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Protect Your Home From Thieves

Before you and your family leave home for vacation, make sure that you take some simple steps to protect your home and belongings while you're away.

According to the Burglary Prevention Council, this is the time of year when most residential areas see an increase in burglaries.

Candice DeLong, a former FBI agent and author of the book, "Special Agent" visited The Early Show to offer the following tips.

Tip 1: Make your home look like someone is there.

Alternate the times that automatic lights are turned on and off. Have a neighbor periodically park in your driveway to make it look like you're not there. Don't have a car parked in the same spot all of the time.

"Nobody's car is in their driveway 24 hours, 7 days a week, and no one turns their lights on and off at the same time every day," DeLong said. "Try to think like a thief. If you are one, the last thing you want to do is to run into someone. You are looking for empty driveways, drawn curtains and lights coming on and off at the same time every day. You're also looking for empty lawns, with no children's toys, and grass that is too long."

She said that thieves who are looking for prospective houses to rob will case them by driving by several times to confirm that no one's at home. "If your house looks the same way every time they go by to check it out, they are going to hit it," said DeLong.

Tip 2: Make it very difficult to get in.

"Obviously, if your house is targeted you want to make it impossible to get in," said DeLong. "They know that garage doors and back doors are vulnerable. Back doors give them privacy and they don't usually have a good deadbolt on them. If you have a double cylinder deadbolt, that means it takes a key to get in from each side of the lock. This means you are locking yourself in at night and you need to have that key nearby if there is a fire. But, you don't want it so close that someone can easily get it. A lot of people leave it in the cylinder, which they shouldn't do."

It's important to have good locks on windows, too. Using a latch on a double-hung window is not enough.

"People don't realize that double-hung windows have a latch, not a lock," DeLong said. "If someone has a glass cutter, they can cut the glass and reach in to turn the latch. You want something that prevents that window from opening more than four inches. You can buy something from a hardware store or get a big nail and hammer it into the upper window sash. If someone tries to raise it, it won't go up anymore than four inches."

DeLong said that you don't have to buy an expensive lock. Anyone can afford a hammer and nails.

DeLong said it is not good to have the window to be opened more than four inches. Some burglars have even been known to bring their children to squeeze through a window and open the door. She said if you want air circulation, open the window no more than four inches.

Tip 3: Use an alarm and motion-sensing lighting.

"Home alarm systems are no longer a luxury for the wealthy," DeLong said.

"You can have one put in for $100 and then have a monthly fee of $20. No burglar wants detection," DeLong said, noting you don't want a silent alarm system that alerts the police, but won't wake you up or alert neighbors if someone is breaking in.

"The average burglar isn't that smart," she said. "Find a trusted neighbor. You cover them on your vacation and they can cover you.

"Another thing I am big on is lighting," said DeLong. "You can have motion-sensitive lighting over your back door and position it in whatever direction you want. If something goes by, including a cat, the light goes off. Burglars don't like lighting."

Tip 4: Don't let mail and newspapers pile up.

"If you forgot to stop having your newspapers delivered and remember when you are on the plane, call," she said. "Don't think it's not a big deal. It is."

You can ask a neighbor to pick up your mail or go to the post office before you go away and ask that your mail delivery to be suspended.

Tip 5: Trim trees and shrubs covering windows.

You don't want a burglar to use them as a hiding place to get into the house. Also, cut tree limbs that can help thieves climb into a second-story window.

Tip 6: Leave the car keys with a trusted neighbor.

You can leave your car in a locked garage, but DeLong prefers that you leave it with a neighbor or have them periodically relocate your car and turn it around. Cars parked outside of a house should be moved regularly in order for it to appear that someone is using it.