You may feel some assurance living near neighbors or in a housing development or condominium complex. Your neighbors look out for each other, keeping an eye on one another so you feel “safe.”

But make no mistake- you ultimately are responsible for your own safety.

While we can often depend on each other for help, we still must take our own measures to protect what is important to us – our families and our property. If your association has a security force, remember they should keep an eye out for suspicious activity, but are typically in the role of peacekeepers and rule enforcers, not police officers.

Here are some time-honored tips to reduce the risk of theft and to protect yourself.

When you leave home:

  • Even if you are leaving your house for a short grocery run, always lock exterior doors and windows.
  • Make it difficult to break in by making your home look occupied. Leave on lights and radios.
  • Be sure your garage doors and sheds are locked.
  • Keep your lawn mowers, bicycles, surfboards, and other valuables out of sight so thieves are not tempted to stop at your home.
  • Burglars are familiar with hiding places so don’t leave keys under doormats, in flowerpots, or in mailboxes.
  • Never alert burglars that you aren’t home by leaving notes on your door. “Gone Shopping” left on your door is like leaving an invitation to intruders to steal your things.
  • Mark your valuables with personal identifiers such as an engraved phone number, making it more difficult for burglars to sell your property.
  • Keep a record, including value of items, a description, original value, and serial numbers. Make sure this list is kept in a safe place away from home or in the cloud. Pictures or videos of your valuables may also make it easier for the police to recover and return items to you.
  • Safes are an excellent place to store valuables such as cash, jewelry, or guns. Just make sure it is bolted to the floor or foundation so it can’t be carried off.
  • If you lose your keys or they are stolen, change your locks to prevent a break-in, and immediately alert the association.
  • Always change the locks and/or security codes when you move into a new home.
  • Louvered windows are intended for ventilation, not security. The most common way burglars make entry into homes in Hawaii is the removal of louvers. Purchase locking clips to prevent removal and increase security.
  • There is a plethora of burglar alarm systems, from do-it-yourself to companies that monitor your home — consider installing a system for added security (but check with your association first for any guidelines or restrictions).
  • If pets are allowed by your association, dogs are good deterrents. Most intruders will avoid a house with a dog.
  • Be a good neighbor. If you notice anything suspicious in your neighborhood, call 911 immediately. Take the lead on forming a Neighborhood Watch program to reduce the risk of home intrusions and other crimes.

So, you have taken the best steps to safeguard your home when you are not there, what can you do to protect yourself when you are at home? Implement these tips to ensure your safety.

When you are home:

  • Never open the door to strangers, repair people you didn’t call, or delivery people, even if they say it’s an emergency. Don’t allow them into your home, rather, make the call to police for them.
  • Ask for a company ID. If you are suspicious, call the company or the police to verify their identity.
  • Never give financial or personal information over the phone.
  • Report nuisance callers to the police.
  • When possible, direct deposit any checks that would otherwise come by mail.
  • When being dropped off at home, have the driver watch until you are inside.
  • If you are working outside, lock your doors so burglars won’t distract you while their partner enters your home (but don’t lock yourself out!).
  • If a door is open that you had locked, do not enter – the burglar may still be inside.
  • Use your cell phone or your neighbor’s phone to call police.
  • Write down the license plate numbers of any suspicious vehicles.
  • Never attempt to apprehend someone who has broken into your home or your neighbor’s home. The same holds true for property staff and security personnel. Call the police with a description of the suspect and the direction that they were last seen.

More tips for associations

  • Eliminate cover for burglars by keeping the shrubbery around home entrances and windows to a minimum.
  • Motion-sensitive lights near doors and dark areas around your property will shed light should intruders visit. However, proceed with caution. Properties don’t want to create a nuisance by shining a light in a window. Also there are environmental factors in lighting up the night, like protecting shorebirds.
  • Security cameras may seem like a good idea, but there may be restrictions, both through the association and external regulation, to protect an individual’s privacy. See our article on the topic here.

Taking these steps may not prevent a burglar from doing a crime, but it will make you less of a target.