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Safe Seniors: Avoiding Crime at Home

It’s not a surprise that senior homeowners can be a target of criminals. From financial scams and fraud to home burglaries, older adults are at risk for a variety of reasons. Often they are more socially isolated than other residents. Declines in physical or cognitive function can make them more vulnerable. Less technologically savvy seniors may avoid the use of home security systems, specialized lighting, and other technology measures.

Of all crimes against seniors, property crime is the second most common. This category includes petty theft, burglary, auto theft, and larceny. But property crimes against older adults can be reduced by following some basic home safety tips.


· Keep doors, windows, and gates locked at all times. A neighborhood in which you’ve spent years may feel safe, but no neighborhood can guarantee 100% safety.

· Use a peephole in your front door. Never open your door to a stranger without doing a visual check first.

· Avoid decorative glass in front doors, through which your movements can be seen, or install privacy film. Safety glass is also safer than standard.

· Choose metal or solid wood for front and back doors, as well as solid, reinforced or metal frames.

· Installing security film or Plexiglass on the inside of windows will make them safety and harder to break.

· Install and religiously use a home security system. A comprehensive security system can not only alert law enforcement to a break-in, but can also alert authorities in the event of medical emergencies or fires.

· Proper lighting is one of the most important safety features of a secure home. It can serve as a deterrent to a potential intruder, and can also help older residents avoid accidents. Sensor lighting is a smart feature to have to ward off break-ins, as well as bright spot lighting near stairways and other potentially dangerous areas.

· Keep bushes and trees trimmed near potential entry points to your house or grounds.


· When answering the door, have a cell phone on hand in order to be able to dial 911 in the event of danger.

· Never, ever, ever leave your door keys in a flowerpot or under your welcome mat. Instead give a copy of the keys to a friend or trusted neighbor.

· When traveling, have a family member, friend, or neighbor pick of newspapers, mail, and other deliveries. Nothing says, “This house is empty” like an overflowing newspaper box or a pile of packages at the front door.

· Consider getting a dog, as they are a deterrent to would-be intruders. If you don’t want to take on a pet, post “Beware of Dog” signs on your gate or other prominent spot.

· Join your Neighborhood Watch group if one is established in your area, and post their stickers on doors or other noticeable places.

· Contact your local police department and request a home security inspection. Many law enforcement agencies offer these upon request.

And speaking of home security inspections, those of us who live in the Los Altos area have the benefit of an excellent police department that does offer such inspections as part of its aggressive Crime Prevention Program. The inspection, which is complimentary, identifies potential weaknesses in security and provides tips on how to correct vulnerable areas. An officer will meet with the homeowner to survey the residence’s exterior and interior, point out problems, and offer possible solutions.

For further information, go the Los Altos government website or call Community Service Officer Josh Cottrell at (650) 947-2775.

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