You don't have to install a pricey or crazy security system to feel safer in your home. Here are some low- and no-cost ways to keep burglars at bay.
1. Don't Sleep Alone
If you're sleeping solo these days, take your car's remote control to bed with you. If you hear suspicious noises, push the remote's "panic" button and let the alarm scare away intruders.
2. Fake It
Pretend you're home watching "Downton Abbey" and deter burglars with FakeTV ($34), a small gizmo that glows and flashes like the flicker of a television set. FakeTV uses the same energy as a nightlight, and has a built-in light sensor and timer, which turns it on at dusk and off when you wish.
3. Slippery When Wet
In the U.K., they slather "anti-climb" paint, which never dries, on downspouts, gutters, and anything they don't want an intruder to shimmy up. It doesn't seem to be available in the U.S. yet. But it's a wild idea.
4. Footsteps in the Snow
Virgin snow is a sure sign that no one's home. If you're away after a snowstorm, ask a neighbor's kid to tromp around your yard, creating footprints that will fool a burglar into thinking you're around but just haven't gotten around to shoveling your snow yet.
5. Parked Car
Also, ask a neighbor to occasionally park their car in front of your house, making it look like you're entertaining visitors. And ask them to remove any fliers that may be wedged into your door or mailbox. Burglars sometimes case a home by planting a flier and checking to see if someone retrieves it.
This story was originally published on HouseLogic.
5 Cheap Home Security Tricks to Keep Your House Safe
You can get some insight into the criminal quotient in your neighborhood on several Web sites that turn government data into interactive guides of criminal activity. For home buyers, these sites can be a tempting tool to discern whether a neighborhood is rife with crime, or a great place to raise the kids. But how accurate are the pictures they portray?
One newer site is CriminalSearches.com. Created by the folks behind PeopleFinders.com, the new site crunches monthly government data down to the state and county level, says Bryce Lane, president and chief operating officer of PeopleFinders.com. "What we're really good at is establishing connections across all these different data sets, linking it back to a particular person," Lane said, acknowledging, however, that some data might be missing. The company also doesn't tap into federal crime data.
The Neighborhood Watch feature lets you focus your search by address or ZIP code. You can also search by a person's name or specific home address, and there's a separate search with a detailed map of registered sex offenders. Punch in the details and the site generates a map showing small squares that represent each person who resides -- or previously resided -- in the area and was convicted of a crime at some point. In some cases, the site will turn up people who were arrested, but never convicted. Click on an individual square and you can get the exact address for the person and a description of their violation, among other details.
PropertyShark.com offers a more current snapshot of crime, but in a limited number of cities. In some of the metro areas, such as Los Angeles, the site links to the police department's Web site, where users can generate neighborhood maps overlaid with crime data less than a week old.
Some sites take a wider approach, showing crime trends but not specific locations. PolicyMap.com taps Census data down to the each tract of land. It also works in FBI crime data at a county level. (The site plans to add city-level crime statistics.) Like the other sites, PolicyMap lets you drill down to the neighborhood level surrounding a specific address. The map, uses a color system to show the degree to which a certain crime has occurred in the area. PolicyMap also provides other community characteristics. You can see the percentage of campaign contributions that went to senators Barack Obama or John McCain, as well as the area's ethnic composition, or even the percent of all home loans that were subprime. But some of the data are old. The most recent FBI crime data on the site, for example, is from 2006.
At Bert Sperling's BestPlaces.net, you can compare criminal activity along with other neighborhood data in two different areas. For instance, if you are looking at a retirement community in Phoenix versus Tucson, you can see that Tucson has a slightly lower crime rate.