Crime Prevention Tips for Homeowners

Island County Sheriff’s Department and its Citizen Patrol are here to help you.


Essential Crime Prevention Tips Every Homeowner Should Know


Smart homeowners plan for the worst–natural disasters, rusty pipes, burglaries, and the like. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the rate of household burglary decreased by more than half from 1994 to 2011, from a peak of 63.4 victimizations to 27.6 victimizations per 1,000 households. But the median financial loss during completed burglaries went up, from $389 in 1994 to $600 in 2011 (numbers adjusted for inflation). No matter where you live, you can protect yourself more effectively by planning ahead–and it doesn’t have to involve putting steel bars over your windows, adopting a dog, or investing in an expensive security system (though those may help too). The National Neighborhood Watch Association suggests that homeowners looking to burglar-proof their homes should take a three-fold approach: deter, detect, and delay. Here are 10 essential crime prevention tips to help your home a less desirable target for burglary:

Tip #1: Case the joint.

Walk around your home with the eyes of a burglar. Look for weaknesses–sliding doors that could be jimmied off the track, glass that could be broken to gain entry, window unit air conditioners that could be easily removed, and so forth. A committed burglar can usually find a way into a house, but you can make it more difficult for them, and this starts with knowing your property and potential entry points for a break-in. Take a walk around the outside as well and note what pricey items are in view, tempting would-be burglars.

Tip #2: Lock the door.

It may seem obvious, but the BLS reports that more than 40 percent of burglaries don’t include forced entry–meaning people are leaving doors and windows unlocked. Install deadbolts on all doors; double cylinders are best, since they require a key on both sides of the door, and it prevents burglars from breaking a pane of glass, reaching around, and unlocking the door. (Check your area’s fire code first; some places don’t allow double cylinder locks because they can trap inhabitants inside in the event of a fire.) And remember to lock the door leading from the garage to the house, even if the garage door is down. (It’s easy to manipulate.)

Tip #3: Don’t hide a key.

One day, you forget your keys, and you decide it’s a good idea to hide one under the doormat or one of those fake rocks. That’s a terrible idea. Get rid of that idea right now, and pretend you never even considered it. Give a spare key to a neighbor instead. If your closest neighbor lives 10 miles away, and you absolutely must leave a spare key outside, put it in a combination lockbox.

Tip #4: Don’t label your keys or mailbox.

If you lose your key and it has your address written on it, well–you do the math. It’s pretty easy to become a target. Also, don’t write your last name on your mailbox. It’s easy to look you up, find your phone numbers, maybe even your workplace, and begin to track your movements in preparation to enter the home when you’re not around.

Tip #5: Secure windows and sliding doors.

Many sliding doors can be popped off the frame, even when locked. Prevent this by placing a strong steel bar or two-by-four in the back groove, which prevents the door from sliding along the groove and opening. You can do the same with windows: Install a nail in the frame to prevent the window from opening more than a few inches.

Tip #6: Be modest.

Prevent your home from being a target by tucking away expensive items. Keep both the car and the bike into the garage. After purchasing a new piece of expensive electronic equipment, dispose of the box directly instead of leaving it next to your trash can–which lets would-be burglars know you have something shiny and new that could bring in great cash on the black market. While you’re at it, consider keeping expensive jewelry and your mattress full of cash somewhere safer, like a safe deposit box.

Tip #7: Create the illusion you’re always home.

The majority of burglaries take place when people aren’t home, particularly during the day, while the victims are at work. Deter burglars by creating the impression that you’re always home: Leave on lights, the radio, or the television. And if you’re going on vacation for awhile, don’t advertise your absence. Arrange for someone to pick up the mail, newspapers, mow the lawn, shovel the snow, and set out trash cans regularly.

Neighborhood WatchTip #8: Secure the area surrounding your house.

Secure the yard: Trim bushes and trees to discourage burglars from using them as hiding places. Avoid planting low shrubs in front of windows; you may even consider planting thorny shrubs for an added deterrent. And be sure to add lighting outside your home.

Tip #9: Get to know the neighbors.

Tight-knit communities suffer fewer burglaries because people look out for each other and strangers stick out. If your neighborhood doesn’t already have a Neighborhood Watch Program, consider starting one. Studies have found they reduce crime and violence in a given neighborhood.

Tip #10: Install an alarm system–or at least a sign.

Alarm systems are available at a number of price points, but an effective one should include sensors at entry points, motion detectors inside the house, and a loud outdoor alarm that alerts the entire neighborhood when someone has forced entry. If you don’t want to go all-out, fake out would-be burglars by sticking a home security system sign in your yard. The threat of an alarm may be enough to keep them from trying.

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Home Vacation Checks

If you are going on vacation or away for a few days:  

a)    Stop your mail delivery and newspaper, or have a neighbor pick it up daily, along with anything that may be left at your house (UPS type items, phone books etc.).

b)    For extended vacations (2 weeks & longer) request a Sheriff’s Citizen Patrol house check.  Also have a neighbor or friend check the house daily or as often as possible.  Consider having a friend or relative being a house setter. 

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Neighborhood Watch

One very effective way to prevent crime in your neighborhood is through the establishment of Neighborhood Watch.  There are many sources to get additional neighborhood watch information

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Cyber Crime Prevention

 Cybercrime Prevention – Resource Guide 

What is identity theft and fraud?

Various pieces of personal information make up your identity – for example, your name, address, Social security number, etc. Identity theft is when someone uses your personal or financial information without your knowledge. Thieves usually acquire your information through theft or fraud. 

To gain a better understanding of this situation, review the most recent statistics on the prevalence of identity theft. 

How does identity theft and fraud occur? 

Commonly, someone fraudulently represents a legitimate company – either in person, online or on the phone - tricks you into divulging your personal information. A common method is “phishing” (pronounced “fishing”) – the act of sending an email that fraudulently represents a legitimate company and ‘lures” you (hence the name phishing) into divulging personal and financial information that could then be used for identity theft.  

What is phishing? 

 Attempts by cybercriminals, nation states, or hacktivists to lure you into giving away personal information to gain access to accounts or to infect your machine with malware and viruses are called “phishing.” Phishing attempts can happen through a variety of channels, including email, social media, or text messages, and can compromise security and lead to theft of personal and financial data. Highly targeted attacks on groups or individuals are known as “spear phishing”. 

What tactics are used in phishing attempts? 

Phishing messages can come from hijacked accounts of people you know, making them hard to distinguish from real messages. Additionally, cybercriminals commonly use infected documents or PDF attachments as vectors for their phishing attempts. Another common trick attacker uses is trying to get victims to sign in on a fake login page where their usernames and passwords can be stolen.   

How do you avoid phishing attempts? 

 Phishing attempts can often get through spam filters and security software that you may already have in place, so stay vigilant and trust your instincts. Keep an eye out for things like unexpected urgency or a wrong salutation. Think twice about clicking a link or opening a document that seems suspicious. Double-check that every URL where you enter your password looks legitimate. And if anything raises doubt, delete or report the communication. 

More facts from third-party resources  Federal Trade Commission  

National Cyber-Security Alliance: National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) stay safe 

Keep your online information safe 

A strong password is your first line of defense. Think of your password as the key to your Online house. Just as you try to keep your house key safe to protect what’s inside, creating strong passwords protects all the valuables inside the sites you visit – from sensitive information like bank account details and Social Security numbers to the medications you take and the stores you frequent and everything in-between. 

Remember, every piece of information you share electronically can make you vulnerable to identity theft, malware, scammers and more. You must make it a top priority to keep the Online information safe and secure by using strong passwords and in a secure place. 

Create unique passwords for critical sites 

Yes, it can be a nuisance to keep track of multiple passwords but using one familiar passwords for everything means that once cyber thieves crack one site, they’ll have easy access to all the sites sharing that password. At the very least, use separate passwords for sites containing financial information. 

Create a password phrase 

With 12 plus characters to work with, a unique phrase can be easy to remember. Need inspiration? Think of favorite books, songs, movies, sports teams, special birthdays, etc. Most sites already require a mix of letters, numbers and special characters to make passwords more secure. You can also get creative and replace letters with numbers or symbols, or deliberately misspell or remove vowels from common words. 

Here are some examples on setting up passwords: 

 LuvTop5GpixyGuardyans   OR   hawks4thepennant19   OR   Grmps@90in2019 

Customize passwords to site offerings 

Here are examples on customizing passwords 

 Best20comphortShoes OR    dEE2019DreamCar OR  2020vaCationNsavings 


Safe Password Resources: 

Click on the following resources to learn how to stay safe and secure by using protection you need:

Accept Authentication when offered 

Take advantage of the trend toward stronger authentication, such as adding icons, one-time PINs, text or email codes, etc. The more layers of security you add, the safer your information will be. Microsoft and the likes offer double authentication. Go to and learn how to protect your assets. They have chat room to help you step-by-step in setting up the double authentication. Learn and live a peaceful life. 

The LastPass is a vault as well as authentication provider where you can store your passwords – very secure. It is free and easy to set up – for your desktop, laptop, iPad, cell phone and wallet. Caution – you never want to forget the password to get into LastPass. If you did, then it will take forever to get into – meaning it is very difficult to break into LastPass.

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