Don’t forget to leave the porch lights on for them, front and back.
For the burglars, that is. They prefer to work in the dark.
You can also do quite a few other things to increase your home’s security — outside and inside — said John Bowman, a volunteer for the Shawnee Police Department who started conducting free security surveys in early June for Shawnee residents on the department’s behalf.
The department had offered the free surveys since at least the 1980s, but discontinued them in 2009 because of a budget crunch and the need to move officers to road patrol, said Greg Collins, the department’s research and analysis manager.
Bowman worked for more than 40 years in security and intelligence, including 20 years as an intelligence specialist for the U.S. Navy, 16 years as a supervisory security specialist for the U.S. Department of Defense and seven years as physical security manager for Sprint Corp. He’s certified as a protection professional by the American Society of Industrial Security.
He retired earlier this year and approached the Shawnee Police Department to ask if he could help as a volunteer. Now he uses his experience to help Shawnee residents protect their homes.
“There are very complex and expensive and very simple and inexpensive ways to protect your property,” Bowman said. “It’s always best to start with the simple and inexpensive. We can help guide you through a whole range of those simple and inexpensive things you can do.”
Several other Johnson County police departments also offer security surveys, including Prairie Village, Lenexa and Leawood.
The Leawood Police Department also posts its survey checklist on its website for residents who want to do their own surveys, said Randy Wiler, the department’s crime prevention officer. The website includes an instructional video on conducting the survey.
Wiler and Bowman both will conduct the surveys for apartment dwellers, but they emphasized that renters should show the results to the properties’ owners or managers, who have the authority to make changes.
The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office will send officers when requested to talk with residents and business owners about ways to improve security, but the department has no formal program for the service, said Master Deputy Jill Koch, the agency’s spokeswoman.
Bowman offers several simple ways to keep your home safer: Keep your garage door closed. Keep your car locked even if it’s in the driveway or garage. Don’t leave your keys in your car when it’s in the garage.
Buy timers (about $25) that turn your front and back porch lights on and off automatically. Trim bushes “way back” around your windows.
“If you want to put something in front of your windows, put rose bushes in,” Bowman said. “It’s an example of crime prevention through environmental design.”
Alarm systems “are nice to have” but not necessary to improve your home’s security, he said. And don’t let living in a low-crime area lull you into complacency about your home’s security.
As well as security from the outside to the inside, Bowman looks at things you can do inside your home to lessen the chance that potential problems will occur — life safety issues, he called them.
“Have a fire extinguisher, and not necessarily in the kitchen,” he said. “Put it elsewhere, in case of a kitchen fire,” because a fire there could make it impossible to reach.
“Keep one in the basement,” he said. “You have a gas furnace in basement? Have one for the garage, too.”
Other life safety recommendations from Bowman:
Charge your cellphone on a bedside table so it’s within each reach during the night.
Use a shredder for all documents with personal information on them.
Don’t announce on social media that you’re going on vacation. “Are you posting pictures of yourself from Cozumel?”
If you keep guns in your home, put locks on them and store them in a lockbox and bolt it to the floor.
The bottom line with home security, Bowman said, is that “if somebody really wants to get in, they’re gonna get in.”
But taking measures like these, he said, can greatly reduce the chance that a burglar will choose to target your home and that inside problems will become serious.