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Tips to keep burglars away this holiday

Hall County deputies will evaluate home for risks like bushes to hide in

POSTED: December 21, 2013 11:56 p.m.

Sgt. Mark Mitchell of the Hall County Sheriff's Office and Deputy Nicole Bailes perform an security evaluation Thursday of Shannon Casas' home in Hall County. During the evaluation, Mitchell and Bailes showed Casas some simple solutions for her to help make their house less accessible to burglars.

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Burglars hiding in your bushes may sound cliche, but it’s just the kind of thing to look for when evaluating your home’s security.

Sgt. Mark Mitchell and Deputy Nicole Bailes of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office visited my house earlier this week to help point out those kinds of weaknesses.

Criminals aren’t too concerned with being cliche; Mitchell said they’re concerned with finding the most convenient target.

“They are after the quick, the easy, the safe — for them,” Mitchell said.

Trimming back bushes to eliminate hiding spots is just one way to make your home a less-than-ideal target.

“Shrubs, oh my goodness, I’m gonna hide in there. I’m gonna see you leave,” Mitchell said of the criminal mind. “When I’m pretty sure you’re gone — I’ve already made friends with the dog. I’ve got a whole bunch of dog biscuits in my pocket. He barks a lot, but he doesn’t bark while he’s eating. ... I’m in your house.”

Lighting is also important. Mitchell and Bailes recommend flood lights with timers or motion detection. If one side of your home doesn’t have any lights, you may want to consider installing some, Mitchell said, especially if it’s an area with an air conditioning unit or telephone lines with copper wiring that thieves often want.

If the burglar still thinks your home is worth the risk, the next thing he needs is to get inside through either a door or window.

Mitchell said dead bolts are crucial, but the screws that typically come with them are short and don’t provide enough protection. He instead recommends getting 3-inch screws to securely install the kickplate, with those screws sinking into a 2-by-4 in the door frame.

He also said the dead bolt should have 1 inch of travel. Steel doors are helpful, too.

“If they want to get in, they’re going to get in,” he noted. “But if they see that it’s going to be hard to do so, they may just leave your residence and try something else.”

If the door proves too much trouble, a burglar might instead try a window. Mitchell said pins can be installed in windows so that even if the criminal gets past the window lock, the window still cannot be opened.

“There’s a kit that you can purchase ... basically requires the installation where you go in and drill holes through both window sections,” he said.

Bailes added that covering windows with drapes or blinds also is important.

“If there’s something in there they want, it probably really wouldn’t matter what you put up or what you put in place,” she said. “If they want to get in and they see something they want, they’re going to find a way to get in.”

It’s mostly common sense, they said, but not something people always take time to address.

One small item Mitchell pointed out during the evaluation was the Apple symbol on my car parked in the carport. It’s a fairly innocuous sticker in my mind, but Mitchell said that tells the criminal they might find a desirable iPhone inside.

Common sense, but something I hadn’t thought about.

Putting Christmas trash at the street also can tell criminals what kind of goodies may be in your home.

Providing criminals with access to ladders and stepping stools is also a no-no, they said. It gives a burglar more options to access the home easily. And of course leaving doors unlocked, including utility closet doors and sheds, is never good, either.

“The common problems are the shrubbery, the illumination and the systems that we purchase with our homes that area very easily defeated,” Mitchell said.

The Sheriff’s Office offers free home security evaluations to Hall residents. Those interested can call 770-531-2492 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday to schedule a visit. The officer will provide tips along with a checklist showing where improvements could be made to your home.


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