A criminal can break into your home in just a few seconds - if you make it an easy target. According to the latest annual crime report, Charlottesville police investigated 180 reports of burglary or breaking and entering. That's about 8 percent of the city's crime.
Charlottesville officers Joe Brown and D.E. Williams specialize in crime prevention. They'll even come to your house and assess its risk for a break-in.
Brown stated, "Right away, what we like to do is show ownership in our property."
These cops call it crime prevention through environmental design. Trimming trees and bushes can keep a burglar away.
"It's free surveillance. The people inside can see what's going on outside and the would-be criminal feels like ‘hey, somebody could be watching me'," said Brown.
Even pretty plantings deter bad behavior. Brown said, "Right here, we recommend exactly what they have. This shows ownership - nice flowers instead of trash or debris laying about."
Police also recommend motion-activated lights to brighten up any spots where burglars could hide out, and turn on outside lights at night.
Williams stated, "You look for lighting. Look at your street - see what type of lighting you have here. And also you come back during the night and check for your lighting."
But if a would-be burglar does reach your door, don't make it easy for them to get in. Simply lock your doors and windows at all times. A strong lock can be the best defense.
"Make sure the screws are at least 2.5 to 3 inches long so they go all the way into the stud of the wall," said Williams.
And take steps inside your house to keep a crook out.
Brown said, "Draw your blinds at night when you go to sleep. Use your curtains. Keep those valuables put away so a would-be criminal wouldn't be tempted to break the window out."
Officers Brown and Williams suggest you case your home like a burglar would, and survey the scene in daylight and darkness. "The would-be criminal is looking at your property 24 hours a day," stated Williams.
Your neighbors serve as a line of defense to prevent a break-in, so get to know them. Williams said, "If people are aware of what's going on in their neighborhood, then they may be able to prevent a crime from occurring."
There's no full-proof strategy to stop someone from breaking-in, but police say crime prevention starts with some common sense.
"It's common sense stuff. It's nothing complicated," Brown said.
The officers also recommend, if you can afford it, to invest in an alarm system from a reputable security company. If you live in the city of Charlottesville, they will come out and do a home security survey for free.