The holiday season is a time to celebrate and that often means traveling. While you're off visiting grandma's house or a ski chalet in Aspen, the very fact that you're away, if even for a few days, gives you a heightened sense of vulnerability-break-ins and robberies have increased especially in urban and suburban areas. Being away also probably means your trusted guardian, the family dog, is being kept by a friend or relative.

Many families who live on larger lots, with shrubs and vegetation shielding the property from prying eyes are particularly vulnerable. There are weak entry points that are often targeted by roving thieves. Windows and patio doors are often left unsecured. The list goes on; however, there are a number of home security measures that you can take to keep your home safe. Moreover, you don't have to install an expensive home alarm system either.

The best way to combat home invasion is prevention not paranoia. You need to be more cautious and conscious about your home and your valuables. Don't flash your goods around and observe these simple, low-cost security measures.

o This one is obvious, but too often forgotten or ignored: always check and lock your doors-all of them.

o Have neighbors or friends keep an eye on your house. Inform local police as well and provide emergency contact information.

o A neighborhood crime watch is an excellent way to ward off crime. It's a benefit for the entire community. You can ask your local police to help you set one up.

o Suspend newspaper and mail delivery or have someone pick it up for you on a regular basis.

o Have your driveway plowed during the wintertime (and lawn mowed in the summer). Also, leave a car in the garage or driveway.

o Hook up your lights and radio or TV to a timer to switch on and off regularly.

o Turn down your telephone ringer so it can't be heard from outside.

o Install locks or screws on sliding glass doors to prevent them from being lifted.

o Secure other doors with a dead-bolt lock

o Consider installing window locks; make sure windows have double latch protection.

o Keep shrubs and trees trimmed, so that thieves don't have a place to hide.

o Don't keep valuables in the master bedroom. Catalog all valuables and engrave them with an identifying label.

o Don't hide spare keys in obvious spots, such as under the doormat or in the mailbox. Instead, give your neighbor a key.

o Many local police will come over to a house and explain what the weak security points are for free. Take advantage of this service.

o Consider a house-sitter.

If you do opt for added security measures-installing a home security alarm is a good choice. Home security systems range from simple, barebones affairs to more complicated structures with infrared and thermal detectors, for instance. Many home alarm systems can be installed by the homeowners themselves. Cameras may be set up and monitored via any internet web browser. A wireless perimeter alarm is relatively inexpensive and will detect any intrusions on your property. Don't feel rushed or pressured by home security companies. Shop around and ask questions.

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