As the temperatures continue to rise, more people are going outside and out of town for activities and vacations, leaving homes and cars unattended — often for days.
The change in weather is also the perfect opportunity to execute more crimes.
Between January and June 2012, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported property crimes varied across the nation. Burglary decreased 3.6 percent in 2012 when compared with 2011 data. Motor vehicle theft increased 1.3 percent, and larceny-theft offenses remained virtually unchanged.
Here are a few quick and inexpensive tips to keep your family and belongings safe:
>>Photo: April 2013 heat map of stolen vehicles and where they happened near Salt Lake City.<<
Burglars are more likely to break into a home when it is clear that the owner is away. Exterior and interior lights are an easy way to deter someone from coming into your home uninvited. Installing a system that allows you to control lighting while you're traveling is a great way to deter a break-in.
When the weather warms up, many people forget to lock windows and doors. It's important to secure all doors and windows if you are planning on leaving the home, even if it is only for a short while.
Accessing information online can be very simple for a trained burglar. If you post on your Facebook or Twitter account that you're leaving on Thursday for a week, someone other than your friends may find out that information and know your home will be empty during that time, making it a prime opportunity to take what they want.
Neighbors can keep an eye on your home and possessions while you're not around. If you leave on vacation, have a neighbor pick up mail and newspaper on the driveway, grab packages left on doorsteps and bring in the trash from the curb. If you are going to be away for an extended period of time, make sure you arrange for someone to mow the law or remove snow from your driveway to make it appear that someone is home. Not only will you feel better while vacationing, your neighbors would appreciate the extra safety on their home as well.
It may be tempting to leave keys behind for relatives or friends while you are out of town. Burglars know all the common places people leave spare keys. The fake rock by the front door won't fool someone who is trying to get inside. Instead of leaving a key under the front or side doormat, install a keypad lock or code to a garage. Keypad codes can be changed multiple times and are simple to install. It is important that if you have a keypad to make the code something you can remember, but is not easy to guess such as 1234. If an incorrect code is issued too many times, the keypad will lock up which deters criminals from standing around too long.
If you have a nice lawn mower, barbecue or bicycle, it is important to store these items out of site. If a criminal is scouting out their next targeted home and spots an expensive grill out front, they're going to assume you have some more expensive things in your garage and inside your home.
Always park your car in the garage with the garage door closed when you are home. If someone is watching for patterns of when you are home, they won't know when your car is there or when you're out. They also can't get a close look at anything that is stored in the garage like expensive equipment, recreational vehicles, or tools.
Criminals can easily hide behind large trees and overgrown shrubs. Trim back or remove any shrubbery that is next to any doors or windows. If you want to have plants next to the home, consider ones with thorns such as holly or roses.
Sliding glass patio doors are secured by latches instead of typical door locks. They are vulnerable to being opened from the outside due to latch mechanisms being much easier to force open. To add a layer of security to sliding doors, insert a wooden dowel or stick into the track, which prevents or limits the amount the door can open if the latch is compromised. Other blocking devices and track-blockers can be installed and screwed down.
If you are planning on leaving your home for an extended period of time, secure your most valuable possessions in a safe or a location that is not easily found.
This might seem like an obvious way to keep a car from being stolen, but according to the FBI, about 50 percent of cars stolen were unlocked. More than $4.3 billion was lost nationwide to motor-vehicle thefts in 2011. When you park and lock your doors, cars with alarms are more likely to deter a criminal than one without — they are looking for an easy target. A car without an alarm is the easier target.
Car thieves can steal a car in about 10 seconds, more than six times faster than a decade ago. Even if you're just stopping in a gas station for a quick drink, make sure to take your keys and lock the car.
Car thieves do not like to have any witnesses. Park in areas that are well-lit and have foot traffic.
Even if it is a hot day, make sure to keep windows closed. Cracked windows make it easier for car thieves to get inside. Window reflectors that help during hot days are generally inexpensive and only take a minute to set up.
If you plan on hiking or boating for a couple hours, make sure not to leave your gym bag full of potentially expensive clothes and other valuables in the backseat, or your cellphone on top of the center console. The safest place put anything expensive is into the trunk — thieves are less likely to spend the time trying to get into it if they don't know what is inside.
Overall, these steps taken during the summer, and the rest of the year, can greatly increase your changes of keeping your family and belongings safe.