According to our metro police department, they are experiencing a spike in copper theft and vandalism in vacant properties. I’m sure this is also happening in other areas around the country. To help real estate investors prevent these acts of theft and vandalism, they have provided our local REIA group with an extensive list of things you can do to keep your property safe.


Exterior Tips:

  • Shrubbery should never block the view of your doors or windows. An intruder may hide behind the shrubbery while trying to gain entrance to your home.
  • Nameplates on doors or mailboxes should have the last name only. Do not indicate your gender or marital status.
  • House numbers should be clearly visible from the street. This will help the police find your house quickly in case of an emergency.
  • A wide-angle viewer in the door lets you see your visitor before opening the door.



Always keep garage doors closed and locked. Intruders may seek entrance through the garage, burglarize the garage or even use tools stored in your garage to break into your home. Keep tools in a locked location. The single lock on the garage door is not enough to keep intruders from prying up the opposite side and crawling in.

Secure your garage door by:

  • Adding another bolt and padlock to the opposite side.
  • Installing a pair of cane bolts to the inside (these operate from the inside only).
  • Add a top center hasp. Any person of average height can operate this device.
  • Cover garage windows so burglars cannot see whether or not the garage is empty.
  • Display your house number on your garage door or backyard fence. This will help police locate your house quickly when responding to a call.
  • Secure attic openings in attached carports or garages by installing a case-hardened hasp and padlock.



Windows naturally impose a great security problem. One way to protect windows is by using unbreakable, transparent polycarbonate materials which look like glass, but are very difficult to break. The material is very expensive however. Another method of protecting windows is by installing burglar bars. These should be easily opened from the inside with a key or latch that requires no special knowledge to operate. Prior to installation of these bars, be sure to check your local fire and building requirements. Another consideration is to install storm windows that not only offer burglar protection but also conserve energy. The primary interest in securing windows is to eliminate attempts at entry by prying open the window. Most burglars avoid breaking glass due to fear of attracting attention.

Warning: One bedroom window on the ground and second floor must be left available as a fire exit. The bedroom window may often be the quickest and safest means of escape if fire occurs at night.



Good exterior lighting is important, especially when the yard area is obscured by shrubbery. Locate outside lights under the eaves where it would be difficult for an intruder to reach them. An inexpensive timer or photoelectric cell will automatically turn lights on at dusk and off at dawn.

There are several types of lighting that work well for outdoor security. Some of them are:

  • High pressure sodium vapor: Efficient and long lasting.
  • Mercury vapor: More efficient and longer lasting.
  • Metal halide:  Brighter light, good for color rendition, slightly less efficient then mercury vapor.
  • Incandescent: Low cost and good color rendition, but it has a short life span.
  • Fluorescent: Energy efficient but temperature sensitive; works well for indoor lighting.


Other inexpensive outdoor deterrents

  • Signs: Beware of Dog”, “Neighborhood Group”, “Operation I.D.” or alarm signs may help deter potential burglars.
  • Dogs: A barking dog is still proven to be a deterrent.
  • Alarms: Don't depend only upon an alarm to protect you … be sure to use the proper locking devices. An alarm does not physically keep a burglar out of your home or business.


Any alarm system should include these four things:

  1. A battery failsafe back-up.
  2. Smoke-sensing capability.
  3. Read-out ability to check proper working of system.
  4. Horn sounding device installed in attic through vent.

In addition to the alarm sounding at the residence, your system should transmit a signal to the alarm company. This will insure notification of the police.

One thing is for sure, as the problem of vacant houses increases due to the economy, real estate investors will have to become even more vigilant at keeping their investments safe.

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