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From street lights to porch lights, studies show that better outdoor lighting reduces crime. But those same reports say that security lighting works best as part of a plan that accounts for what crooks look for.

The basic advice from law enforcement, insurance companies and home security system vendors is not to just flip on the yard light before bed. In fact, you may want to turn it off before turning in because the goal is to make it look like people are home.

Here are six tips to electrify your outdoor lighting technology and increase the security of your home.

  1. Think like a burglar. Intruders would rather you not be home, so they watch for signs that people are at work or on vacation. That’s why most burglaries happen in the day, and why leaving your lights on all day and night can be an advertisement that no one’s home. Do keep the yard lit while you’re up and around to show normal activity. Turning off the porch light at bedtime can be a sign to a potential intruder that someone is in the house. It’s also good to pay attention to spots that could cover up a break-in and keep trees and bushes trimmed.
  2. Light for the right reasons. Are you trying to light a walkway for guests or keep intruders away from an entrance? Place lights so they achieve your objective. And safety isn’t just about reducing crime. A well-lit outdoor space can also prevent trips, falls and other accidents.
  3. Enlist technology. Electronic timers and lights that turn on when they sense motion can give the impression that someone’s home and can light the sidewalk when you return from an outing. Increasingly, lights and fixtures can be linked to a smartphone so they can be turned on and off while you’re out and about.
  4. Weigh the pros and cons of a home security system. Security cameras, alarm systems and protection services offer a wide range of conveniences, including fire protection or checking on pets. They can be expensive, so do your research carefully and know your end goals.
  5. Protect yourself from internet hackers. Whether it’s a security camera or a smart light bulb, internet-connected devices can be hacked by cyber crooks. The basic internet security advice is to have strong passwords and change them regularly, especially on your home’s central router. Keep software updated on your devices and even though it’s tempting, don’t use social media to tell the world you’re on vacation.
  6. Go old school. Besides electricity and technology, use people to reduce crime. Invite a police officer to give a safety briefing at a neighborhood meeting. And of all the crime-reducing tips, experts say the best is to get to know your neighbors so they can recognize and report any out-of-the- ordinary activity.

Lighting the path to safety involves making a plan, wise use of technology and a little help from your friends.

Paul Wesslund writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives.


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