EDITOR’S NOTE: This column was written by Caroline Davis, a public relations and marketing staff member with Atlanta Lockmasters. A graduate of the University of South Carolina, Ms. Davis describes herself as a lover of all things social and digital. While the information targets homeowners, landscape contractors may want to share these ideas with residential clients.
Experiencing a home invasion can leave homeowners feeling violated, vulnerable and afraid. According to the FBI’s preliminary crime report, property crime was down 4.2 percent overall in 2015. While this decrease is definitely good news, homeowners should still take precautions each year to reduce the risk of residential burglary.
Installing home security systems and using deadbolts are obvious first steps, but utilizing the landscape of your property to intimidate and ward off intruders is a step toward prevention.
Stick with basic design concepts
Following basic landscaping design concepts can really come in handy when thwarting unwanted guests. If you follow common practices, the best views out of your house will not be blocked in the first place.
This will allow good visibility for neighbors, who can be on the lookout when you’re not around. Also remember to leave ample space between the roof of your house and treetops, as burglars can use trees to climb up to your second story.
Clean-cut design concepts, as opposed to messy, jungle-like landscaping, will give your house a more secure, polished look. Try to limit access to your property by creating a border around your lawn with trees, bushes or a tall fence. Your house is more exposed if it’s accessible from all sides.
Minimize popular hiding places
Home & Garden’s “Anatomy of a Burglary” reports 23 percent of burglars use first-floor windows to gain entry compared with the 2 percent that use second-floor windows.
Popular hiding places include overgrown shrubs, bushes and trees that are near windows and doors. It’s important to minimize these places by trimming branches and limbs that could hide someone from plain sight.
Keep sheds and garages locked and secure at all times, as these are popular hiding places as well.
Install first line of defense
While alarm systems provide great overall security, there are other ways you can prevent burglars from even getting close to your home. For example, consider planting rose bushes or other thorny variations underneath your windows.
HGTV recommends homeowners consider planting rose bushes in a raised bed in order to avoid power and cable lines buried along the foundation of the house. Warmer climate plants, such as citrus, also provide a great first line of defense.
Edges of leaves that are spiny like the Oregon grape holly can also help to protect windows and entryways. Using gravel instead of mulch is a great idea so intruders cannot silently walk near your house.
There are innumerable plants that can provide good protection for your home while complementing the design of your yard. It just takes a little research.
Use lighting to your advantage
Anatomy of a Burglary reports burglars usually search for homes that appear to be unoccupied. With the help of unique lighting, you can make your home look occupied even when you are away.
Consider installing several motion-sensitive exterior lights around your property that will stop burglars right in their tracks.
Angie’s List recommends installing solar pathway lights around the property to help maintain the occupied feel.
Also, up-lighting against your house and down-lighting in your trees helps to illuminate the entire lawn, forcing burglars to think twice before getting too close.
If you’re going to be out of town for a while, consider setting up a timer for a few indoor as well as outdoor lights so your home will look occupied at night.
Keep the landscape maintained
Landscaping can be used to your advantage in persuading intruders to skip your house, but only if you keep up with it.
If you don’t have the time, hire a landscaping company to help. Angie’s List explains that uncut grass, overgrown shrubbery, dead plants and the like can signal to intruders that the house is rarely occupied.
Especially if you travel a lot, make sure to hire someone to keep the yard maintained. Also, remember to halt mail service and newspaper delivery or ask the neighbors to keep up with it. A pile of newspapers on your front lawn is a signal that the homeowners are out of town. In order for landscaping to provide effective security, maintenance should be year-round.
Homeowners should follow these simple steps to help Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED). This home security checklist provided by the National Crime Prevention Council is a great starting place. Residential burglaries are the most common, so make sure to evaluate and customize the landscape of your home to protect you and your family.