Residential break-ins and burglaries spike over the summer months. Because as the temperature rises and the weather improves, we tend to do things that make ourselves more vulnerable to theft, like:

  • Opening and forgetting to close and lock our windows, sheds and garages.
  • Leaving our sunroofs open, windows down or convertible tops removed while we’re away from our vehicles.
  • And going on summer vacations with our kids, making our homes a hotter target for burglars.

But, with a couple of preventative measures, you can help deter would-be thieves and keep your property safe.

Lock it up.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), about 35% of household burglaries in the U.S. were “unlawful (no-force) entries,” which means that the burglars were able to easily access the stolen items, such as through an unlocked door or window. And in 2015, the average dollar loss per burglary was $2,316!

So, rule No. 1 when you’re trying to prevent a break-in is to make sure your home and car are properly locked up. Here’s a checklist to help you get started:

  • Close and lock outside doors and windows before leaving your home or going to bed.
  • Have deadbolt locks installed on all outside doors and check that your outside doors’ hinges are on the inside of your home.
  • If your outside door has glass panes or there is a window within 40 inches of the door’s lock, you can install a double cylinder deadlock which must be unlocked from both the inside and the outside.
  • Install special locks on sliding glass doors or place a strong dowel, a steel bar or two-by-four, in the bottom track to prevent the door from sliding back and opening.
  • Change your locks immediately if your keys are ever lost or stolen.
  • Never put personal identifiable information on your house keys, such as your full name, address or phone number.
  • When you’re moving into a new home, have all the locks changed.
  • Instead of hiding a spare key outside your home, give it to a trusted neighbor that you know well or a friend who lives nearby for safekeeping.
  • Keep your garage door closed and locked. And lock the door leading from the garage inside your home.
  • If you own a shed, always lock it up.
  • Stop your windows from opening more than a few inches by inserting a pin or nail into the window frame. This provides extra protection in case you leave the window unlocked.
  • Before you walk away from your vehicle, put your windows up, close the sunroof or convertible top, lock the doors and never leave your keys inside the vehicle—even for a short period of time.

Don’t be a showboat.
Take steps to avoid advertising to burglars. Don’t allow them to see all the nice things you have that might be worthwhile to steal.

Try this out: open your curtains and blinds at your home so that you can see outside, then walk around your home to see what’s visible when you look inside the windows from outside. Take steps to move valuable items away from plain view or make a note to keep those shades drawn.

This also means that if you just bought the latest cutting-edge electronic gadget, you should make sure the box it came in isn’t visible on the curb with your trash and recycling.

Here are a few more tips:

  • Keep your lawn mowers and bicycles stored out of sight and locked up.
  • Use curtains on garage and basement windows to hide what’s inside.
  • In your car, don’t leave valuables out, such as smart phones, tablets, laptops, wallets, purses, shopping bags and other valuables.
  • Don’t leave your garage door opener in view inside your car.
  • If at all possible, don’t move items to the trunk of your vehicle when you’re in a public place. But in a pinch, it’s best to store them in the trunk than in a front or back seat.

Confuse and deter crooks.
Burglars want an easy target, where they can get in and get out unseen. They tend to make their move when people are away from their homes or vehicles and other people aren’t around to see them.

Consider taking these steps to make your home and car less desirable and more difficult to break into:

  • Keep trees or shrubs that are near your home trimmed so they can’t be used as a hiding place.
  • Add exterior lighting or use motion-sensitive lights in your backyard.
  • Think about installing an alarm system in your home or vehicle and make sure you use it.
  • Consider installing security cameras at your home to deter thieves.
  • For especially vulnerable windows, a heavy-gauge metal ornamental grille can be used. It should be attached with non-removeable screws or fastened from inside your home.

And if you’re planning to be away from home for a while, do your best to make it look like you’re still there.

  • Connect some lamps to automatic timers to turn them on and off during the day and evening.
  • Leave a television or radio on to make it seem like someone is home.
  • Arrange for the post office to hold your mail and ask a friend or neighbor to pick up and keep newspapers or deliveries until you return.
  • Have someone mow your lawn or shovel snow off your driveway and sidewalk if you’re going to be gone for a long time.
  • If you have a home phone, don’t change your voicemail message and tell callers that you’re out of town. Keep your travel plans private.
  • If you park your car outside, ask a friend to move it periodically to make it look like you’re still at home.
  • Let the police know that you’ll be away from home for an extended time and request that they drive by your property to check on things periodically.

Talk to the experts.
Your local police department knows the ins and outs of burglaries and crime in your area. If you want additional advice on how to best secure your home, car or business, you can ask for a police officer to conduct an inspection and give you advice on how to improve your security. Many police stations offer this service for free.

Another smart thing to do is to educate yourself on what crimes are common in your area. Some cities have an online crime map that shows exactly where reported incidents have occurred.

And finally, get to know your neighbors. If you and your neighbors know each other, then strangers will stand out. Community Watch Programs, which began in the 1960s, have been proven effective in lowering and preventing crime. So, watch out for suspicious activity in your neighborhood to help both you and your neighbors prevent break-ins.