Inexpensive ways to protect your property

FRESNO, Calif.

From a Dinuba father, to a Reedley businessman, to a Fresno mother, they have all been victims.

"A little traumatized, you know to walk in to somebody else being in your house."

"Boom, he hit me with his fists, one time, two time, he hit me on both sides."

"We think we're untouchable and we're not. It could happen to anybody. It's very scary for me and my kids."

Fresno County Sheriff's Detective Isaac Torres says he's pretty much heard it all when it comes to home break-in tactics. "What they'll do is walk around your house looking for a pet door."

We asked Detective Torres to show us what makes a home more vulnerable to a break-in. As we drove around a Fresno County neighborhood, where several crimes have taken place. One of the biggest problems he spotted, poor lighting and visibility.

"It could be the difference between being a victim of a crime or not being a victim of a crime." Torres said. "Lot of people have a lot of trees, lot of bushes, and having that in mind, there's also a lot of darkness. And with darkness, this is what the criminal element likes to have."

Another invitation is a vacant home -- criminals look for signs like newspapers on the driveway, garbage cans not put away, or a full mailbox.

"They're actually going up to houses, knocking on doors to see if the residents are home." Torres said.

Unfortunately, he says, some homeowners provide burglars with the easiest access of all -- through open garages, unlocked doors and windows, even on the second floor.

"They'll actually go up to the side of the tree climb up onto the veranda and get into the house." Torres said. "It's important for residents to understand that even though the ground level is secure, make sure the whole entire residence is secure."

He says an alarm system can be a deterrent, but a professional one can be expensive, about $1000 to install, as well as a monthly fee of around $30 for 24-hour monitoring.

For much less, Walter Romero at the Home Depot in southeast Fresno showed us some do-it-yourself ways to secure your home. "A small investment now will save you a lot of money later."

He suggests starting outside, with timed or sensor lighting. These run from $13 to $80. "It's something as simple as this that will keep, you know, a criminal away"

Next, put maximum security padlocks on any side access gates. Then secure the front door, with deadbolts or deadlocks that start at just $5 dollars.

Steel security doors are another option. They cost between $75 and $300, Providing one more obstacle for would-be thieves. For the inside, window locks are $2.50 and up.

You can also buy a $20-dollar alarm kit for windows or doors. The sound may be enough to scare would-be thieves away.

"As soon as they walk in, they hear noise, they run." Romero said.

If thieves get in anyway, Detective Torres says they usually are in and out within minutes, heading to the kitchen or office to rifle through bills left on the counter. The master bedroom to find any jewelry. And a safe for any cash or other valuables, taking with them what's easiest to carry.

"Your home is your sanctuary, nothing bad should ever happen to you, but keep in mind that things do happen." Torres said.

That's why the detective says everyone should do a home inventory. Take pictures or video of all your belongings and include a description, the model number and how much you paid. So if you do become a victim, you know exactly what was taken from you.

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