectors are the best to keep people out.” So while most people agree that dogs should not live outdoors, away from people, they are a significant security deterrent if left loose in the yard. (Note: Dog owners will know their possibilities with the previous section — fencing — are limited by a number of factors.)
[Dogs won’t solve issue, though. Check out our article Considering The Limits Of Canine Protection.]
That “Beware of Dog” sign, especially one with a picture of a “home protector breed,” and most especially when it’s coupled with a pic of the same breed, or an “I (heart) my German Shepherd” sticker on the bumper of your car, could be a significant deterrent. The coupling is key: it makes it look as if you actually do own the dog. Otherwise, burglars may take a look at the sign and figure they’ll take their chances until they hear some actual barking.
Home security signs work the same way. Now, if you use a fake company, it’s super easy for thieves to figure that out just by doing a web search — and by extension, to realize that you don’t have a security system at all.
The Gold Standard: Security Cameras
If you really want to ward off malicious trespassers, security cameras are your best bet. Multiple cameras are even better. These devices are at their best with night vision and video recording. Burglars told The Guardian they were their top deterrent. And yes, while they may be expensive, and you have to hang them high enough so they aren’t easily smashable, they’re worth it for your peace of mind. If the price is prohibitive, Amazon sells fakes — which, in the end, may be better than nothing. To learn more about your options, read our review of the best home security cameras.