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After enduring the past few months of cold winter weather, you may not be thinking much about your backyard or deck. However, it’s important to remember that regardless of the season, the back entrance to your property can be an easy point of entry for burglars or even just an invitation for crimes of opportunity.

As you might expect, backdoors and basement entries fall prey to criminal activity more often than the front door. Most homes’ front entrance is well-lit and often in plain view of neighboring homes and passing motorists. Burglars are looking for a quick, easy way in and out without being noticed. Thus, the more secluded back of the house is more inviting.

While most outdoor projects are on hold until spring, now is a great time to consider making some inexpensive changes to protect your home, beginning with the backyard.

1. Choose Sturdy Locks

Outdoor furniture, barbecue grills, and other belongings in the backyard can easily fall prey to theft. These are items that we all use and store in the backyard year-round. A simple steel cable and padlock works well to protect these types of investments. Run the cable through the legs or supports of patio furniture and grills to make them challenging to remove from the yard. Yes, steel cables can be cut with the right tools. However, it is a deterrent to casual thieves who may not be prepared.

2. Add Sturdy Fencing

Not all fences are created equal when it comes to security. A white picket fence may be idyllic, but you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons of these fences, which are typically somewhat short. If they’re too short, a passerby can easily jump the fence and grab an item lying in the yard. To discourage others from entering your property, you should consider installing a tall, strong fence. A 6-foot privacy fence works well because it obscures the view of your yard to most people, keeping your possessions out of sight and out of mind.

Fence pickets that are sharp on the top make the fence more difficult to climb over as well. Adding a self-closing lock on the inside of your gate is a must if you need to keep strangers out. It does no good to build a strong fence if one can easily open the gate from the outside.

3. Move Items Indoors

Removing items from the deck and storing them in a shed or a garage when they are not in use has a couple of benefits. For example, keeping deck chairs and tables inside the winter keeps them out of the snow and ice. The furniture is likely to last much longer without the extra exposure to water. The security benefit is that your furniture is hidden from view, likely behind lock and key. It is much less likely to be taken from the garage.

4. Install Security Cameras

Home security systems have come a long way in recent years. Gone are the days of hiring a security company to install and monitor the system. Homeowners can buy security cameras at the local hardware store and mount them on their property. You can monitor the feed from the camera on your smartphone, giving you video evidence to share with the police should something unfortunate happen. Some cameras are triggered by movement and will flash or chirp to let would-be intruders know that they are being watched.

If you decide to go down this path, make sure that you make it obvious that your cameras are installed. Most burglars will walk away from a house if they see that the home has a security system. So, place cameras in plain sight. They should face paths that lead to home entrances and be positioned so that they can monitor darker areas of the yard.

5. Lock Up Tools

Tools are one of the few items that can actually work against you in a burglary. The same tools you used to fix the lawnmower last week could be used to gain entry to your home. Chief among these is a ladder. Ladders improperly stored under the deck are an invitation for intruders to enter the second story of your home. It is best to keep ladders and other tools out of sight and locked away in a shed or garage.

6. Post a Sign

Signs can give criminals a quick snapshot of the difficulties they may encounter at your house. If you have a home security system, make sure that you have signs posted in the yard to let everyone know. Even if they can’t see the system at work, they may think twice before proceeding. The same is true for signs warning of a neighborhood watch or a dog. Someone who is not familiar with your house may not be too excited to hop the fence after seeing the sign that reads “Beware of Dog” on the fence. You can add to the illusion by keeping a dog bowl outside the back door even if you don’t have a dog.

7. Turn up the Lights

Darkness makes it easy for intruders to sneak around where they shouldn’t be. Installing landscape and security lighting around your property can make it impossible for others to approach without being spotted. The larger your property, the more lighting you will need to keep it illuminated. Motion sensitive lights are a safe choice. These lights will come on for several seconds after detecting movement and then turn off if it stops. If they remain on, you know there may be a situation that requires your attention.

Landscape lighting along the perimeter is an excellent first level of prevention. Perimeter lighting lets trespassers know where your property begins and that you may be monitoring it. Constant lighting around doorways and walkways can make these paths safer for family members and visitors at night while letting you keep an eye on anyone approaching your home.

We all like to think that we will never be the victim of theft, and, fortunately, there are easy steps to take that minimize risks. To sum up the steps above, the key is making sure your house is an undesirable target. If there are too many roadblocks or too many risks involved in stealing from you, criminals are likely to give up on your house. These measures don’t have to cost a lot, but they will take some time and planning. When you consider what’s at stake, it’s clear that it’s well worth the effort.