With the cost of a new home in Chattanooga averaging $166,480 in December 2012, according to the Greater Chattanooga Association of Realtors, it's most likely the single biggest investment you'll make in your lifetime.
So why not protect it as best you can?
The average property loss in a home burglary is $1,991 according to the Annual Uniform Crime Report from the FBI. Property loss due to burglary totaled several billion dollars a year, according to the report, so it's no wonder the home security industry is approaching $60 billion a year in sales.
If you've considered beefing up your security but don't have it in the budget to wire in a full-house alarm system or you're opposed to keeping a gun in the house, there are precautions a home handyman can undertake for under $30 each.
Harold Stockburger, manager of Ace Hardware on East Brainerd Road, says often it takes a burglary hitting close to home before homeowners will assess their own security.
"From time to time, there will be a break-in a neighborhood that will make people a little more aware of things," he says. "That makes them come in and buy new locks or a door bar," he says.
Stockburger and Derrick Myers of The Home Depot on Gunbarrel Road have some suggestions to help homeowners sleep a little easier at night.
• Master Lock Dual Function Door Security Bar. $19.67 to $22.99. This adjustable metal bar is the first choice of both men. Its forked end fits beneath a doorknob and the pivoting ball joint on the other end allows it to sit flat and firmly on the floor.
When wedged beneath the door handle, the tension provides a stability that makes it hard for a thief to kick in the door. When the forked end is removed, the bar may be laid flat in a sliding door's track.
• Lock replacement or reinforcement. $5 to $25. "Locks always need to be looked at because sometimes they aren't in the best shape or don't have dead bolts," says Stockburger.
• Wireless alarms. $8.99 per window, $20.99 per door.
"Inexpensive alarms that go on the door and go off if the door opens, are battery operated and don't require wiring," says Stockburger. "They can be programmed to sound an alarm, but some folks use them as an entry chime. For example, if you've got a basement door and you want to know whenever somebody goes in or out. I've had folks buy them who care for elderly parents with Alzheimer's and they put them on their doors for that reason."
• Mace. $13.99 to $15.99. Stockburger says he saw a definite growth in sales of mace for use by females over the holidays.
"We've got some (containers) that look like a lipstick case for women to carry in their purse," he says. "There is also a pink, finger-grip, flip-top style. We sold quite a few of them around Christmas. I think they were used a lot as stocking stuffers."
• Defender Security Lock and Door Reinforcer. $21.97 small, $27.47 large.
"It's a metal plate that actually goes around the door where the knob or dead bolt is located," says Myers. "It's decorative, but reinforces the door where the door lock is," which is the most vulnerable point of the door in a kick-in.
• Defender Latch Shield. $9.32. Myers said this decorative brass-plated shield covers the gap between door and frame. It prevents thieves from sliding a credit card or other foreign object into the space in order to jimmy a door latch.
• Ball guard. $5.98 and up. A popular security measure in hotels, this door guard flips over a stationary metal ball. Myers says they are sold in solid brass or multiple colors and in a range of sizes.
• Digital light timer. $15.95 and up. Make it look like you're home when you're not. Program the timer to automatically turn on lights at specific times, plug it in the light socket and you won't have to walk into a dark house when you arrive home from work.
Chattanooga Police Department spokesman Officer Nathan Hartwig also advises homeowners to remember some basic rules as well: Keep doors locked, keep lights on, cut shrubs back from windows and doors to decrease places that can conceal a burglar and have a good deadbolt on all exterior doors.
But there is one deterrent he says to avoid.
"We never recommend iron bars over doors and windows," Hartwig says. "They are a huge fire hazard because they can trap someone inside, prevent their escape from a fire."
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