Skip Navigation

Hardening Your Home

Skip Side Navigation


Crime Prevention is defined is the anticipation, recognition, and appraisal of a crime risk, and the initiation of some action to remove or reduce it.

You can have a significant effect upon the security of your residence by taking a few moments to assess its weaknesses and a few more moments to take simple actions (many of which cost nothing but your time or a bit of physical exertion) to eliminate or strengthen those weaknesses.

Whether you own your residence or are a tenant (either in the traditional sense or as a student residing in University residence hall or apartment housing) does not materially affect your ability to take action to prevent crime; if you rent, however, you must seek permission from the owner or agent for the property where you reside to make any permanent changes to those premises.

Experience has demonstrated three basic concepts repeatedly:

  1. The appearance that an occupant is present and is attentive to the condition of the property is, in itself, a potent deterrent to would-be criminals, and
  2. Physical security equipment is absolutely worthless unless used, and
  3. The component in any security system most likely to fail is the human one.

Keeping your residence neat and clean, in good repair, and giving the appearance of being home (i.e. being in and out and active inside) is the first fundamental step toward preventing crime there.

The second fundamental step toward home crime prevention is to be a good neighbor. Get to know your neighbors and their habits to the extent that you can recognize deviations from normal behavior (and they can do the same for you).

Call the police when you observe a stranger behaving in a suspicious manner (loitering and observing, approaching multiple residences without apparent business, or removing property from a neighbor's residence). A cooperative neighborhood can increase everyone's collective home security with very little individual effort or time.

A third fundamental step is to take prompt action to address maintenance problems affecting your security; report burnt-out lights, uncollected trash, graffiti, broken windows, defective security systems and other conditions which detract from the secure appearance of your residence promptly to the appropriate authorities for correction.

Finally, make an effort to cooperate with and support your law enforcement provider. Introduce yourself to the officers who patrol your neighborhood; participate in organized security meetings and programs such as Neighborhood Watch, National Night Out, or Neighborhoods Say Thanks; and ensure that your address is prominently marked on your curb, home, apartment, or room.

Security and convenience are mutually exclusive; you can't change one without affecting the other. Security is never convenient, and convenience usually degrades security. Only you can decide what is the appropriate mix of security and convenience for you.

Some of these decisions are "no-brainers"; whether to have a lock on your entrance door, for instance. Others are less obvious, and many are counter-intuitive.

You have to THINK about security, and security needs to be one of your personal priorities. In University Housing and some rental properties, at least some of these choices have been made for you, and there are consequences should you avoid or defeat the security procedures and devices which have been installed for your and other occupants' protection.

In a private residence, you and your family can choose to have as much or as little security as you are comfortable with. In any setting, choosing inappropriately can be very costly in terms not only of assets, but in personal injury. We urge you to give security careful consideration and ensure you make an informed decision.

In order to "harden your home", you have to learn to "think like a thief". Consider how a criminal might attach you, your home, or your belongings, and eliminate as many of the opportunities or vulnerable points as you can.

When you've done your best, ask a trusted friend to try the same thing. When you've addressed any new deficiencies your friend points out, then consider asking your local law enforcement provider whether they conduct home security surveys; if they do, schedule one.

Your efforts to harden your home should actually start with consideration of how your home is identified. If you reside in University Housing or a rental property, is the street address prominently posted? If the rooms or apartments are individually numbered or lettered, is that designation also prominently displayed on or adjacent to your door? You want to ensure that emergency service providers can find you if necessary!

Consider how your name appears on public listings like mailboxes and telephone directories; it is generally considered prudent for females not to list their first name, but instead to list a first initial and last name.

In the University setting, check to make sure your personal information isn't disseminated inappropriately - instructors should not list your social security number with your name, for instance, and your RA (Resident Advisor) shouldn't post your name, room and phone number together in any location accessible to casual visitors or passers-by.

While unlisting your telephone number costs extra with some providers, the privacy may be worth the cost. Bear in mind, however, that unlisting your number will not prevent random malicious calls or telephone solicitation. Don't forget about Internet address-books if you want your information unlisted.

The single best protection against theft loss is to mark every piece of property you own as yours. Deterrent value is inherent in marking, and can be increased by posting warnings that property on your premises is marked. Recording the serial numbers and other identifiers during the marking process helps ensure that you can positively identify your property if it is taken and subsequently recovered, or that you can prove ownership if there is some question.

Almost any article can be marked in some manner. While engraving is best and the most common means of marking personal property, scratching with a diamond stylus, marking with indelible pen, etching with a chemical solution, and painting on ownership marks are also frequently-used methods. Your ability to mark is limited only by your imagination. Many police departments have electric engravers they will loan, but these tools cost less than $10 at many hardware vendors; having one on hand ensures you can mark new property as it is acquired.

You should keep an inventory of your personal property in a safe place (definitely not in or with the property) so that in the event of theft or other loss, you have the information need to make a police report and/or an insurance claim.

Since opportunities for crime prevention action are markedly different depending upon the characteristics of the premises, these tips are divided into advice for students residing in University housing, occupants of rental properties (houses and apartments), and home owners.