Two million burglaries are reported each year, and about two cars are stolen every minute in the United States, according to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. While there are a number of ways burglars find their next target, your property can become particularly vulnerable when your family leaves for vacation. Fortunately, some simple changes to your pre-vacation routine can dramatically decrease your chances of falling victim to thieves. Avoid becoming a target by planning ahead and keeping the following tips in mind.

Keep valuables out of sight

Many home burglaries and car break-ins are not committed by professional thieves, but by people who stumble upon a tempting or easy opportunity. Hide your valuables to avoid luring a robber into violating your property.

  • Remove any valuable items from your car. If possible, keep your car parked in a garage while you’re on vacation.
  • Plant shrubbery near ground floor windows to make it harder for potential thieves to see inside.
  • Keep an inventory and photos of the more expensive valuables in your home – such as pricey jewelry or electronics.

Be neighborly

Among the advantages of building relationships with your neighbors is having someone you trust close by to keep an eye on your house when you’re away.

  • Give your trusted neighbor a spare house key instead of hiding it outside where it can be easily found.
  • Temporarily stop your mail or ask your neighbor to collect it. An over-flowing mailbox is a tell-tale sign that no one is home. Also, be sure to stop any magazine or newspaper subscriptions.
  • Ask your neighbor to drive or walk by your house once a day to check for any suspicious activity.

Leave the lights on

Almost 66% of all reported burglaries are residential in nature. If it’s obvious that no one is home, burglars have much more incentive to attempt a break-in. Here are some steps you can take to make it look like someone is home.

  • Use a timer to turn lights, or even a radio, on and off in your house periodically to mimic activity.
  • Invest in motion-activated lights around the exterior of your house, especially in the backyard.
  • Keep your curtains in their normal positions. Closing them will make it obvious that no one is home, and police or neighbors may need to see inside. However, make sure that no valuables are within plain sight.

Lock up

About 30% of all burglaries occur because of an unlocked window or door. The most basic way to keep your car and home safe is to make sure entrances are shut and securely locked. It never hurts to double check!

  • When moving into a new place, change the locks as soon as possible.
  • Make sure a deadbolt is installed on all exterior doors.
  • Invest in a home security system. Homes with a secured alarm system are significantly less likely to be broken into. If a break-in does occur, police will be notified quickly.

If you come home from vacation and suspect that your home has been broken into, do not enter the house. Call the police immediately and wait for them to secure the area.

For more information about how to keep your home safe, visit USA.gov.