By Officer James Banta, SecurityNerd home security and safety expert

Nothing ruins the relaxation found on a summer vacation more than returning home to find you’ve been burglarized. Unfortunately, as temperatures rise in the summer, so do rates for crimes such as home burglaries. And empty homes are among the easiest targets for criminals.

 If you’re going to vacate your home this summer, take some safety precautions before you go. These five pre-vacation steps can help ensure your home isn’t an easy target for criminals.

1. Double-check locks and windows.While this seems obvious, you may be surprised how many people accidentally leave their front door unlocked while they’re away. People get so excited about getting up and going that they forget to take this important step, and it’s estimated that more than 30 percent of criminals enter homes through unlocked doors. That can be a recipe for disaster.

 Smart locks can help. These products will allow you to check the status of your door lock and even lock it remotely if you realize that it has been left unlocked.

 2. Don’t make it obvious you’re gone.Criminals case homes to find the easiest targets. So make it look like your home is occupied while you’re away. Contact the U.S. Postal Service and your newspaper carrier to temporarily stop service, so items don’t accumulate. Also, hire someone to care for your yard if there’s a chance it will become overgrown while you’re gone.

 You may want to invest in smart home lighting products so you can turn various lights on and off remotely via an app on your phone.

 Another way criminals know you’re not home: Social media pictures of your trip. Wait until you’re home before posting your vacation photos.

 3. Engage extra sets of eyes.While you don’t want criminals to know you’re not home, you do want to notify some trusted individuals. Tell a few neighbors you’ll be away and ask them to keep an eye on your place. You can also contact your local sheriff or police department and request vacation property checks. This is a free service that many offer.

 If you’ve been thinking about getting a home security system, now may be a perfect time. While you’re away, you can monitor your security system via an app on your phone and/or have professionals monitoring it around the clock, depending on the system you choose. If you already have security equipment in place, make sure the batteries are charged and everything’s in working order before you go.

 4. Collect your “hidden” keys.You may think your hiding place is so clever a thief would never find your spare key, but many criminals know all the tricks. Just assume a thief will find a spare key no matter where you place it. Scoop them all up before you head out of town.

 5. Secure your valuables.Despite your best efforts, sometimes thieves still find a way into a home. Don’t make it easy for them to get away with your valuables. Avoid keeping valuables or weapons in visible, easy-to-access places. Safes offer the best protection, but if you don’t have a safe, you can also get creative. For example, you may want to hide weapons or valuables in your air conditioning vent or other places criminals can’t get to easily.

 Before you pack your bags, put home security on your to-do list. Taking a few small precautions before you leave can help you relax while you’re away and return to find your home just as you left it.

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BIO

Officer James Banta, Home Security & Safety Expert

Officer James Banta is the SecurityNerd.com home security and safety expert. With over 24 years as a police officer in Biloxi, Mississippi, Officer Banta has seen it all and is excited to offer his expert advice in order to help consumers better educate themselves on what it takes to keep themselves, their families and their homes safe.

Named Officer of the Year several times during his time of service in the police force, Officer Banta worked as a detective in charge of a gang unit which was part of a larger federal task force. In addition to working as a police officer, Officer Banta was also a member of the United States Army, serving 1 tour in Bosnia, 1 in Afghanistan and 2 in Iraq. He earned a bronze star and retired from the army as a Master Sergeant. Officer Banta is eager to pass on the knowledge he’s acquired over the years to others so that they can take care of the people they love.

In an increasingly global world, Officer Banta knows that crime happens locally. A little bit of education can go a long way in helping you protect your home and the people you love. Officer Banta’s most important piece of advice? “Do your research. Then do it again. What works for someone else, may not work for you. Understand your personal situation and your needs and that will help you make your decisions about home security. But you do need to be educated and you need to be alert. Remember, if your house is safe, then your family is safe.”

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