Did you know that a burglary happens every 20.9 seconds in the U.S., according to the FBI?1

Your home is one of your most valuable possessions, along with everything inside it. It's a place you want to feel safe and secure from the potential dangers of the outside world. Employing and engaging in some basic best practices around home security is the first step to help create a secure environment for your loved ones.

Consider these tips to help keep you and your family, and your possessions, safe and secure.

1- Landscape with safety in mind. As you walk around your property, look for areas that could be potential hiding spots for thieves, who prize the privacy they provide. Try and clear away any overgrown areas.


2- Talk with your local police department. It can offer insight on past break-in trends in your area.


3- Get to know your neighbors. Take the time to meet and engage with people on your street and encourage them to watch out for any suspicious activity when you're not home.


4- Lighting matters. Lighting can set the right ambiance inside your home, but outdoor lighting can be the difference between your home being targeted – or not – by thieves. Motion-sensitive fixtures can help add security and provide light when needed. Also consider using automatic timers or smart lightbulbs that can be controlled remotely to turn lights on and off in various parts of the house to help make it seem like you are home.


5- Avoid advertising that shopping spree. Thieves look for and steal newly delivered boxes on your front porch, a method called porch pirating, so consider having them delivered elsewhere or requiring a signature for delivery. Thieves may also look at clues provided by your trash or recycling, which may indicate the new computer or flat-screen television inside.


6- Set a safety routine. Make sure you establish a routine where you regularly lock all doors, shut windows and turn on your alarm system every time you leave your home. Avoid leaving spare keys outside, under a planter or under a welcome mat, as thieves know most of the potential hiding places.


7- Manage visibility. Make sure you can see who is at your front door without opening it. Avoid placing valuables where they will be visible from the street, and do not place your home alarm panel in a place where people can see you arming it from the outside.


8- Protect your outdoor valuables. Burglars also target sheds, garages and other outdoor buildings. Secure your grill, lawn mower, bicycles and other outdoor gear.


9- Create a plan for when you are away. Hold your mail, stop your papers and ask a friend or neighbor to remove flyers from your property. Arrange for snow removal and lawn mowing so you do not advertise when you are away from home.


10- Change all the locks when you move into a new house. Even if your home's previous owners insist that they've handed over every set of keys they have, it's still important to change those locks before you move in. 


11- Invest in a smart home system. If you want to keep your home from becoming a target for burglars, "your house should appear occupied at all times," says Wood. Short of using a house sitter every time you leave for work or vacation, a smart home system can help you turn lights on and off while you're away to make it look as though you're there. Wood also suggests using the same technology to turn your TV and stereos on and off periodically to make the house seem lived in, too.


12- Don't leave notes for people on your door. If you need to let the dog walker know when your pup last ate or if you want to give your mail carrier information about a package pickup, don't do so by leaving a note on your front door, says Wood. Doing so screams, "Nobody's home," so when in doubt, provide that information in person or via phone instead.


13- Only share vacation photos once you've returned home. Sure, you may be eager to rack up those Facebook or Instagram likes with your vacation photos, but delaying that gratification until you return home can keep you safer in the long run.


14- Ask for IDs from anyone who tries to come into your house. That landscaper who says the tree in your front yard is dangerous, the person from the gas company who says they need to inspect your house for a leak, or even police officers who say they need to come inside should always show you proof of ID before you open the door.

"Burglars will often knock on doors before breaking in to see if anyone is home," explains Wood. If you have any doubts that someone is who they say they are, "check with the person's office before letting him or her in," he suggests.