Don't underestimate the power of light.
Heather Dawn Church, 13, had just gotten off the phone with her mother one evening who had called to check up on her as she babysat her young brother. Heather went to bed rather early soon after, and according to reports, not a single light was on in the house. This darkness made the man who kidnapped her and eventually killed her, Robert Charles Browne, think the house was empty. And that's why he broke in. Awful.
Though bad guys are known to break into houses with lights on, let's face it: A dark house is an invitation to a break-in...especially if the house is dark one night after another.
Not only does this make a burglar think nobody's home, but a dark perimeter provides concealment of his body, which is precisely what he wants. Bad guys tool of trade is the element of surprise. Lack of light, dark, makes surprise much more attainable.
Timed lighting fixtures are a cheap way to make your house unattractive to criminals. Use them even when you're out for just a few hours. These devices can also turn on and off TVs and radios. Lights on and flickering about make the house seem occupied, and exterior lighting won't keep an intruder hidden.
Lighting isn't just to make burglars think you're home, but are also helpful in that you can see any potential problems via outside lighting, such as a strange person creeping about or something you might trip over like a skateboard left out on a walkway. And if you do get attacked outside, the lighting will enable you to give some degree of description of the assailant to the police.
This outdoor lighting should include your house's perimeter and all entry points. The lighting can be timed to come on and go off at dusk and dawn, respectively.
Motion detectors that trigger lights are also something you should employ, and they're not that pricey, either. But don't leave lights on nonstop during the day, as this makes potential intruders think you're on vacation.