Are You and Your Neighbors Ready for a Neighborhood Watch Program?

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A lot of us pay a little extra attention to the house next door or across the street when our neighbors are gone, but taking it a step further and creating a neighborhood watch program may be the ticket to an even more crime-free home base.

Launched in 1972, the official Neighborhood Watch program was designed to count on citizens to organize themselves and work with law enforcement to keep a trained eye and ear on their communities, while demonstrating their presence at all times of day and night. According to the National Sheriff’s Association, Neighborhood Watch works because it reduces opportunities for crime to occur; it doesn’t rely on altering or changing the criminal’s behavior or motivation.

Over time the program has found its way into neighborhoods all over America, borrowing from the principles of the original program to create groups, often called citizen alert, community watch, block watch, or another variation.

Why start a neighborhood watch group?

  • The most obvious reason to organize a neighborhood watch program is to prevent crime. Groups that meet regularly and communicate efficiently are the most effective at reducing incidents.
  • Another reason to form a group is to create awareness and camaraderie. Alert neighbors can stop crime and keep residents, safe while making the neighborhood a more welcoming environment.
  • In addition, neighborhood watch groups can alert you to other issues, such as cars speeding through neighborhoods, challenges with children, and animal control issues. Together, you can solve more challenges that arise, while building friendships!

How do you get started forming a neighborhood watch group?

  • Recruit your neighbors to participate.
  • Contact law enforcement to receive the training and information you need.
  • Discuss concerns and create a plan – what is most important to you and your neighbors?
  • Establish your neighborhood’s method of communication.
  • Hold regular meetings and training exercises to keep engaged.
  • Don’t be a vigilante! Report suspicious activity to police immediately.

Even with all of today’s surveillance technology, you can’t beat people watching out for people. Check out Neighborhood Watch if you are ready to get started watching out for your neighbors.

Holiday Home Safety Tips – Part II

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With so many things to do before you leave home during the holidays – whether you’ll be gone for a few hours, a whole day or a whole week – it’s easy to forget something. Here are some simple tips for staying safe in your home and while you are away this holiday season.

Watch your plugs when you decorate. Don’t plug too many things in a single outlet and never connect multiple extension cords. Use power strips where you need them and longer extension cords to reach long distances.

Watch those candles and fireplaces. Lit candles look lovely, but make sure you keep them far away from curtains and drapes and other things that can easily catch on fire. If you have kids or pets playing around the candles, be extra careful and use the flameless kinds. If you are burning wood in the fireplace, make sure the fire is out after each use. And now may be a good time to have someone come out and clean your chimney and make sure it’s in working order.

Keep your thermostat turned on and maybe even up a little higher when it’s cold outside, especially at night or if you go out of town. A little extra warmth will prevent your pipes from freezing. Some people even keep their faucets dripping just a little in the winter when they travel.

Keep dry plants, real trees and other plant décor wet. Wreaths made of dry plants may look lovely but they present unexpected fire hazards. Keep your tree well watered and your wreaths and dry plants moist with a little mist for an extra safety step.

And speaking of tree, put breakable ornaments out of reach of small children and pets. Bells, lights and other twinkling ornaments easily attract attention of kids. Keep them safe by keeping your breakables out of reach.

Welcome your guests – whether they are expected or unexpected – with a shoveled walk way and a little salt. You may see more foot traffic at your house during the holidays. A shoveled walk with a little salt sprinkled on it, keeps friends, neighbors, family and delivery people safe from slipping.

Use your ladder. Do you have to fix a burned out bulb or jiggle a jangle to make it work right? Use a ladder. Now is not the time to stand on a chair or a crate because it’s easier. Stay safe with a sturdy ladder.

Before you leave home, clean out all the stinky spots — the garbage disposal, dishwasher, refrigerator and coffee pot can all welcome you home with unpleasant surprises if you don’t empty them and wipe them out before you leave.

Set timers on your lights to give the appearance of being home, even when you’re not. You can set timers to turn lights on when it starts to get dark and go off either at bedtime or in the morning. Always leave a couple of lights on when you’re gone to make it look like your home and to keep burglars away. It’s easier to rob a home that is dark than one that is well lit.

Do one final walk around to make sure all the windows and doors are locked and your blinds are curtains are closed.

Always let your neighbors know you’re going to be gone so they can watch your house for strange activity and pick up newspapers and mail.

Protect your pets, too. Click here for pet safety tips for the holidays.

Click here to read more holiday home safety tips from Universal Lending.

Holiday Home Safety Tips – Part I

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Now is not the time to take a holiday from home safety, but a lot of us do when we light our trees and put spotlights on our homes. Here are some simple tips for keeping your home and yourself safe from burglars and others who want to take the ho ho ho out of your holidays. 

Make smart choices when you decorate. Don’t put expensive gifts in front of windows or doors where they can be seen from people outside. Gifts under a tree are begging for burglars to come on in and open the packages. Keep them hidden.

Don’t take shortcuts on locking up. ‘Tis the season to set the home alarm. Of course you want to be smart about locking doors and windows all year long, but don’t forget to this step when the holidays are in full swing.

Be anti-social on social media if you’re heading out of town. Don’t let would-be burglars know you’re going to be in Michigan for Christmas. Let them think you’re going to be at home. It’s never a good idea to post travel plans on Facebook.

Did you treat yourself to a new 70-inch, state-of-the-art television for Christmas? Take a little extra time when disposing of the boxes and packaging. Break up the box and bring pieces of it to the trash over time. If you toss a box to the curb, you are letting would-be burglars that you have a new toy that they might like.

Light up the outside and the inside of your home. Make it difficult for burglars to sneak around your windows and doors by shining a light on the outside and on the inside. A spotlight or motion sensor may be a smart investment.

Always let your neighbors know you’re going to be gone so they can watch your house for strange activity and pick up newspapers and mail.

If you live in a place where snow is common, make sure you have someone on standby to shovel your driveway and walkway. A driveway with no tire tracks in it a day or two after it snows tells burglars that no one is home there.

Be smart and stay safe this holiday season and year ’round. Click here for more holiday home safety tips.  

Halloween Safety Tips for Homeowners

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You’ll definitely say “boo” if you are faced with a claim to your homeowners insurance because of a Halloween accident on your property. Fortunately, there are some really easy things you can do ahead of time to make sure Halloween is a safe and fun day.

Keep your lights on. You want your visitors, including trick-or-treaters, to see clearly when they enter your property after dark to avoid injuries caused by falling. And, keeping some lights on can stop burglars, so you’ll want to do this regularly, not just on Halloween.

Create a clear path. Make sure there is nothing in the driveway or other walkways that someone may trip on. Remove lawn art and gardening equipment, and make sure all toys, flower pots/planters, etc. are put away. Little kids like to scamper. They aren’t looking for these hazards. If you have any loose steps or stones, make sure to repair those, too.

Use flameless candles. Do you like the way the dark looks with a flickering flame? Use flameless candles or battery powered lanterns. If you do use regular candles, watch them closely and keep them away from curtains that may blow into the flame. Use flameless candles in your jack-o-lanterns, too.

Put your pets in another room. Keep dogs and cats away from trick-or-treaters. They may be spooked by the extra activity, loud noises and costumes.

Set your alarm system before you leave. Halloween brings out the most mischievous so protect your home with your home alarm system. And why not use Halloween as one of the days you always check your smoke alarms, too!

Halloween’s a lot of fun, but it’s also a day that sees a lot of injuries. Don’t be caught off guard.

Protect Your Family, Yourself and Your Home from Would-Be Burglars

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Do the commercials on TV keep you up at night because you know you can’t always be at your phone and ready to tell them to get off your porch? You can’t be at your computer or on your phone all day every day telling burglars to go away. You can take some steps to make your home less inviting for a would-be burglar. Check out some home safety tips! 

Pretend you are a burglar. Case your own home. Walk around and look at your home like a burglar would. Are windows frequently left open and on the ground level? Is there a sliding glass door that could stand a little extra protection? Are expensive items easy to see from the outside? A few simple adjustments like moving a computer and closing windows may make your house less tempting.

Lock your doors. Although we know we need to lock our doors when we go out, a lot of times we simply don’t. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that 40 percent of burglaries don’t include forced entry. Thieves literally are just walking in and taking what they want. A locked door is a deterrent.

Don’t label your keys or mailbox. If your key chain has your name on it and you lose your keys, it won’t take long for a thief to get your address and walk in. In addition, putting your name on your mailbox helps a thief find out information about you and track your moves. He’ll know when you’re not home.

And don’t hide a key. A thief knows where to look for hidden keys. Leave a key with a neighbor, but don’t leave one under a mat, in a light fixture or in a flower pot.

Create the illusion of being home. Leave on lights, the radio or television. If you are going on vacation, use light timers and have someone pick up your mail, newspapers, flyers and packages. Have someone mow your lawn in the summer and shovel your walkways and driveway in the winter. An un-shoveled driveway with no tire tracks is an obvious sign that no one is home.

Get to know your neighbors. It’s nice if someone nearby notices if something unusual is happening. You can also tell your neighbors when you’re going to be gone so they can watch for unusual activity. And studies show that neighborhood crime watches do deter against criminal activity. If there’s not one in your neighborhood, start one.

Don’t be a target for a home invasion. Taking steps to protect yourself and even your neighbors is easy. Better safe than sorry. Get more tips here